T O P I C ††† R E V I E W
Member # 96413
posted 08-02-2012 11:39 AM
Iím a bisexual woman in my early twenties.
Iíve been with my boyfriend for three years. At the start, and for a very long time after, the relationship was amazing. You could say perfect Ė we were excited to see each other, we were affectionate, we made each other laugh, we were kind to each other, we flourished in each otherís company, we had great sex. Our honeymoon period lasted about 20 months, and was rudely interrupted when I got very very drunk and slept with a random stranger Ė something I wholly regret. Needless to say, my boyfriend, who has very low self-esteem anyway, took it really badly, and it took us several months to repair the damage caused to the relationship, however we both agreed that we did want to save it, because it was so great that it was worth saving. This all happened over the course of last year. Itís worth me mentioning that before I was in this relationship, I wasnít a ďrelationshipĒ person, ie. I liked the idea of having one or two (or more) friends with benefits, on a very casual basis, but not a two-people-committed-to-each-other-and-only-each-other relationship. Then I fell head over heels in love with my boyfriend, and found that I was very happy being in a relationship with just one person, and my eyes were kind of shut to everyone else in the world. Again, this lasted a really long time, I think it was down to more than just NRE. However, over the last few months, Iíve been thinking a lot about wanting to sleep with other people, predominantly women. Not any particular person, just the idea of it. These thoughts have become stronger in my mind, and Iím starting to realise that I probably always have been this way, but became temporarily engrossed in an amazing relationship that was, for a long time, enough to satisfy me. But recently I canít stop thinking about sleeping with other people. I havenít broached the subject with my boyfriend because I KNOW he would not be ok with it. A mutual friend of ours is in a polyamorous relationship, and he has made it very clear that he disapproves Ė itís not just than open relationships ďarenít for himĒ, he thinks that relationships should be for two people (of any gender, heís straight but totally cool about different sexualities etc), and anything outside that is wrong. The fact that I betrayed his trust once (which was a huge mistake, and NOT anything to do with my attitude to the relationship, or to relationships in general Ė it was when I was still in the ďcompletely happyĒ phase, and I really can only put it down to alcohol and a massive lack of judgement) still hurts, heís made it clear than he still has problems trusting me, and I know that if I ever brought up the subject of seeing other people, he would read it as me being unhappy in the relationship, or ďunable to control myselfĒ in terms of sex with other people Ė basically seeking validation to cheat. I see it as something very different Ė cheating is deceptive and done without the consent of another person. An open relationship requires being considerate and communicative, but Iím also painfully aware that it requires both (or all) parties to be ok with it. Which, as I said, my fella is NOT and, as far as I can tell, never will be. An important factor in our relationship is that we both have a history of mental health problems. Mine have been more serious at their worst, but Iíve sought help and gone through therapy and come out the other side. He has tried meds once or twice, for a short time, found they havenít worked, and given up. He is now really reluctant to get help, despite seeing how much therapy has done for me, and despite me and his sister trying to persuade him that it can help him. Iíve tried for well over a year to support him emotionally, but itís taking its toll. Recently my life has become incredibly stressful, due to many commitments and a bereavement, and my mental health has taken a slight downward turn, but I straight away sought help. Trying to carry his emotional baggage as well as mine is becoming too much, and Iíve started to resent it at times. I do love this guy, so so much. He is wonderful, kind, hilarious and talented, and makes me feel all warm and gooey in side (in an emotional way!!). I really love cuddling him and being in his arms, looking into his beautiful eyes, but Iíve recently realised that Iím not sexually attracted to him any more. Not like how I was, anyway. But I do REALLY love being with him. While the logical answer Ė and one that I know a lot of people would probably suggest Ė would be to end the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship and continue as very good friends, therefore giving me the freedom to see other people, there are two massive problems with this. One: I donít want to end the relationship. I just donít want it to be a sexual one, and I want to have sex with other people. Two: Even that isnít a realistic option, because his mental health and self-esteem are so poor that I honestly donít know what it would do to him. While I have a lot of things in my life that make me happy or at least keep me occupied, he doesnít. Heís unemployed and doesnít have a great relationship with his mum, who he lives with. Heís said to me in the past that there are only two good things in his life: me, and his music (heís in two bands). Other than that, his life is shit, in his words. Seeing what my infidelity did to him, and knowing that his mental health is worse now than it was then, I donít even want to think about what would happen if I ended our relationship. Worst case scenario Ė you can imagine, Iím sure. But a more likely one is that he would spiral into a pit of despair, and it would be even harder to him to gain any control or joy back in his life. However Iím aware that Iím young, and clearly not happy with the current arrangement, and itís not a good time to be tied into a ďforeverĒ relationship that isnít really what I want. Also I know I shouldnít have to be emotionally responsible for another adult, but the truth is that I am. Iíve always said that ďanyone should be able to do whatever they want in life, as long as it doesnít hurt anyone else.Ē Thatís just it Ė if I do what I really want, it will hurt someone else. Someone I really love and donít want to hurt, especially not in that way, because I want to continue having a great relationship with him, just not in the way we have now. I am really stuck.
Member # 49582
posted 08-05-2012 05:52 AM
Okay, firstly, about the sex that happened when you were very, very drunk and you say you suffered a lack of judgement? If that stranger was sober or tipsy and knew what they were doing, we're taking about a sexual assault here, not breaking a relationship agreement.
Secondly, about your moral basis of ďanyone should be able to do whatever they want in life, as long as it doesnít hurt anyone else" - I absolutely agree with this, and have the same outlook myself. However, Charlie; he is hurting you. I know it may not seem like it because you're doing well with your self-care and have seeked out help with your mental health, but him using you as his only support for both his esteem and mental health really isn't healthy for you; in fact, it's likely taking more of a toll on your emotional wellbeing and mental health than you realise right now. Even on somebody without mental health issues, being another adult's sole support would take a huge toll on them. So, with your own mental health to care for yourself about as well, this is a pretty unhealthy and dangerous place for you to be in. Does that make sense? Do you feel he's putting his own moral beliefs on to you around the kind of relationship you'd like right now? It sounds to me like you don't want to end this relationship but instead to change it into a friendship. Friendships are still relationships, and can be just as fulfilling as a monogamous relationship. The reasons for changing this relationship to a friendship are: 1) You don't feel sexually attracted to him. Or like you really want to be sexual with him at all? 2) He's using you as his sole support. That's his choice. Help is out there - in the form of therapy and medication, which you've sought out and made use of yourself. YOU made the choice to help yourself and take care of yourself instead of putting it all onto someone else. This guy, on the other hand, instead of choosing to seek out that help, he's choosing instead, to put it all on you. That's not about plain old circumstances dictating that you're all he's got - that's quite the opposite - he has access much, much more - he's just choosing to put it all on you, rather than take responsibilty for his own health and help himself. As I said, this really isn't healthy or safe for you at all - but it also isn't healthy for him either. He needs to learn how to take control of his own health and take responsibility his OWN care, which would likely give him a lot more confidence in his new independence. So, I really wouldn't say he'd be more hurt without this set up you both have. Does that make sense? 3) You can't have the relationship you want with this guy, because he wants something different that isn't working out for you. So, when that happens, it's time to change the relationship yourself, in my book - to something like a friendship, in which it wouldn't be at all unethical to have the kind of set up you want right now, per engaging in sex with women. Loving someone very, very much and admiring them as a person for being talented and funny, and loving sharing hugs are seem like the benefits you could get from being friends with this person instead. What do you think about that? I mean, sure, there will need to be a healing period in which this guy heals from the hurt of not having the relationship he wants to anymore, and for you too because any relationship change can be tough, even if it was wanted. So, there's likely going to be a cooling off period inbetween the your monogamous relationship and your friendship. And, granted, he might not wish to have a frienship with you, but those are risks that are there with any kind of relationship, including friendships with people who we haven't previously had a monogamous relationship with. However, if this guy does want a friendship after the healing period; I would definately advise taking a big step back from this person until they find support with their mental health that isn't you - for both your sakes. What do you think? [ 08-05-2012, 06:12 AM: Message edited by: Rei ]
Member # 96413
posted 08-10-2012 06:26 PM
The sex with the stranger wasn't assault. It was consensual, I just know that if I had been sober, or just less wasted than I was, I wouldn't have consented. I know that makes it a very grey area on paper but I am in no doubt that I fully participated in that mistake.
We just got back from a holiday, and on the first night he asked me to do some stuff for him... (I'm on my period, so he knew my knickers were a no-go area). I did, because I didn't want to upset him while we were away or come up with a lame "not in the mood" excuse, but halfway through I started crying and had to stop, so obviously he asked what was wrong, and it all came out, unexpectedly and very unplanned. I explained that I love him big time, and he's my best friend and makes me feel wonderful, but that I'm not sexually attracted to him. Needless to say he didn't take it well. His self-esteem and body image are so poor (he's convinced he's fat) that he assumed it's because of how he looks. I assured him that there's no one else, that I'm not even talking to/texting anyone, that it's just how I've changed because people do, but obviously it was really hard for him to take. I was annoyed with myself for saying it on the first day of our holiday, coz I really wanted us to have a nice time together. After a couple of hours of talking he calmed down and agreed to try and enjoy the holiday, but in the morning he was in a foul mood, so I ended up trying to explain that maybe I'd gone off sex altogether (this did actually happen a couple of months ago, partly due to a hormonal contraception malfunction and partly due to life smacking me over the head with a club and removing any sexual desire from my brain for a while). Then that night, completely unexpectedly, I spontaneously and voluntarily initiated sexual activity with him (ON him - still on my period). At the end, we were both surprised, and I found myself blurting out the words "Well I guess I am still sexually attracted to you. I don't know what last night was all about. Sorry about that!" As I went to sleep I knew it wasn't the case. I don't know what made me do what I did - in the heat of the moment, I was really into it and enjoyed it, but straight after felt fake because I knew I still didn't feel the same. But I know his self esteem can't take a knock like that. I think I've just taken myself really far up shit creek and given him the paddle to sail away with. Over the rest of the holiday, we had a nice time but on the last couple of days he was being REALLY negative. It's almost all to do with his financial situation - being on the dole he has no money, and I was having to pay for most stuff while we were away. Being a student, I don't have a lot of money either, and by the end of the week was totally broke and had to borrow off my sister. I didn't make a big deal out of this, coz I know how shitty he feels about his student girlfriend having to pay his way, and I don't want to rub his face in it any more. The fact alone is enough of a kick in the balls. But he sees all his problems as money-related, he spends much of what little money he has on scratch cards. Don't get me wrong, he's looking for work but there isn't any. I tried to explain that although I understand a lot of his problems are money-related, and I get how much it sucks having no money, that I know there are underlying issues, I know that he's depressed and I really think he needs to get help because it's hard for me to hear him constantly putting himself down. But he really believes that if he had money he would be happy. Yeah. Not good. I'm getting to breaking point, trying not to slap him in the face and shout at him to go to his doctor and ask to be referred to a counsellor, because his constant negativity and self-deprecation is really weighing me down. And it honestly does feel like that one night on holiday was an anomaly, coz I'm back to not wanting to be sexual with him, and I don't think it's just that I'm on my period or going through a bad point... coz I'm still thinking about theoretical sex with imaginary people. And yet still I am so very very aware of how it would affect him if I tried to end the relationship, or if I told him that actually, I was right the first time, I'm not sexually attracted to him. He takes it badly if I ask him to pick up his socks. That's another thing. He is horrible messy and absent-minded. I'm no Martha Stewart, but I draw a line at globs of houmous left on the side after making a sandwich, or socks left in the living room, or crumby plates left in the bed, or empty beer cans left in the lounge. But every time I pick him up on his messiness, he gets really offended and turns into the victim, making me feel like a picky bitch for asking him to respect my home environment. I have mentioned everything I've said in this post and the last to my therapist, and she said "I can understand how it would be difficult to have sex with your son," which for a second knocked me for six, but then made perfect sense. And yet when I said to him while we were away, that at times I felt like I was in a therapist/parent role, he again took that really badly and had a go at me for saying it. I don't think he'd take the offer of friendship well. Any "healing period" would inevitably follow a long long period of anger, self-destruction, increased self-loathing and extreme gloominess. He is extremely unstable and I'm very reluctant to be the one to remove what could be the final post holding him up.
Member # 3
posted 08-10-2012 07:03 PM
You know, I think the thing is that at this point, all you can do is be truthful and as thoughtful in that as possible. It's not on you to not do that to try and protect him from his own issues. Ultimately, it's on him -- as it is on any of us -- to decide if we're okay to be in a relationship or not, and that includes being able to handle changes, including a potential end of that relationship or some part of it. Really, this is one of the big differences between being his partner and his parent, if you follow me. So, I think rather than trying to micro-manage him, you just need to be honest. And I certainly think that moving forward, sending any mixed-messages -- like initiating sex with him when you have told him you're not attracted -- is really important. He's got to take care of himself: if he won't, he won't, but you can't make him. But part of him being able to do that, and being enabled to do that, I think, is you being real with him about what's really going on with you and what you really want here. I know that's obviously very hard and probably something you'd want to avoid, but I think the hole here is just going to get dug deeper for you both if you do avoid it. It might help to remind yourself that if his self-esteem is so low that he can't take this, then it's also not high enough to be in this kind of relationship in the first place.
Member # 3
posted 08-10-2012 07:11 PM
Oh, also, I think one other thing that can help in situations like this is trying to take a really good, hard look at how much we're trying to avoid upsetting the other person because we don't want to hurt them, and how much we're trying to avoid it because *we* simply do not want to deal with all we have to deal with or might feel -- like guilt, for instance, or our own feelings of regret or having made poor choices, etc. -- when they're upset.
And in a situation where it sounds like quite a lot of enabling has gone on, where this person really hasn't been protected so much as probably held back -- even if that wasn't your intent -- from having to really deal with their own stuff, I suspect there's probably quite a bit of the former. But just getting some clarity around that can often help to make having hard conversations we don't want to a little bit easier.
Member # 96413
posted 08-11-2012 04:00 AM
Thanks for the quick replies.
I'm aware that there probably is an element of guilt and regret involved, but the overwhelming feeling is that I don't want to cause him that kind of upset because I don't want him to be hurt. I don't want him to suffer. I've tried and tried to convey to him how hard it is for me to carry him, and to try to be the strong one and support him emotionally when I'm having a tough time myself. I've explained that I need him to take responsibility for his mental wellbeing, because I can't do it any more. He seems to hear it but then doesn't take it in or do anything about it. His constant refusal to get help, and denial that it's anything other than money worries, is grinding to say the least. I just really fear what would happen to him if I ended the relationship. I can't see him being proactive and getting help. I just see him wallowing. I was reading that "happiness" book by Tal Ben-Shahar and it mentions the four types of burger-people: the hedonist, the rat racer, the nihilist and the happy person. I'm aware that in my past I've been all three types of "bad" burger, and I'm working towards getting back to be the happy burger person. He is very much the nihilistic burger. He's had some crappy luck, like two bereavements in one year (2010 - his nan followed shortly by his dad), losing his job, being long-term unemployed and therefore broke, my infidelity, and his own mental health issues, but he is unable to see that things might get better. Yes, things are kind of crappy now, but he doesn't see it getting any better unless he wins £10,000 on a scratch card. I want him to take charge of his emotional wellbeing and work out his issues (which go much deeper than money, although it does contribute, certainly in the self-esteem stakes) and get happy and healthy, but he is almost determined to be miserable, because he knows how to do it so it's easier. I want to help him get there because I love him, but I'm also acutely aware of how much strain it's taking on me. Every time I hear him moan about how shit he/his life is, I walk closer to the door, but then am pulled back by fear of what it would do to him. But I get where you are coming from about me needing to step back and get him to take responsibility for his own actions and wellbeing. He just doesn't seem willing to do it. Ever.
Member # 3
posted 08-11-2012 10:59 AM
Okay, so bouncing off of your last statement, what does your life look like to you if he doesn't ever start taking care of himself, and you stay in this relationship, so you don't make a change either?
Is that what you want? Can you live with that? Do you think that that's going to be something good for both of you? If nothing you have tried to do to help him help himself has created any change in that so far, do you think it might in time? For real? It seems to me that if he really won't make a change, he's miserable either way, really, and what's on the table here is if he is or both of you are.
Member # 3
posted 08-11-2012 11:03 AM
I should add to this, if you feel like, in looking at those questions, you really want to stay in this for yourself -- and not just because you feel bad for this person -- or, even then, you're just determined to stay, how have hard limits worked?
In other words, "I cannot stay in this unless you start counseling of some kind. If you do not have it by X-date, I will need to leave for both of our sakes, but mostly because I also need to take care of myself."
Member # 96413
posted 08-11-2012 07:11 PM
So we broke up today. It wasn't planned but it was inevitable, I think.
We got back from holiday last night, and I felt that things had not been said. Then this morning he said he was going on a diet on Monday, and I tried to - in the gentlest but most honest way possible - talk to him about his negative outlook on life, how it impacts the people around him, including me, and that I am crumbling under the strain of trying to support him, and that he needed to take responsibility for his own mental health. I said it seemed like being miserable was the safe, easy option coz he knows how to do it, and that addressing his underlying issues, which go far beyond money, would be difficult. Naturally he got on the defensive (he is not good at being challenged or hearing difficult things) and retorted with "so you think I'm lazy?" which was obviously a gross twist of what I was saying. He also accused me of "having the audacity" to comment on his negativity and say I was crumbling under the strain of supporting him emotionally, when I'd "put [him] on this emotional rollercoaster" by which he meant the one-time infidelity, for which I have apologised numerous times, and worked really hard to regain his trust, and that fact that I've been "off" with him recently, partly due to my own issues and partly due to the strain in the relationship. He has a knack for playing the victim and turning everything I say into me being the bad guy. I feel like he's used my mistake of cheating as a permanent stick to beat me with, no matter how irrelevant it is. "Please can you not leave beer cans in the lounge." "How can you criticise me after what you did?" -- ok, not quite like that, but you get the picture. Anyway, eventually I said that I couldn't deal with it any more, and he asked again about the sexual attraction thing. I explained that my feelings towards him had changed, that it wasn't a choice, it was just how it was, and that I didn't ever want to hurt him. I said that I loved him, didn't want him to hate me and wanted to be friends in the long term. But I didn't think I wanted to be in a relationship with him any more. He asked me "Why the **** have we been carrying on with this half-arsed relationship?" and I said, very tearfully, that I was worried he would self-destruct Very angrily, he said "well that's it then, I'm leaving." and stormed out. I took that to mean the end. His sister later rang my sister (who I live with, and is the best person in the universe, number one reason I am still alive) and said he had gone round to hers, and he didn't seem sad, just incredibly angry. Which is totally understandable. He has a lot of issues, around all areas of his life, and he is very good at doing two things with them: directing them 100% in on himself, and beating himself up over everything wrong with his life, even the things out of his control; or directing it 100% out on other people (often me), blaming all his problems on the insensitivity of others, even if they've been trying to help by pointing out where he could help himself. Overall, the biggest feeling is relief, but it's closely followed by an intense sadness and worry. I think I needed to get out of this relationship, and you guys all recognised that. It wasn't healthy for me, and I had started to feel like it was more hard work than enjoyment or fulfilment. My sadness is obviously because I love this guy, and even though we hopefully will reconcile in the future as friends, there will obviously be a long healing period, made considerably longer by the fact that he has massive mental health issues anyway, compounded by the break-up. My worry is for his safety and sanity. Luckily his sister, who is also my best friend, is not only really wise and understanding, but has had more than her fair share of life and relationship drama, and will be absolutely the best person to see him through this. She is also really understanding of my position and not at all judgey, so while she wants her brother to be ok, she doesn't blame me for hurting him. At least I hope not. I'm fluctuating massively between being ok and feeling really low, but hey, it's day 1. Days 2 to 30 (and who knows how much longer) will be hard, I know that. Harder for him thought. The main thing is that I have lots of other stuff in my life to keep me occupied, happy, sane, grounded. He doesn't have the same level of fulfilment, outside of the relationship. I'm just glad he has his sister to lean on, and I really hope that in the not too distant future, he'll want to have something to do with me again. He really is an awesome guy, and I definitely don't want this to be the end of the line as far as friendship is concerned. But I also know he's not gonna pop round for drinks and DVDs next week. Thank you all for your advice. I'll probably need more in the weeks to come!
Member # 49582
posted 08-16-2012 06:20 AM
Just wanted to check in with you about this, Charlie; how are you feeling? I see your ex has already started to to take care of himself by reaching out to his sister for support; but what about you? Are you taking extra special care of yourself and taking the time to do the things that usually help you to feel a little better?
(We're going on a board break today, but we can talk this over from the 20th August onwards, if you want to). [ 08-16-2012, 06:49 AM: Message edited by: Rei ]