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Author Topic: Tough thinking and negotiation - relationship changes
amarra
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I am lucky to have a sweet, fantastic and fulfilling relationship in my life. I now face a challenge and am here to ask for advice.

Some background: about 4.5 years ago I ended a long-term relationship of 4 years, with a much older man, which in hindsight was a mistake. Part of my decision to end it was coming to the realisation that my natural sexual orientation is asexual. Most of my previous sexual behaviour had sadly been guided by what society had led me to believe was expected of me (something you talk about a lot at Scarleteen). This self-discovery made me happy. I began to look forward to forging new future relationships based on genuine feelings.

During this time I developed a close platonic bond with one particular new friend. We were never physical but at one time we loved each other quite strongly, you could say romantically (more so on his part than mine). He was in a committed and mature polyamorous relationship, and his primary partner had multiple other sexual partners. (Nowadays I am no longer as close with this person. Although we are still great friends he has since married a new partner and we do not love each other in the same intense way).

At the same time, I started to spend a lot more quality time with a very good mate who I had known since 2001. I'll call him T. He'd been engaged twice before but was single at that time. He was seeing at least one girl (I'll call her G) in a casual ongoing sexual relationship. As we spent more time together we started to fall in love and very very gradually became physical (but not sexual - cuddling etc). On one occasion he had sex with a workmate of mine with me in earshot which I found very upsetting and we agreed that after that he would not have sex with my friends. The sexual relationship with G ended because G wanted commitment, and T did not love her.

About 2 years after I had ended that long-term relationship, T and I had sex. Although I don't experience attraction to males or females in general, the feeling of slowly-grown love and intimacy between the 2 of us had made me feel an exception. This was 2.5 years ago and we have since continued having wonderful sex with each other and no-one else. I'm happy to say that it seems to get better with each passing week. We have never defined our relationship to each other (with the terms boy/girlfriend), beyond that fact that we are best friends (we want that to remain the case) and love each other deeply. Technically, we are both 'single'! We are quite independent and very private and do not make public displays of affection. Although people can tell that we are very close, many are unaware that we are sexually active together. We don't have (or need) many rules, but he does respect me by not showing interest in other women in my presence.

So, up to today. Some life changes have prompted us to have a talk about the future, and T has been completely honest and said that ideally he would like to have multiple relationships. He said that if I had another intimate relatinship as well, then that would make him happy. I have no interest in that these days though, whether physically or emotionally. I feel that all of my needs are more than met (I'm an asexual with a better sex life than many sexual people!) and I am not looking for anything additional.

He is still in touch with G, and said that she still loves him (although it's not reciprocated) and there is a chance that she may leave her boyfriend. If that was to happen, T would like to start up a relationship with her again. Even if that never happens, he would like to be with other women at some future point. One of the things that he loves the most about our relationship is the freedom. I value that too. He is free to go for dinner or a drink or hang out with some other woman and that is of course OK with me. He is not my possession and is free to do what he likes, and likewise. I value it because I feel that when he comes to see me, it is voluntary, out of choice, not out of a sense of duty because we are a couple and therefore have to be together. I feel privileged and honoured that he chooses to spend time with me.

The difference between now and when T was seeing G before, is that now, T and I are sexually intimate and we previously weren't. I felt no jealousy in those earlier days becuase our love was something different and at that time I had no desire to be doing the same activities that T and G did together. Now I feel differently - I'm not quite sure how I feel actually, hence this post.

I told T that if he started a relationship with someone else, I would feel incredibly sad. I feel incredibly sad at the thought of it. I don't know if that sadness would pass or fade in the actual situation. T said that if him having another relationship was just too much for me to bear, then he would end it. I know that it's not OK for me to be hurting. However, I am conscious that I don't want him to be unhappy, resentful, frustrated or unfulfilled just to keep me happy. He has been honest that this is how he wants his future life to be (he has been clear that he wants our relationship to continue as it is, as do I). I want to respect that. If what he wants to happen happens, he is happy, but I am not. If I say I can't handle it, I am happy but he is not. That's no good either. I'm also quite knowledgable about polyamory and am in fact not exactly an advocate of the traditional 'couple' and the nuclear family myself! Can there be a middle ground compromise? This is what I'm turning to you for your wisdom on...

These are my main concerns/worries:

- I would worry that the new relationship would impact negatively on our relationship, e.g. time spent together. I've said this to T and he's reassured me that he would come and see me just as much if not more (although I don't know how he can make that promise at this stage). I would be afraid that he might miss important occasions by being with her. I wouldn't want to find myself thinking about the two of them together when we were apart.

- If the new relationship had no affect on our current one, that would be great. However, how would I feel the knowledge that someone else had been kissing/having sex with him, when we were together? I can't say at this point but I think I might find it sad, weird and upsetting.

- Would I find myself wondering about their sexual relationship vs ours - e.g. is theirs more satisfying, interesting, exciting, is he doing things with her that he doesn't do with me?

- Healthwise - he would use condoms in any other relationship, but would we have to start using them as well? We have not used condoms for about 9 months now. To have to start using them again would be really tough, especially knowing the reason for it... that would be sad and painful for me.

- A baby. He doesn't want one, neither do I. A third party is an unknown quantity; if she got pregnant she would be completely within her rights to decide to raise it into a child and then that maps out a very different life for T than the one that I had hoped that he and I would be able to enjoy in future. I know this is totally out of my control! But it's an extra worry that's not in the picture at present.

I've said all of this to T and we will speak much more. I feel that some kind of 're-set' is inevitable and I want to avoid pain for me without blocking his desires. I wanted to see what you think as I know you have a wealth of experience at Scarleteen and I really rate your advice and perspectives. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Many thanks in advance.

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CoatRack
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The first, and absolutely the biggest, thing in any relationship is communication. That's even more important for a polyamorous relationship. Without communication there are sure to be a lot of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and all around yuckiness which is just not what you want to bring into a relationship.

That said, if you do not want to have a polyamorous relationship then you don't have to. However, if your partner DOES want a relationship where they have more than one intimate and/or sexual relationship at once then one of you is not going to end up happen with the outcome here.

The advice I am going to post here is if you DO want to possibly-pursue having a third person enter this relationship in some way.

Lots of the questions you have can only be answered by him (as I'm sure you are aware) or by just plain old time and trial and error. Things like “How much time will he have for me?” isn't something either of you can really know in advance. But you can do things like say, “You know, I'm pretty concerned about us having enough time together. Can we make sure that we keep Tuesday nights 'us' time?” Or, “Hey, I'd really like to set a concrete time for us to check in about how much time we are spending together to make sure we both feel comfy with it. Can we say after you've been dating __ for 2 weeks we'll make sure we do that?” And, of course, just talking and talking and more talking. And being open to hearing what one another has to say.

In addition to keeping certain days just for you two you can also say “Hey, when we have our Princess Leia/Jabba fantasies that's really special and I'd like that to just be for us.” Or whatever is, sexually, just 'your' thing together.

In regards to safer sex and stuff like that? Totally up to your and your comfort levels. You can ask that he use barriers and such whenever he has sex with other people and then trust that he will tell you if that goes awry. If he's using the same toys on you and another person you'll want to use barriers even if the toys are being washed. Make sure everyone involved is getting tested regularly.

And about babies? That's a big thing you'd need to talk about with him, but if he doesn't want kids then it's really something that needs to be discussed with any future partners. If he's not interested in kids and you aren't interested in kids then it's likely that he won't suddenly become interested just because he's with another partner. Making sure that they practice safer sex and use good, reliable forms of birth control is important to keep any unintended pregnancy from happening.

You said you intend to speak more – do that. Talk about if this will really be the right thing in your relationship right now. If you are truly open to discussing it then say that. “I'm not closed to the idea of you having another sexual partner. I do have some concerns that I'd love for us to talk about. They are...” is one way to open the conversation that won't put him on the defensive.

The Ethical Slut had, in its first incarnation, a list of ways to mess up polyamory. They can be found at the following link. They are funny as well as practical and true!

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/polyamory/faq-supplement/

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Hey folks, my name is Andrew and I was a mod here for awhile a couple years ago. I'll be here for a couple weeks while Heather is out and the site is even more short-staffed than usual

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amarra
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Thank you for the reply. The Jabba/Leia image was kind of funny but also makes me feel a bit sick.

I appreciate your advice, but what I was sort of asking is whether you, as sex educators, have any thoughts about some kind of possible compromise situation? I do recognise that you said that your advice would apply only if we did go down the road of polyamory. I was wondering if in your experience you have come across any sort of middle ground agreements - something that's not monogamy but not full blown polyamory either.

I'm afraid that if I say 'go for it', it will be out of fear of losing him/wanting to please him, and that I will feel whatever the opposite of assertive is. I also suspect though that the deep sadness I am feeling right now may well persist. I don't think it's great that either one of us should 'get our way' (bad phrase) leaving the other one unhappy. Isn't there some sort of solution where we are both equally un/happy? I know that sounds strange but to me something that was not *100% ideal* for either of us would be more fair.

Yes we will be talking lots, I know that's the thing to do. I just thought that I would ask on here because you guys must have seen or heard about so many wildly different relationship set-ups over the years that you must have quite a library of knowledge of alternatives... I'd be really keen to hear any more comments. Thanks a lot for your time.

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CoatRack
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What I'm hearing here is that you do not want to be poly. That might change in the future, or with somebody other than G, but I think you are not-so-subtly saying that your heart is just not in this.

That is so very much OK.

My friend, let's call her ScarletGhost for the purposes of this thread, wears about 15 different hats and one of those is relationship coach. I talked to her about your situation, and we both got the same impression: that you don't really want to do this. The rest of this post is kind of amalgamated from her thoughts and mine.

You have a lot of concerns about what T's relationship with G would do to your relationship with T. There are a lot of ways that you could handle those if T having a relationship with G was something you both really, really wanted. Because polyamory can be scary for lots of reasons, and one of those reasons is that, yeah, you may feel alone or left out sometime even if that was totally not the intention of the other folks involved. When you WANT their relationship to work out then it's easier to figure out why you're feeling alone and talk through those feelings but when you are already so uncertain it can just feel like “I knew this would happen.” And that's a gross, not fun feeling. “That creates division, which creates separateness, which gnaws away at your happiness.”

That said, you did ask for some compromises and there are some that we thought of.

Setting clear and consistent time boundaries like I suggested above. This can be anything from “I need us to have Fridays always be 'us' time” to “I always want you to come home at the end of the night, not sleep at her house” to “I want us to evaluate after 1 month and make sure this is working for everyone.” But that can be tricky because love is unpredictable. What sounds reasonable now (“if it doesn't work we will break up”) may sound a lot less reasonable to him in six weeks when he's falling in love.

You can create activity boundaries like I said. “I never want you to have a threesome with her and another person” or “I'd prefer you not engage in BDSM with her” or whatever it may be. If you are the primary relationship and it's really important to you that that be acknowledged and clear then you can even ask that you have that conversation with G yourself. Or with anybody else T may be getting involved with. I have a friend who is in a poly relationship with her husband and their rule is that if one wants to sleep with somebody else then the other partner goes out to dinner, alone, with the new person to get to know them. Both partners have “veto power.”

You can ask for things like, “I need you to reassure me that you love me when you get back from spending time with her” or “I want to make sure you still enjoy our time together, too, and I need you to explicitly say that to me.”

You can all agree that you are always all together in bed, or you are never all together in bed, or that you do NOT want to hear about any of it or that you want to hear everything. And G has to be in on that, too, and agree to it all.

I guess the point of all of this is that poly relationships can work really well if you want them to and if you are just the kind of person that's OK with that. Lots of folks aren't, and that's not a bad thing.

Talk to T. See how he's feeling about all of this. Think about it some more yourself.

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Hey folks, my name is Andrew and I was a mod here for awhile a couple years ago. I'll be here for a couple weeks while Heather is out and the site is even more short-staffed than usual

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amarra
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Thanks for replying again, I appreciate it.

It occured to me that I've maybe been using the word polyamory inaccurately when 'open relationship' would be more appropriate. It's true that polyamory usually means all parties are enthusiastically signed-up to the idea. Whereas all I can really conceive is to be tolerating/bearing something. More of a 'don't ask/don't tell' set-up. He already goes for meals etc with G and other women at present and I don't exactly actively like it, but there's nothing I can do about it and it's not a realistic threat, so I say nothing and put it out of my mind.

I certainly have no wish to hear about anything, or even to see G (or any other future partner he might have) as I have no positive feelings about her, or any other people who he was having sex with while we were falling in love but before we slept together.

As for activity restrictions, the irrational part of me would love to say 'you can only have sex in 3 basic positions, and please tell her you don't love her before and afterwards every time', preferably making her miserable enough to not want to continue seeing him.... totally ridiculous as he has expressed a desire to see other women even if not G specifically. Luckily I try not to function on what the irrational part of me says! In all seriousness I don't feel that I'm in a position to be able to ask for rules like that (thought I can let him know what specific ideas are upsetting me) because what he does with his body is entirely his own business. I would also worry that rules like that might make any time he spends with other women more illicit and therefore psychologically appealing.

This issue is making me feel like someone I don't want to be. I'm sobbing and snivelling late into the night and it's no way to carry on. I'm actually really afraid of being afraid - he broke up with his first fiancee (who had mental health/self esteem issues) because she kept on saying that he would leave her, until one day it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. He had got engaged to her as an act of reassurance. I would hate to think that he agrees to be exclusive to me when faced with my tears and fear. That is not actually what he ever signed up for.

I feel that trust is an appealing characteristic. Putting things in perspective Ihave every reason to be happy, as he still wants our fantastic relationship to continue, I have my health and many other good things in my life. Basically the 3 things that we have, our friendship, love and the sex can all continue, I just need to find a way to accept and deal with a new addition to the status quo. I want to be the big person here, who is secure, confident and well-adjusted! I just want to be cool - but there definitely is a limit to what I can bear. My feelings for him are very strong, and deepening by the day.

I know that what he wants is good quality time with other girls. However the only thing that I can really think of that might be less distressing to me, is if the liaisons with others are quite infrequent, rather than parallel and ongoing. If he could agree that he could be with others but only a few times a year, I think I might be able to handle that. A lot of people couldn't. I will have to see what he thinks.

This evening I'm speaking to my friend I mentioned who I used to be closer with, who was formerly in a polyamorous relationship, and later tonight my best mate (who broke up with her LT partner because my friend wanted to see other people, they are now back together) - although so far her advice has been to basically 'see how you feel if and when it happens'. Then tomorrow hopefully I can talk to T some more.

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amarra
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just to add to that 4th paragraph on restrictions, I don't feel that I can ask for rules myself but I will articulate what I find most upsetting. Following that he could volunteer to abstain from certain behaviours/circumstances as he did when offering not to sleep with my friends in the early pre-sex days. The voluntary (rather than contractual) nature of our relationship is important to me.
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Heather
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Can I ask why you don't feel able to ask for rules, agreements, limits or boundaries yourself?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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I do feel able if I wanted to, if there was something incredibly upsetting to me I would say so - it's more that I'd prefer a suggestion to come from him. It would be more meaningful to me. Technically we are not partners, we are friends, and as I said 'what he does with his body is entirely his own business' and 'he is not my possession and is free to do what he likes, and likewise'. I know he values the freedom. It's merely a preference of mine not to ask for 'rules', in order to maintain that. At the same time I am not a doormat. I just want to avoid that altered dynamic and preserve our current one, if possible.
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Heather
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Right, but you're in a relationship. A friendship is a relationship.

And it appears that you two are considering changing some of the nature of how that relationship has been, and that you have a lot of feelings around that.

Since a relationship is made of more than one person, why not have this be about things coming from both of you, with open communication around all of this, rather than setting it up so agreements are only made if he puts things out there?

That just doesn't sound like a relationship that's really about both people to me, where both people are mutually engaged and taking part and both privileged. Know what I mean?

And it's certainly not a sound model, IMO, for open relationships that work at all. Two-way communication and agreements are really, really vital to all healthy relationship models, but particularly important when a relationship is opened up.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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I do know what you mean, but with respect I think that might be a red herring. I might not have expressed myself clearly in the above post and apologies if so! We both do think that two-way communication is essential and have done from the outset. We are definitely equals here.

I am much more comfortable using the word agreements instead of rules (hey it's only semantics that I was hung up on there) so I will do so. That is what our talk tomorrow will be all about - reaching some agreements!

It would be very easy for me to say 'it's too much, I can't take it, please don't do it' - I don't want to do that though.

I will tell him all that I have said here and to other friends. If there is any concern about this being about both people's feelings it's more that I am mindful that he tells me how he is feeling too and that I listen to him!

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Heather
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Agreements, limits and boundaries are probably keywords that will work for you here. I think they're more useful than rules, regardless of personal preferences, IMO.

Good luck!

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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We had a good talk. My friend who was formerly in a polyamorous relationship set-up also had some helpful advice for me beforehand.

I started by asking T in a relaxed way to answer a few things honestly - what (if any) are his frustrations? He said he has none. I asked if he was bored with any aspect of our relationship and he answered no to that. I also asked him what he would consider sustainable - is the status quo sustainable for him? He said yes. He also affirmed that he views our relationship as permanent (a hope which I share). He then spoke in a little more detail about his honest feelings about his previous strictly monogamous engagements and how he wished he'd been more honest with himself when he was younger (in his 20s, he's in his early 30s now, while I am in my late 20s).

He went on to restate what it is that he would ideally like - he believes that it is possible to have more than one different and good quality intimate relationship at the same time. He said he thinks more than two would he difficult for practical reasons. He let me know that he is not 'chasing' or actively looking for anything right now at all.

I told him that I certainly agree fully with that idea (on paper as it were), and that I'm also keen that he is happy, satisfied and fulfilled, but I wanted to share with him my personal concerns about him beginning another parallel relationship of similar status to our own current one. I basically went through the list of fears that I expressed above. He listened and said that he had thought of most of these issues, and that although he might not experience them himself he could understand them.

On consideration of what I had said, T said that he felt that it would probably not be possible to carry out his ideal. At this point I explained that I had been considering the idea that he could be with other people on a much more infrequent basis, whether romantically, sexually, or whatever - say a few times a year. Although this is not the same as what he described, it's also not the same as complete monogamy, where he can only expect to ever have sex or intimacy with me for the rest of his life. I have thought about this a fair amount and think that it's something that I could handle, as long as we communicate well about it. T considered this '3rd way' option and I was pleased that he felt this was an acceptable concession on both our parts. He recognised that the infrequency would mean that only a casual relationship could really be formed. Should I feel the wish to be close with others in some way in future, the same could apply.

[ 07-21-2011, 06:15 PM: Message edited by: silat ]

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amarra
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Hi again...

This topic which I posted about over the summer has arisen again. Last month very much out of the blue T told me that (prefaced by saying that he would come and see me more often...) he would like to move G into his spare room and begin a parallel relationship with her.

I found this proposal incredibly shocking as for starters I had no idea that he wanted a live-in 'girlfriend'/sexual/romantic partner, I actually thought that he liked having his own space. Additionally the idea gave me feelings of relegation and that she would be sharing a much bigger part of his life with him than I would.

The idea was very distressing but he told me that back in the summer he had agreed to my suggested compromise (occasional casual relations with others rather than a parallel thing) because he could see that I was upset, and that he felt it was important to be honest, and that he would not be happy being with one person. He said that he would not do anything at this point or that would be too hurtful for me, but he asked me to give it serious thought as to whether I could be OK with it in the fullness of time.

I have spent a few weeks doing exactly that. I have read many polyamory websites, articles, forums, blogs (many of which I think are extremely smug and condescending in their attitude towards those who are not happy with the idea of nonmonogamy). I was already quite well informed about polyamory as I know 8 people who have had polyamorous relationships (some of whom I have also spoken to about this), and as I said before, I am supportive of alternative relationship styles (in theory/on paper at least, how I feel about them personally for myself does not always match that!).

Over the weekend I gave T a letter I had written, which I find the easiest way to concisely and frankly communicate very personal things. We then spoke. In the letter I tried to describe the nature of the love I feel for him, how I experience it. I also asked him some questions so that I could better understand why he feels this way. One of my friends commented that it felt liked he had missed out a step by jumping straight to one solution (moving in a second partner) rather than saying here are my issues, what can be done to address them? Finally I wanted him to understand the very complicated and stressful demands for almost constant emotional discussion that are essential for nonmonogamy to work. I included in the letter excerpts written by polyamorists about their experiences. Both him and I are quiet people who are not naturally inclined to a lot of deep emotional conversations together.

So in answer to my questions he said that like me he felt that our relationship was continuing on an upwards trajectory. Sexually he feels satisfied and he has no complaints or issues with our relationship. What it comes down to for him, and these are his exact words, is 'not wanting to feel that he has to answer to anybody but himself'. He said that he could conceiveably be happy with me as a main partner and occasional other casual hookups (I have never asked for complete monogamy), but that the problem for him would be that feeling like certain doors (such as other comparable serious relationships) are closed to him.

I understand this now that he has explained it a bit more. I can't say that I agree with his outlook but at least I know what he wants and why. We went on to discuss what could be sustainable, if anything, between us. We both recognised there is a mis-match in our hopes but we both want to maintain what we have between us. So some kind of compromise where we both were losing out a little would have to be agreed.

We returned to the idea I proposed in the summer of more occasional casual relations with others, which could include G. I raised the issue of how best we should talk about when these take place and that is when T dropped another bit of a bombshell. He said that he doesn't believe in complete honesty. He said that he doesn't think that those who cheat ('make a mistake') should always tell their partners and that when they did it was usually to assuage guilt. He did make it clear that he himself has never ever cheated on a partner when monogamy has been agreed.

He then said, with regard to telling me when he hooks up with other people, 'why should I?' It was a surprise, but I listened to his reasoning. I respect the principle of privacy. It transpires that he has been with more other people at the same time as me than I realised. I was aware there were 'a few' (exact number not known, probably under 5?) but if you look at my post above it's clear that I thought that there was a longer period of time that we had been exclusive for than in reality there actually was. This simply came about through ignorance. He thought/assumed that I was aware, even though it was not talked about. The only 2 rules we had previously agreed were 'please don't sleep with/get off with any of my friends' and ‘please don't flirt with others in my presence'. So there has been no betrayal of trust. I was a little surprised but what I did not expect was to not feel hurt, just kind of blank/numb/neutral. It is true that me not knowing the specific occasions when he was with others has not caused me any particular damage. It has probably spared me some sadness and pain. It's just that the belief that total honesty is not necessarily the best is a very rare viewpoint for someone who is not a bit of a lowlife to hold! He practises safe sex and says that he has no problem compartmentalising things and devoting sufficient attention to different partners.

He said it's 'such a shame' that I can't feel OK about him being with others. As I have started to feel less actively upset and more numb and resigned I have started to question 'why am I bothered anyway?' I genuinely think it boils down to loving him strongly (until this recent tough patch I have been feeling a very drawn out NRE that has for me lasted for years) and feeling an attachment. I don't think I am possessive and I have read at length all the evangelising of the polyamory community and resent their assertion that I am insecure etc. I do actually think I have good self-esteem.

He also told me that he thinks he is an emotional cold fish and needs very little. He also 'doesn't do gestures' which I already knew. This is where I become confused. He says he loves me but it's starting to seem that love for him is perhaps a weaker emotion than the one that I feel? It's not a brilliant thing to hear anyway. I'm pretty glum now but musing over the option on the table which seems to now be - that we can continue, as best friends who have sex, and are in love, but he will see others in his own time, which I will be aware is happening/going to happen (so I will not be deluding myself that I am in a monogamous relationship), but not of when or with whom, and that that is his business.

He's a bit sore right now about the whole feeling denied his relationship with G. I imagine that this will be temporary as my upset was. I know that he feels that his life may not be as he hoped. I am just backing off from any more discussion at this point as I know what he wants and understand it.

It could be sustainable. Enjoyable though is another question... I can't see any obvious major problems with this, apart from that I'm not jumping for joy at this prospect. I feel disappointed in his ultra-individualistic world view, his self-description as a cold fish, and I think that intimacy is possibly going to be lacking here with so much unshared, but what are your views as sex education advisers?

[ 12-19-2011, 07:15 AM: Message edited by: silat ]

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amarra
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Sorry, just to clarify, the other people that he sleeps with - it's not a secret. He has explicitly said that I can ask at any time and he will tell me whatever I want to know. but he has proposed that he won't offer the information, as it has been up til now. So the onus is put back onto me. I can't really see myself wanting to ask, but there you go - I can if I want to.

[ 12-19-2011, 07:16 AM: Message edited by: silat ]

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Heather
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The biggest thing I'm hearing in a lot of this is that he doesn't seem to be considering your feelings very much in this.

For instance, about telling you when he has other partners and responding with, "Why should I?" Given your feelings and what you need, things it sounds like you've expressed very clearly, the obvious answer there would be because you've made clear that's something you would prefer. For sure, he can say he doesn't want that, but not getting the clear why here sounds like he just isn't really seeing you, if you catch my drift, in this very fully. Like he's not seeing past his own wants and needs. And that's pretty bad news when it comes to someone doing poly well.

It also sounds like he's kind of holding up what he wants as better than what you want, rather than different, and again, it seems like he's not seeing you through his own stuff very well.

Can we revisit what you really want here? In other words, setting aside what he does, in your ideal world and outcome, what would YOU want in this relationship from this person? What kind of model around exclusivity, but just what kind of relationship, period?

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amarra
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Really, I think I would prefer not to know exactly when he has other partners. I know it's going to happen, so I wouldn't be falling into the trap of denial and self-delusion. He was taking a somewhat unusual position of questioning why it is always 'best' to share all, unless it is a moral stance... As in - what's the benefit of telling me, and then me feeling upset, when he could say nothing and I would be oblivious. I would prefer not to feel upset. But as my friend pointed out, he is also then denying me the right to make a decision about whether I am OK being in a relationship with him if/when is he also with this other person... A denial of power in one sense, but in practical terms it does spare my feelings, which I would prefer.

I think he is putting his own needs (I actually view them as wants) at the very top here. He admitted as much himself. I began hoping that we could reach a compromise, becuase my ultimate preference would probably be monogamy, but with room for discussion if either of us felt we wanted a change.

He has however never committed to monogamy with me. The more I think about it I am coming around to the viewpoint that in fact I have no right to say who else he is with and when, unless he offers me that right. He says he is torn between not wanting to hurt me and being honest about his own life hopes. He wants complete and total freedom. So by not rekindling that full on thing with G, that's a concession to me.

Having accepted that we have never had monogamy and that is not on the table to be agreed, I would prefer a nonmonogamous relationship with him than nothing at all, or a platonic friendship.

Beyond that, I would probably prefer to be spared the details and he be discreet than a full blown, 'meet the other one' set-up.

In examining what makes me sad about him being with others, I've realised although it's not my preference, I can bear him being sexual with others in a casual way, and I would actually encourage him to feel love without sexual activity for as many people as possible. For me I think the combination of sex and love is what I would personally prefer be reserved for us.

I'm not sure what would make me happy now as several things I have suggested he has been extremely ambivalent about. I don't think he is willing to designate any partner as a 'primary' (which I'm not sure is workable in practice anyway) as that would imply some regulation imposed upon him. I asked him whether he would like us to spend more time together (in case he was feeling that his time was unfilled etc), and expressed that I would like us to eat together more often, spend a whole day together for once instead of him rushing home in the morning... and he was just very neutral in his response.

As for the future, I tend to live in the present and not make long terms plan of that nature, but I had a think and told him that I don't see myself in a multi-partner relationship at age 60, 70 plus... I asked him what were his thoughts and he vaguely said that he thought that I 'would be around'.

So I'm just a little bummed at the surprising 'cold fish' revelation, the unusal rejection of honesty as a good principle for relationships, and I'm just wondering, what sort of passion is there going to be here? I can make compromises but I do want to get things out of a relationship that make me feel good, better than good, things that keep me buzzing for hours. And it's nice if someone makes an effort for you. I feel like I have something bright and wondrous burning inside me and now I don't feel that is reciprocated. Obviously love is uniquely experienced by different individuals. And it's futile to try to change people (I wouldn't try anyway, don't think it's right) - if he's not big on showing his feelings verbally or being romantic then I just have to accept that. It's disappointing but I guess that's the nature of life. [Frown]

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Heather
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I don't mean to dismiss all that's here, but I want to try this again, because I think it's really important for you to clearly identify what you would ideally want in order for you to make the best choices you can around this.

So, can we try again, without going to "if the other choice were no relationship at all...." or thinking about what he would want or be willing to do right now, and really talk about YOUR ideals and YOUR real wants?

If you could have EXACTLY the relationship you wanted right now, what would you want?

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amarra
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How I currently feel, or how I have felt up to this point, I would be happy for us to agree that we choose to be together exclusively, for the time being at least, as the future cannot be predicted. I would prefer that we continue not to give it a name and maintain our independence. Basically, what we have now, with I guess a little increase in affection from him, but without him having sex with other girls.
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Heather
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Okay.

So, how do you feel about most likely not, and potentially never, having sexual exclusivity?

How do you also feel about potentially -- and based in what he's said about himself, it sounds like most likely -- not having him become any more affectionate with you?

On top of that, what if you could have a relationship with someone you felt as strongly about where you HAD those things? Do you think you'd want that instead, or that you'd prefer to stay in this not getting those things that you want?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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About sexual exclusivity - I'm sad. I feel sad about it. But it's not going to kill me. It will be less bad if it's not in my face.

About the verbal affection thing, or maybe that should be better phrased as enthusiasm... well, again I feel sad. I had always known he was not a talker, but I had rightly on wrongly felt that he expressed affection and care for me through touch, and just the basic knowledge that he loved me. This is first time that I am questioning if the feelings I have are reciprocated in the same way or to the same degree. I'm afraid I can't put it in any more desciptive terms. I've mostly stopped crying now with the simple passge of time but I feel a persisting sadness in a dull way. It may fade, but it has currently taken the edge off the amazingly good feelings that I normally have thinking about him and our relationship.

The problem with thinking about a hypothetical alternative, yes, that would be nice, but the reality is that I'm naturally asexual and don't experience sexual attraction to other people. The attraction I feel for T has come about after 10 years of knowing each other. I'm not motivated to go out, present myself in a way that I am seeking partnership, or want to get naked with anybody. I don't flirt. It's not me. I love lots of people strongly, and I see good looking fit people multiple times a week at my gym, however I don't have that thing that most other people experience of the mating urge.

Where else am I going to find a relationship that can develop so slowly and over such a long course of time as this one?

And being as I can probably come to terms with not getting the things that I most want, shouldn't I weigh up the benefits of what I can have with T?

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Heather
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Can we talk about the notion that if you don't think about something, or stay ignorant (not in a judgy way, with what that word means) about it, that doesn't mean being okay with it?

Let me give you an example. Some people have firefighters for partners or spouses. That's a really dangerous job, and understandably, not everyone is going to feel secure having a partner who does that. But for someone for whom it really is okay, truly, they don't need to pretend their partner doesn't have that job. If someone did have to pretend, or not even think about it to be okay with it, could we agree that that's probably not a very emotionally healthy and sound situation for either partner?

I don't see that this person is the only potential partner for you. I totally understand that being asexual narrows your dating pool considerably, but certainly not down to only this one person in the whole wide world. So, where else could you find another person with whom a relationship could develop gradually AND have what you really wanted in it? Well, a whole lot of places. But if you stick with something that takes up so much of your time and emotional energy and that makes you feel so sad, you're also closing yourself off to other options. You get to choose to do that, obviously, but I think it would be sound to think about if that's what you really want to do, and if this is -- really, truly -- what you want.

I think it's also worth asking ourselves, when in situations like this, why we WOULD give up on some of the core things we want in a relationship. What is the benefit in not pursuing and potentially finding what we actually want so we can stay with what we really don't? So, I agree, looking at what you lose with this versus what you get is an important thing to do.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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amarra
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Heather you are so right. This is what I wanted to get input from Scarleteen on. The firefighter analogy is perfect. I was very surprised to find out that he believes honesty is not always for the best. I know in practice people don't always live by that, and do keep things from each other, for fear, or whatever reason. But most do at least give lip service to that - it's like one of the universal truths of not being a jerk. Not to favour honesty seems to me not to be a very mature outlook, at worst I would say it's a bit dysfunctional. So I was very taken aback.

BUT on the other hand, it makes a kind of twisted sense. He wants things to continue, as they have up til now, with him getting to have everything he wants. And he hasn't agreed to anything else. It's harsh - but why shouldn't he? Things were fine and I was blissfully happy because I did not know (although he assumed that I was somehow aware) of specific hookups or things he had going on. Neither of us wants the sadness. I guess he sees it as optional. And I understand he sees his diary and sex life with others as private, which is justified. I could still feel happy not knowing the 'ins and outs' week by week. But you are correct, it would be kind of illusory, which is a bit weird. He has said I am welcome to ask, but that feels masochistic to me. I would if I wanted to though.

Now I have been giving it some more thought, and finding it hard, he wishes I could just be OK with it. This is also the message that the polyamory community gives out. The problem is me, and my unhealthy conservative socialised ideas about relationships according to them. They would say I just need to work on my own issues. I do object to the enlightened and superior tone of polyamory sites - I'm very open-minded and don't even believe in marriage myself. But surely everyone's personal differences and choices, if healthy, should be equally valid, even if they are shaped by society?

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked... T has made it clear that he wants 'to answer to nobody but himself'. He has agreed to nothing else, so why should he? But he still wants to have a relationship with me. The polyamory world is telling me 'if you love him set him free, if he loves you he will come back, if not he was never yours' etc... which all makes sense on paper and is very noble and lofty (and helps me feel even worse about having problems with the idea).

So, my ideal is clearly not going to be met here. So I do the weighing up. The good things that my relationship with T gives me. Peace, calmness. Physical closeness and tenderness. As well as very good sex now that I am becoming aware of all the different things my body is capable of feeling. T is not a big talker, and I also prefer to keep words to a minimum although I can communicate when needed. One of my biggest concerns about polyamory is the incredible amount of talking needed. To me - the antithesis of the peace I am looking for. I'm not really up for that amount of drama. Knowing how T is, I don't think a full-blown poly thing with all those difficult conversations is going to be the way it goes...

If I can come to terms with the sexual nonexclusivity, then isn't that best. Wouldn't that mean that I don't have to throw away something which is at times beautiful and mentally restorative for me? And what's more one of my dearest friendships. I don't really think it's right that I should do all the moving, not at all, but he HAS agreed not to carry on a full blown relationship of equal status, and being as monogamy was never agreed, it's seeming more and more like it's that or nothing.

I've read a few other pages on here. Your 'should I stay or should I go' article and the questions posed in there... At the moment I gave mixed answers to those, some of which were probably coloured by my current mood. I also liked the 'love letter' article. Of the components listed by bell hooks - care I feel is present in that we do care what each other feels, commitment is present in the verbal intention that we both want the relationship to continue. But no commitment from him to shore up what we have in any particular way. Knowledge and responsibility would be much less so with what he has proposed (don't ask don't tell). Respect - not sure? I am respecting what he wants. Trust I think is OK. The other ingredient, connectivity - now that I feel a lack of. I hope it is temporary, and due to the current hurt on both sides. I don't want to ask him for reassurances and 'more effort' because a) I feel that backing off is the best thing to do at the moment and b) that's not how I want to behave anyway. It can be hard to tell what he is feeling though. I feel distance at presence. I know it's nice, but 'I love you' is just 3 quite non-descript words and I'm fairly sure that we are experiencing different feelings. How he's being feels quite brutal to me.

Maybe for me to make myself change how I feel about nonexclusivity, for my own good, is the best way to get things to be acceptable without sacrificing a special thing?

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amarra
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One potential good thing I forgot to mention. If he feels the freedom he desires, I imagine that might benefit how he feels towards me. Maybe some of the best times we have had together have been while he has been seing other people? Although it is a little weird that only one of us knew. But do you see what I mean? Potentially the fewer restrictions there are, the better he feels and potentially the better the whole relationship is? Could that be possible?
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Heather
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The thing is, changing how we feel is no easy thing to do, and when it comes to things like this, I'd say it's really iffy. How you feel is about who you are and it matters. Trying to be a different person than you are in order to fit with someone else -- someone who you're trying to conform to, basically: well, it's rarely the recipe to happy, healthy intimate relationships.

Do you know what I mean?

Like you, I too object to the presentation of polyamory OR monogamy as being about "enlightenment." We're just not all the same people, we don't all want the same things, we're not all comfortable with the same things, on the whole, in a given phase of life, and from relationship to relationship. If it helps to hear something a bit more personal, I'm one of those people who is fairly flexible when it comes to poly or monogamy, pretty much my whole life, but what I want isn't always the same, and also depends a whole LOT on the relationship I'm in. And I can say -- for myself -- I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable doing poly with someone who was basically not considering people's needs besides their own, and who didn't seem to grok the need for extra communication. And that's not just about gut feelings, but about things I know from my own experiences and those of others are things really essential to any relationship going well, especially open/poly relationships.

I also know that if and when it seems like the only person willing to try and make any compromises at all in a relationship is me, especially in one that's been going on a while, that I'm looking at a relationship with a pretty clear dead-end, and that I can be sure is probably going to stay pretty one-sided, and thus, really limit the depth and quality of that relationship in a big way.

But again, that's all pretty personal: that's about me. You have to figure out about you in your specific situation and based on who you, uniquely are. If we want to talk about what is and isn't enlightened around this, I think we can safely say one thing that is is everyone accepting who they are and when others aren't the same, and everyone doing their level best to honor that, you know?

I think I also would weigh in and say that someone who only wants to answer to themselves gets to do that, but that in order to have that, they're going to also have to just opt out of serious relationships, because those, of whatever kind, require commitment of some kind to other people and consideration of the needs of others.

Can I ask if you've thought about this not as you stay with it as it is or ditch it altogether, but instead if perhaps a different kinds of relationship -- like a platonic friendship -- might be a better option?

It just still sounds like you feel more hurt from this than happiness to me, and like perhaps you're accepting some things, or trying to, you really don't feel good about to try and hold onto this because maybe the idea of pursuing new relationships feels scarier. I may be totally off on that, btw, so if that doesn't seem right, feel free to dismiss it.

[ 12-19-2011, 05:48 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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Thanks for your input Heather. I have wanted to come back and reply to this sooner, but what with Xmas and New Year and everything, it has been busy. I have been thinking so much about this (unfortunately to the detriment of the rest of my life, so I am keen to make some mental progress). I have also been talking with friends, and with T.

There is a lot going on here. Forgive me if I ramble or it's incoherent.

Throughout this process I have learnt more about T, and also I have had to slightly shift my perception of reality. It turns out I have been mildly under an illusion. Due to a misunderstanding and lack of explicit communication, I was under the impression that since we stopped using condoms together, T had not been with anyone else sexually. He had said as much at the time, and that we would 'cross that bridge when we came to it'. Assumption is foolish! but I took this to mean that he would somehow tell me if the issue of sex with another came up. We made no specific agreement about that. It turns out that during this time period of about 15 months he has had 2 one night stands. I was surprised, only because I did not know. It was not 'forbidden'. I'm not especially hurt, he had had sex with others casually before (when we were using condoms still).

At new year, I accidentally saw a couple of texts between T and another of his female friends. ( Only because he was holding the large screen directly in my line of view!) It clearly seemed that they were arranging to meet up and have sex, and had done so before. A day or so later I explained that I had accidentally seen this and asked him about it calmly. He told me that it was them joking around and offered to show me the whole thread of texts (I declined). I do believe him as he would have told me if they was something going on there. Surprisingly I found that I was not especially hurt by the thought of him being with her, again, just surprised at my ignorance... Funnily enough I had wondered about the 2 of them in the past and without saying anything to him I put a lot of effort (Overcoming Jealousy self-help book) into working on not feeling jealous about something that I had no evidence was any threat to our relationship. I now wondered if she knew about me, and if she thought that I didn't know... As it happens I misinterpreted their conversation. But until he explained that, my main feeling was one of being a chump.

Unfortunately, earlier this year, I contracted HSV 1 in the genital area. I got it from T, who had got it from one of these isolated encounters. (I did not know about these at the time I got it, I assumed it had been dormant or that he had a cold sore.) This I see as basically unlucky - a shame - I know T always uses condoms with others and gets regularly tested. but of course HSV can still be spread. Since the initial attack it has not come back for me, and I have another friend who has it who has been a good support. So it's not been a disaster. But had I known he was still sexually active with others, I might have been getting tested more often myself, for example.

He said that because we are not an exclusive couple, he had felt no duty to tell me about his other partners. As we have started to talk about if or how he might/would/should inform me about his other sexual encounters, he said that it feels like being on a leash. I have found this hard to understand, being as he has not been forbidden from having other partners. But I have tried to see his point of view - to appreciate how much he values his freedom and the voluntary nature of what we have.

He felt that in the earlier days when we were first getting close emotionally, when he was more openly having other partners (and before we were sexual together) he was very confident that we would never split up over jealousy issues. That I was like a constant rock, that what we had was most important to him and that he did not feel as close to the girls he was sleeping with.

Here's where it also gets complex! T is a smoker, and a habitual weed smoker. And he is developing erectile dysfunction due to that. [Frown] [Frown] Added to that his heavy weed use is now causing him to be very apathetic towards many aspects of life. It's starting to affect him cognitively and affect his interactions with friends. I have no doubt that some of what has been hard about this process is the weed affecting his capacity for empathy and communication. We (me and his other friends) are planning to speak to him about our concerns and he has also expressed concern himself anyway. So this year in his own words he will be 'trying to get out of the grip of weed'.

(When I gave him that letter containing my thoughts compiled, he had smoked a spliff as he read it, and initally said 'I have nothing else to say' - I had to prompt him to answer my questions within it, and reassurances were not forthcoming.)

Due to the sexual health problems he is experiencing (and the fact that he now has HSV 1), it has given him a blow to his sexual confidence. And although casual one-off encounters (which I think I can basically handle) may still occur, he feels they are unlikely. This is why he wants to rekindle what he had with G. He says she is/was a good fit for him, and that it was just a nice thing that he felt comfortable with.

Meanwhile G seems to be (stupidly and wrongly in my opinion) basing her decision on whether she stays with her current monogamous boyfriend (who apparently she is not especially unhappy with) on what T wants to do... so he has been keeping her somewhat updated with how our conversation is progressing. When he mentioned to her that one option was for him to see her only occasionally, she reacted angrily and said that was not acceptable to her. So for a short time it seemed that she was out of the picture. I then experienced an opposite feeling! I felt terrible, and that I had done something very wrong by being the one to deny or stand in the way of something that brought T happiness. If I love him, how can I not want to see him happy? I felt just as bad as at the thought of his inital proposal that she would move into his house.

I told him this and he changed his tune and now agrees with me that we must keep talking more. He also said that, like I had done, he would have to alter his attitude and expectations so that we could be happy (when I asked him to expand on this he meant in regard to the fact that he is now HSV-positive and having erectile problems). I think this is a great step which gives me more confidence.

I'm trying to put myself into his shoes and imagine, what if it was me, at some future point? It's possible that I would want to develop either an emotional or (unlikely but not impossible) sexual relationship with someone else. Wouldn't I like to feel that freedom in that situation too? Not the freedom to trample another's feelings, I would discuss anything with T first, but that it might be possible. That is what is important for him, the feeling that doors are open, whether he goes through them or not. I understand that.

He also tells me that he has done the same. He has very much put himself into my position, of being the one who has no other current interest in other partners. I believe him that he has made a serious effort to see my perspective and that also makes me feel better.

G has now retracted what she said about occasionally not being enough for her, and said that she can't cut him out of her life completely so will be there to see him in some shape or format after all. So now that door is back open!

I asked T how he would feel if he did not get back with G - he said it would be a bit sad for him, but not a disaster. But I do know that it is what he really wants and I want to be fair. I want us both to be happy, and I do hope that that is possible without us reverting to a platonic friendship. It is clearly a balancing act.

At present we have left it that currently, nothing is going to immediately change. I have been struggling to get other things in my life done while I have been preoccupied with thinking about this so I do need to get back on track and T feels that taking G back at this point would be too upsetting for me. I however want to continue thinking this through, with advice from friends, and you. Why do I feel this way? What is it specifically that upsets or threatens me about him being with G? Is it all socially constructed? I really want to understand why I feel the way I do, and if what T wants would really be so bad. He's not my possession. Why do I find the idea of sharing difficult? Am I un-generous?

It's good that we know each other better for all this, and we have committed to talk more about our own sexual relationship.

Separately, I am very sad about the smoking and impotency issue and I hope that he can work towards stopping smoking (with whatever help he wants or needs from me) and I've made my feelings clear on that. I don't know what will happen there. [Frown]

My main fears and concerns remain that having made myself very well-informed on non-monogamy through poly resources and the real experiences of 8 of my friends, the odds are shall we say not stacked in favour of success, especially when it's in effect a mono-poly pairing, at present anyway... I've told him we would have to expect and be prepared for extra heartache, extra difficult conversations (him with G too), extra hard work that simply isn't the case at the moment. To be honest that does not sound good to me. He recognises that...

I'll sign off here for now as I've poured out plenty. Thank you again for your advice, it is helping me a lot.

[ 01-06-2012, 09:32 AM: Message edited by: silat ]

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Robin Lee
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One thing that I'm not hearing a lot of here is about what you want. I hear that you want T to be happy (more on that in a minute), that you're not happy about the smoking an the impact it has on T physically and emotionally, and that you do have anxieties about T being in other relationships. I'm not really clear on what you *want* though.
.

If you love T, shouldn't you want what makes him happy, you ask. Absolutely, but not at the expense of your own happiness and security.

...and about him having other partners. From a health stand point it absolutely is something that you can reasonably want him to tell you. Had you known, as I think you said, that he was having one night stands, you would have gotten STI tests more frequently and perhaps you might have chosen to do things differently in regards to safer sex practices and your choice of sexual activities. That is your right to decide and you deserve to have the information with which to make that decision. So, while T may feel constrained by having to share with you that he's having sex with other people, it's not unreasonable for you to ask him to do that. That can be the beginning of a conversation, not just the end. I know that you're saying that he thinks casual sex isn't likely for him right now, but that part of your post jumped out at me, and thisapplies just as well to less casual situations.

So, again, what do you want from your relationship, moving forward?

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Heather
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As you know, this is a lot to take in and consider.

But I also think you're trying to figure things out about yourself and relationships in general -- and relationship models -- based on this one relationship with this one person, and I think that's an error.

Like I said I'm a person who can be very flexible with relationship models and who has sometimes enjoyed open relationships. But I'd nix one like this is two seconds flat, probably, and feel awfully uncomfortable with a lot of what's been going on and, more to the point, HOW it has been going on. So, if we used my reaction to this alone and then universalized my feelings about it to poly/monogamy, we'd get a very wrong answer about me. Do you know what I mean?

So, I'm happy to pick up this conversation again, but I think that we're best going about it talking about THIS relationship, only, and then maybe what you feel you might want from it or other relationships moving forward, rather than reaching what feels way too far to me, with things like you wanting to know why you "find the idea of sharing difficult," since I'm not sure you do in any larger way, and I don't think what's going on here, and how you feel about this is about big things like the idea of "sharing" as a whole.

Okay?

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amarra
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Sorry, I thought that I had fully explained what it is that I would ideally like a couple of posts back...

There is also the mutual recognition that it's about give and take on both our parts.

Of course I agree that his happiness should not come at the expense of mine (he agrees with that too!). I want to understand the reasons for and the root causes of why I'm experiencing the feelings I have done to his suggestion/request.

Yes I agree with your 3rd paragraph and we are still actively having that discussion about what information will be shared and how. He might feel uncomfortable or infringed upon but I do have a right to make informed health choices.

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amarra
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To Heather - yes I am totally happy to limit any discussion here to this particular relationship. I was thinking that more universal kind of questioning might help me to look at any underlying issues of my own, and perhaps make me feel differently about the current reltionship.
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Heather
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The thing is, I'm not sure you really can do that when all your feelings about this are only about this one relationship. In other words, when you don't have a range of experiences to draw on.

Here's the thing: from everything I can tell, this guy is doing open/poly pretty outrageously badly. I know people who ONLY do poly/open who would nix this outright, for a whole host of reasons. I think it's likely a good deal of how you're feeling isn't about how you're feeling about poly/open as a whole, but how you're feeling because of someone doing this model so poorly as well as, I think, you agreeing to go along with it when it just really isn't what you want, and some of THAT is probably because this person is doing it so poorly.

Even "poly people" rarely are no-holds-barred with every possible poly situation or model being okay with them. No matter what kind of relationship model we're talking about, in healthy relationships, everyone involved needs to really have a say, be equally considered, and a relationship needs to be about what works for everyone, not just about all of what one person wants and then if others will go along with it or not. Know what I mean?

So, let's perhaps try circling back a bit.

quote:
I'm afraid that if I say 'go for it', it will be out of fear of losing him/wanting to please him, and that I will feel whatever the opposite of assertive is. I also suspect though that the deep sadness I am feeling right now may well persist. I don't think it's great that either one of us should 'get our way' (bad phrase) leaving the other one unhappy. Isn't there some sort of solution where we are both equally un/happy? I know that sounds strange but to me something that was not *100% ideal* for either of us would be more fair.
It sounds to me like you're still very much in the same place you were now when you said that. At the same time, what I'm seeing here is that this person doesn't seem to have any real interest in that kind of compromise, or even really considering it. That says to me that this person really isn't open to the kind of relationship with you that not only you want, but that is pretty essential to ANY kind of healthy relationship, whether we're talking romance, sex, platonic friendship, family, the works.

Do you feel like this person earnestly is deeply emotionally invested in you as a person, per the relationship you do have? If so, can you talk to me about how you get that impression?

[ 01-06-2012, 10:40 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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amarra
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I can understand why you would think that from my posts here.

I know that T is deeply emotionally invested in me as a person, and in our relationship. I do think that he has gone about some things wrongly and up to this point been selfish in several ways. And we have both not communicated clearly up until now.

Anyway, I know that he is deeply emotionally invested because he has told me this. He has told me that his best path to happiness is the one with me on it. He says that he loves me, as he has loved girlfriends who he was monogamous with in the past, and that he does not feel that way about anyone else. He waited to be sure until he told me of his feelings for me. He has told another of our friends that he intends to leave me things in his will. He says that he treasures every moment that we are together, and does not want to scale back what we have to a platonic thing.

He has told me that he does not want to make me sad, and crucially, he is therefore prepared not to see G if I should say it is too upsetting for me. He has demonstrated that he cares about my feelings by showing a willingness not to do anything from this point onwards that I find too hurtful. It is me who wants to make a concession here because (ignoring what has actually happened up to this point) I now know what it is that he wants, which I didn't before. I certainly don't have to make that concession. In fact that is where we are currently at - no other comparable serious relationship. Casual sexual activity is not ruled out and we are still deciding the best way of communication on that issue.

[ 01-06-2012, 11:21 AM: Message edited by: silat ]

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Heather
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Besides telling you, can you talk to me about how he has actively demonstrated his investment here?

What I hear you saying is all about what he has said, including what he has said he intends moving forward. I also am hearing that he has said some things which strike me as standing pretty counter to his actual actions. What I'm looking for is active demonstration, not with words, that's actually happened.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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It's difficult to assure you over the internet. I can tell you are skeptical.

I have perceived his love through touch and look, the feels I have developed have been built on reciprocity. That has been the excitement of it. You know when you can tell from someone's face, or eyes? That is also why my friends have been so shocked at what he has said - everyone comments how close we seem, how well we seem to complement each other, how 'easy' we are in each other's company etc. People have known for a long time that there is something very deep between us. It can clearly be witnessed by outsiders.

He has been there for me every time when life has been hard for me. He has given me massive emotional support. He has supported all of my work-related and sporting endeavours.

I have met his family and been present at his family's occasions.

If you want a more practical demonstration I just edited my previous post to explain that he intends leaving me things in his will etc... My friend who he said this to also says she can tell the depth of his feelings from the way that he speaks about me.

I don't know if this is enough to convince you, but personally, I am convinced of this and am not questioning this aspect. I feel it might be a red herring to the issue here.

[ 01-06-2012, 11:31 AM: Message edited by: silat ]

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Heather
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Well, I'm skeptical because so much of what you've posted about his actual choices and actions, and many of the other things has has said don't pain the kind of picture for me of the things he's said which, to you, demonstrate a real investment. Do you know what I mean?

I don't know that you really can tell from someone's face or eyes if they're invested in a person or relationship. Having certain feelings doesn't mean an investment: investment to me is about actions, less so about words or stated intentions.

So, for instance, an investment in you, your feelings and your relationship, to me, would have meant him checking with you about other partners before having them, and telling you when he did. It would have meant really negotiating all of this with you. Heck, it would mean that right from the start there, when you made clear this whole model really wasn't likely to work for you, that he really considered that, which it doesn't seem to me he did. (Mind, I think it's clear both of you were more inclined to do this badly and stay together in some way rather than considering that you simply may well be a really bad fit for anything romantic or sexual at this point, so that's not just on him, but still.)

I don't think this is a red herring at all, and I'm not really sure how to help you out without addressing his actions. But if it feels like one to you and you want to take a different approach, I can certainly flow with what you want, so give me some cues.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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I agree that some of his actions have even made me question what exactly it is that he feels for me.

The fact that he has not checked with me about other partners etc, has stemmed from the fact that he was seeing other people before we became close, before our relationship developed, and he assumed that I was aware that this would continue. He made the assumption that because we were not a 'couple', that those rules did not apply. He said that if we had agreed to be a couple then he would have felt compelled to do that checking etc. I think yes he has been thoughtless. We have both had a different perception of reality and lack of communication has been the source of the problem here. Had we spoken earlier we could both have been aware of where we both thought we were at.

However I know that he has deep feelings for me, you're right, facial expressions and words are no real indicator of that, or of any investment. I just mean that without you being present as a fly on the wall for the past 10 years it is hard for me to convince you of his love for me. If you were to ask any of our close friends they would give the same answer that without a doubt we love each other very strongly.

It's true that some of his actions regarding sexual behaviour are not compatible with reponsible and mature love. It has made me question this and I have said so. I certainly think that he has some bad ideas about how to carry out a relationship that is not the monogamous norm. This can be addressed with a clearer expression of how things are to be.

To repeat, I do think that although he has expressed some selfish statements, his thinking has moved (as has mine), and he has considered my lack of enthusiasm for a poly set-up as currently there is not gong to be any change on that front. He is willing to compromise.

I'm really happy to address his actions. I think that we ARE both aiming to reach a sustainable compromise position. The current proposal is that he only has a regular serious relationship with me, and that we need to firm up guidelines and a concrete way to communicate about any casual partners.

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