The greatest illumination for your troubles
My partner and I have been together for three years, and ever since the beginning of our relationship we've been exposed to polyamoury in a positive light. My best friend has been poly for nearly twenty years, and my friendship with him gave us ample opportunity to discuss the benefits and difficulties inherent within polyamoury. I'd always suspected that I had more a poly leaning, but my partner was leery of it, so I set it aside in my mind, assuming that we'd simply be happily monogamous. Which we were, for the most part.
Nearly six months ago, polyamoury started coming up more and more seriously in conversation. My friend's mono girlfriend had decided to become poly. She started seeing a really nice girl, and my partner was struck by his happiness for her. We grabbed a few books on the topic, had a lovely conversation in the shower, and created okCupid accounts together. I was awash with compersion, and very excited to hear about her new lovers. Similarly, she was pleasantly surprised to discover that she was not particularly jealous of my new girlfriend.
Three issues have arisen for me. The first two pre-date our transition, indicating to me that it is probably not our polyamoury that is itself the problem. The third threw them into sharp relief.
1. Our sex life after the first year of our relationship can only be described as lackluster. Over the course of four months my partner went on heavy anti-depressants and underwent major surgery. Combined with the natural drop-off of attraction after NRE, the hit to her libido was sharp and understandable, but never recovered. I was frustrated, because I have a very high sex drive, and we'd had a very strong sexual connection. The worst part came when she stopped allowing me to stimulate her to orgasm, insisted on only having quickies, and rarely facing me, preferring doggy-style. At the low point, it was once a month. Now we're averaging maybe five, but with little enthusiasm. She maintains to this day that I am the best lay she's had.
2. We discovered our kinky sides when she was exploring ways of rekindling her libido. We went to a rope class, which awoke something in me I had never expected. As two beginners, we were clumsy and inelegant, not entirely clear about what was turning us on, and sometimes making mistakes. Her interest in bondage waned after a few sessions, while my fascination continued strong.
3. She began seeing four new people over the course of the month. This was not a problem in and of itself. I was surprised, but not displeased. What did displease me was the reports I started hearing back - I am going out with the local BDSM god, he tied me up and it was awesome. Check out my bruises, sex was so good (third time this week.) I didn't think the free tickets were for you too, so I asked him to go with me instead. Oh, I didn't think of using condoms or dental dams, I don't like it but I'll do it from now on. I was even more displeased when she broke an explicitly stated rule and had sex in the living room while I was at home sick.
I feel melancholy, frustrated and insecure. Everything that I've mentioned above is something that has been discussed with her in detail.
I've requested a dedicated date night where she turns her phone off (she is never without it, and her attention is perpetually divided.) I've requested that when we do have sex, we set aside enough time in our schedules to make it longer. I've requested more foreplay. I've requested more casual touching and physical intimacy about the house.
All of the requests I've made are met with variously with concern, defensiveness, prerequisites for me to fulfil first, expressions of frustration, and uncertainty of what further to offer me, and complete withdrawal. Through a combination of the type of response my requests elicit and the erratic nature of their implementation, I perceive no resolution, still feeling sexually frustrated and confused, so I bring it up again, to be met with further frustration and resistance. How much more can I offer you, she says, I am content with the intimacy we have. Cautious of the tenuous balance between silent self-martyrdom and needy pushiness, I'm uncertain of where to proceed from here.
Because it is easier to lay out my thoughts in this manner, I present to you:
My hypotheses -
My main enjoyment sexually comes from bringing my partners pleasure.
Sex is also a direct extension of my level of emotional intimacy with a person.
Because I enjoy bringing my partners pleasure, I do not like not being permitted to bring her to orgasm.
Because I know her physical responses so well, I know when she is less than enthused, which diminishes my own enjoyment of the sex.
So I feel sexually unfulfilled, as well as emotionally and sexually disconnected from her.
When she breaks explicit agreements, I begin to distrust her.
When I see the incongruity between the behaviour she displays towards her newer sexual partners, and the behaviour she displays towards me, I begin distrust her.
So I have begun to distrust that she even enjoys sex with me at all, and I feel further emotionally and sexually disconnected from her. I doubt my own ability to please her. I lose touch with what she enjoys, and what she enjoys about me.
I believe that it is this fracture in trust that is at the root of my difficulties dealing with this problem. I do not know what requests I can make, what changes I can make (if any) in my own behaviour and perceptions, and how to present my difficulties to her in a way that she will be able to respond to. I don't have many friends who are available to provide consultation, and it seems bad form to confide in my girlfriend. So I seek outside advice. Tell me internets! How do I fix my love life?
I think you've done all that you can do .... one Red Flag is not allowing you to give an orgasm . The lady's here might be able to shed light on that.
Quickies (flag), being done from behind ...so see does have to look at you (possible flag)... condoms /dental dam (flag) ....6-7 flags and they all point to she just not that into you sexually ...time to move on I think don't waste anymore of your time. Do you have other sexual partners if so concentrate your efforts there instead....more fun less BS.
Good luck D
If you were the best lay she ever had why would she only want that once a month ....just to treat herself to really adequate sex 3 times a week. Stop listening to her words and go with the actions.
Um. I assume that the bdsm "sex god" has other partners. And I guess if he barebacked with your gf he barebacks with them too. And she "didn't think" this might be a bad idea? Did she tell you this before you and she next had sex, or did she expose *you* to god-knows-what in addition to herself? At this point alone, unless my partner was showing sincere understanding of their huge mistake I'd be like "Well, that was a fun three years but I guess it's over now..."
And then there's the breaking of boundaries with the sex in the house. She really couldn't have held off? Does she have any explanation for *why* she felt the need to do that?
Your requests seem totally reasonable and appropriate. Her actions and attitudes seem tone deaf and uncaring to the point that it seems like she must be *trying* to sabotage things. I mean what sane person who cared about you would not realize that your sex life was a major sore point and that it might be a good idea to try harder to improve things with you before telling you all about her enthusiastic, kinky, and frequent sex with others? I suppose she could have been confused by your initial compersion but it stil seems... weird.
In light of all that, and the fact that you seem to have put very sincere effort into comunication and there's truly not much more one can possibly do, my recommendation for improving your love life would be for her not to be a part of it any more. :( I know that can't be what you want to hear, but if she's not even trying...
Maybe, if you're really not ready to let go, let her read this thread and confront her with the fact that this relationship has become toxic to your self-esteem and that she has to decide whether she values it enough to *really* work on it, without the defensiveness and withdrawal, or whether she doesn't.
Alternately, you could accept that this relationship just doesn't have sex as a major component, enjoy the companionship, and get good sex elsewhere. But I'm not hearing that you'd be happy that way. :(
I think AnnabelMore hits a lot of those points straight on.
My ex and I had an agreement about not having sex out in the living room when the other was home, and he broke this but due to the situation I could see how there was room for misunderstanding that particular time, but it does not seem like there was a misunderstanding in your case, just a refusal to stick to your agreements. I would have a big problem with a partner making agreements with me and breaking them, especially if they weren't aware enough to realize an agreement didn't work for them (hopefully before they broke it, but definitely after they broke it), and wanted to renegotiate. I'd be looking at if there were any "good reasons" in their mind that it was OK to break it, or if they were just being selfish and self centered.
I hope you have stopped having unprotected sex with her until you have both gotten tested. Does she really not seem to understand that condom use would be smart? I can understand dental dams because they aren't use as commonly, but still...Did you not have safe sex agreements in place ahead of time? Have you asked her how she would feel if you transmitted hepatitis or HIV to her because you were nonchalant about protecting yourself and her from viruses? If she didn't adhere to safe sex agreements 100% from now on, I would consider that a deal breaker.
I certainly would speak up if you haven't about her sharing TMI that just encourages your awareness that things are so much more easy sexually for her with other partners. I don't know if she is generally insensitive, or just oblivious to how you are feeling. All these things together do sound a lot like sabotage to me, not that she is necessarily doing it consciously, but that doesn't really make it feel better, does it.
On the not wanting you to bring her to orgasm thing - when I don't feel close to my husband, I don't want him to give me orgasms, and while it takes less connection to be OK being touched genitally, I won't allow myself to be vulnerable enough to receive oral sex when I feel distant. It sounds like you know what would make you feel close and comfortable with her, but not that she has given you help to figure out what she needs to feel close and connected to you, if she even knows. If she can't figure this out and you two work on establishing a relaxed level of intimacy again, I don't see it likely the orgasm situation will be changing anytime soon. (edit - I thought I should add, I feel close and comfortable when we are doing a lot of kissing and making out, he feels close when we spend time playing board games or video games or watch movies together - I don't want to do that stuff when I don't feel close to him (and we aren't being intimate) so it gets into a big catch 22 - not sure if you and her have different ways of getting close, but knowing if there are things you could be doing that would help and just aren't aware of is always good)
I think this is a situation where pulling back from other relationships would be smart, to see if she is willing to work on your situation. Not necessarily a total hiatus, but my personal breakdown of how 'd want to spend my week if I was in your situation
2 nights a week where you could see other partners (at least one night coordinated so all the other stuff can be fit in)
1 night a week for a date for the two of you
1 night for each of you to just relax doing your own thing at home or outside the home with friends (or partners, but non sexual activities)
2 nights where you two relax TOGETHER enjoying each others company, maybe taking turns doing hobbies or watching shows that you can enjoy together, or have new experiences to bond through.
1 night a week where you are actively working on checking in on how the weeks has gone, working on communication skills, reading and discussing a useful self help book, etc.
Ya, I am a big fan of breaking down weeks like that, not necessarily useful for everybody, but I have found it helpful to parcel out time like that when my husband and I need to be working on something. Especially if I look at the calendar and realize we've managed to skip having dates for a couple of weeks, or that our date nights with others keep falling on alternate nights and we aren't actually spending time at home on the same days often enough to connect.
If possible this seems like a good case for counseling, for some outside objectivity that could help her be honest with what's going on, and give you two new ways to communicate instead of being stuck in the cycles you are. It sounds like you might even want to strike ALL your agreements to date as if they didn't exist and start again from scratch with a blank slate, and make sure she is agreeing to things she feels capable and willing to actually do.
Thanks everyone who has chimed in so far! Sounding this out has been super helpful.
To clear up a couple of points - she was not so irresponsible as to go bareback. If she had, I would already be out the door. We've all been tested, and are in the clear. When I laid out the rule "safe sex, with all precautions taken, and be suitably paranoid about STIs," I meant "barriers for everything." She took it to be "barriers for everything, except oral sex." She corrected it immediately, if a bit grudgingly. It was funny, actually. She told me that she'd do it, but transmission rates for oral sex were so low as to not be a concern. But we are a scientific household, so she proceeded to search for studies to back the statement up. She returned the next day with a list of evidence that disproved her point, and asked if we could swing by the sex shop to pick up some flavoured prophylactics.
The bdsm sex god is a super nice guy, by the way. Very responsible, and not at all part of the issue. You don't get to be the local bdsm god without having some pretty intense social awareness. The sex in our house thing was some other dude. She said she was not anticipating more than heavy petting and got carried away in the heat of the moment. I still wasn't too pleased by that, and she's been diligent in keeping her interactions with her other partners in my presence romantic but nonsexual.
Incidentally, shortly after I created this thread we had a discussion about what I would like our week to look like. She pointed out that the last week had been pretty good and as far as she was concerned she had met all of my requests, or at least made a good try of it. And she was frustrated that I was still feeling disconnected, suggesting that my need for more time together might be displaced from some other unmet need. If she couldn't meet my needs, she said, why don't I meet it somewhere else - that's the wonderful thing about being poly.
I think that Anneintherain is probably closest to the mark in terms of conjecturing my partner's state of mind. She's not as close to me, doesn't know what she wants, and is frustrated and confused because she doesn't know what to do about it. Of course she doesn't want me to give her orgasms. Further, her partner is in pain, she's receiving requests she can't process a response to, and she's feeling overwhelmed. If what she's doing right now isn't working, and she's so exhausted from doing it, why bother trying any further until she has a clearer idea of what she herself needs in the first place? You can't take care of someone else if your own needs aren't met. As much as I'd love to lay out a more in-depth week plan, I'm uncertain if it will necessarily work right now: her biggest request for me right now has been for more space to be alone in the house.
Perhaps you could do me a favour and pass this through your bullshit detectors - maybe I should sit back, meet my needs independently from her for a bit, see if the effort she is making replaces our prior pattern, and reassess after a month or two. Maybe I'll benefit from building a broader foundation from which to enjoy what she can offer anyways.
So my BS detector says - if she actually wants more time to be by herself, and less time with you, that makes sense because she feels distant, and doesn't really know how to make a change so wants to be alone. I have had that feeling, although I hope she will be taking some of that time to reflect on what's going on in her head.
If she wants less time with you so but is spending more time with other partners, or all her time keeping busy with anything other than you, that can signal a big problem that she isn't interested in working on herself or your relationship at this time.
I'd probably give it a month her way, to see if a lower "pressure" atmosphere did make improvements in your interactions, but I'd still probably insist on one regularly set hour a week to address any boundary issues or problems that come up (though if they were problems that you thought you needed to address right away because they'd be an issue before the weekly meeting, I'd do that)
With a weekly appointment she might have time to get thoughts together if there is anything she figures out, and vice versa. Less stress if she knows conversations about your sex life, boundaries, problems, etc, aren't going to happen until next week at 6pm. Methods like this are not always successful but it can work for some people.
"suggesting that my need for more time together might be displaced from some other unmet need" Well that would worry the hell out of me. So I'll ask - are you spending a lot less time together than you used to? Are you asking for more time than you spent together 6 months ago? A year?
I want my partners to enjoy the time they spend with me, but if they really only want to see me X/week when they used to see me Y/week, that needs to be addressed honestly and thought about by them instead of being told I must have some "need" to meet. I think it's fair for her to think about this and let you know where you stand so you and aren't asking more than she is interested in giving anymore. That's stressful for both of you. Wanting a loving close relationship with HER certainly can't be met with you getting a new hobby or girlfriend.
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