in Love with two Men, feel split at the seams.
Can we stop ourselves from falling in love?
Fell in love with a man for the first time at 26. We're very compatible & supportive. Let's call him R.
Long story: A little more than a year ago I met a man who really excited me. We binged on each other for a week and by the end of that week I would cry just thinking of him. My knees would go weak. I felt an intense happiness around him I'd never had before. Though I'd been in long term relationships (several 2 & 1-year ones) before that were loving and kind, this was the first time I had fallen in love AND been deeply compatible with my lover. We really compliment and complete each other in significant ways. I never wanted children until I met him. I never wanted to 'settle down' in any way until I met him.
About 7 months in we decided to open the relationship because 1) I had always wanted to and felt it was necessary for me in a long-term thing 2) R felt his sex drive had waned 3) we both felt it would help us address issues in our relationship head-on rather than the polite side-stepping we'd been doing up to that point.
Longer story: It was hard for me not to take his waning sex drive personally. My sex drive had gone all kinds of crazy (and still is in over-drive) and his had settled down rather quickly. I was often (ok, always) the one to initiate sex. Sometimes I couldn't get him interested. Sometimes R just kind of sucked as a lover. Most times he was present and the sex was the best because of how emotionally connected we were. After a breakdown in communication led us to the idea of an open relationship as a way to heal our distance and keep us together (we both deeply wanted to stay together, but were't yet sure how to do that. I'd never been in a relationship where so much felt "at stake." In past relationships I had tried to go open and my partners had always said No. I knew it was something I would need to be... eventually...
We discussed what being open meant to us and we seemed to be on the same page. It's not about fucking strangers for the sake of fucking strangers. It's not about having new boyfriends or girlfriends. It was something... in between. We were really specific about what our boundaries were sexually, emotionally it was harder to describe. We have a no-sleeping over rule, a commitment to using protection and a commitment to be up front with each other about potential partners, activities with those partners, etc.
Then I met another man.
Oh god did I meet another man. Let's call him H.
Long story: I liked H instantly as a friend. We met at party and were inseparable, fascinated by each other. I told him about R that night, then the next time we spoke I let him know that the relationship was open. R was about to leave town, but I told R the night I met H that I had met this great new person and I wanted to start seeing him. The attraction to H felt thrilling but manageable at first. I didn't prefer H's company to R's. In fact, the day after the first kiss with H I went to meet R out of town for a vacation and we had the most amazing sex and connection and talks all week. In between that, I was writing a letter to H. I write a lot on my own and writing to H felt exciting. I felt this intellectual excitement with F that wasn't as present with R. We wrote (and still write) long letters to each other. I used to write letters to R, but he didn't like to write back. He's not much for writing. R is a great talker, though, and we communicate well in non-written ways. Still, I missed the act of writing, something I had cherished in past relationships (platonic and romantic.)
The second date with H I realized I was falling in love with him. Sexually, intellectually, emotionally... with H there is less of a soul/spiritual connection that I have with R.... with R there is less of an intellectual connection, though there is one, it's just not as complex.
H, however, lives in another city now. He comes back here about once a month and every time he comes back (it's only been about four months) we see each other and it's great. (Well, of course it's great, we're new lovers... so we have that going for us.) Still! It feels like more than limerence, partially because the intellectual connection is so lively. I am inspired by H. I'm also inspired by R. I don't feel less in love with R now that I have met H, but I also feel like I'm split in two. I long for both of them, but of course since H is new and we are so fucking star-crossed (distance, non-primary-ness) I think of him with a different intensity...
Meanwhile, R has realized that being in an open relationship hasn't boosted his sex drive as he thought it might. My sex drive is still insane. (H and I fuck like mad when he's here, several times each encounter, though mostly we do is talk and hold each other.) I have several other very occasional lovers (all of whom are great, but none of whom I really LOVE). I probably orgasm once or twice a day. R is good on an orgasm a week, if that, so his drive to be with other women isn't really even there, though he was a big proponent of opening the relationship. He sees a woman in an open marriage about once a month, if that, and he seems pretty blase about it. She's gorgeous and sweet, but i'm not intimidated because she's not really R's type....
H & I talk on skype occasionally and write long letters to each other. We say we love each other, though not often. H always qualifies this by saying, I don't just love you, I am IN love with you. H says he has never been in love before, though he has been in some long term relationships. He always fucks them up, he says. H doesn't want me to leave R. I don't want to leave R for H. I understand that my relationship with H is what it is because of my relationship with R and the distance between us and the incompleteness of it.
I don't even know what I am asking right now but I know I need some advice. I don't like feeling split between two loves. They each offer me something very different and very needed. H is fine with R being in my life, and actually very supportive of it. R fears that I would be happier if I left him for H. I don't want that and I don't even think it would work.... I love the relationship I have with H but I don't want it to damage my relationship with R. I still see a more significant and long-lasting future with R. That is true. I guess what I am afraid of is my love for H casting too much of a shadow on R, especially in this limerence stage. I can't bear to think of losing either of them.
Thank you if you read all this. I didn't really edit it. My apologies.
I'm going to chop and paste a bit in responding to the rest of your post to put some things together. Please correct me if that places things out of context.
And, now that things have settled down, poly actually has helped smooth out these differences. Not, I don't think, because MrS's sex drive is any higher but now the "pressure is off" so to speak. He is free to be as sexy as he feels like with me without worrying that each encounter has to be the end-all-be-all of my sexual experience. If I end up getting all horny, and he is not "feeling it" then I have another outlet and don't get frustrated. Now Dude, whose sex drive is through the roof, is in the same predicament as I was (:rolleyes: I tease him that he needs a "morning girlfriend" - because I am so not up for that).
A lot of the rest of your post basically describes why you love each of these men and boils down to:
MrS went though a time when he felt that I would be happier if he left me to Dude. I think this was mainly a reaction to, to be perfectly blunt, all the sex we were having (NRE combined with "catching up" on the sex I hadn't been getting)- which made him feel like sex was "the most important thing" to me, which was feeding his insecurity because that was the one area of our relationship where we don't mesh as well.
Through much conversation and over time, with experience, he was able to see that I was able to enjoy my relationship with Dude MORE because I have MrS to fulfill my needs that HE was best able to meet and that I was able to enjoy my relationship with MrS MORE because I have Dude to fulfill my needs that HE was best able to meet. AND because no one person had to fulfill ALL of my needs ALL of the time the pressure and strain on both relationships was lessened. (Interestingly, because they are best friends as well as metamours they are able to fulfill needs for EACH OTHER which decreases the strain on ME).
Your relationship with H will almost certainly "impact" your relationship with R but that doesn't mean that it has to "damage" it. Talk to R about what makes him feel special and cherished in your relationship. Ask him if there are things that you could do to lessen the impact. An H-free period of time everyday where you don't txt/phone/email H so you are available for R exclusively? A "go out and do stuff" date once a week? A get-away weekend once a month?
Love is infinite, time is not. You don't need to "split" yourself - you may need to divide your attention, BUT I think it helps if whoever has your attention at the moment has your FULL attention. Be present in the moment of enjoying whomever you are with.
Hope that at least some of what I have said is relevant or useful.
PS. You might want to look at your own feelings behind this statement in relation to the rest of your post:
This is so helpful and I appreciate it so much, Jane. It's so helpful to know someone has tread over this ground before.
I guess I should have clarified that we didn't feel like the relationship was broken so we needed to add more people. A majority of the relationship was working phenomenally well and we saw (and still see) a long future with each other. But we are both afraid of monogamy and have found it crushing/limiting in the past. We thought we had reached a place where it was time for us to open up because in our discussions about opening up, we found ourselves emboldened to communicate more directly and courageously. We eased into it-- a couple months of talking before anything happened.
Also, you're spot on about this:
PS. You might want to look at your own feelings behind this statement in relation to the rest of your post:
Originally Posted by Eudora
He sees a woman in an open marriage about once a month, if that, and he seems pretty blase about it. She's gorgeous and sweet, but i'm not intimidated because she's not really R's type....
Because, really, why should you be intimidated even if she were exactly R's "type"? He would still love you for what makes you YOU.
I guess partially I see how much R has been hurt by feelings of inadequacy when he compares himself to H, who is very intellectual and more accomplished career-wise. Since I'm not going through something similar in my feelings about R's lady friend I feel a little guilty for putting R through something that I don't also have to endure... which is silly, I know, but I feel it. Guilt is something I return to again and again.
Thank you so much, Jane. Your wisdom is such a gift to me this morning.
Also, Jane, I'm curious about MR. S-- does he have any lovers? How has his lower sex drive and "probably mono" status affected his desire for other relationships?
I think what you're feeling is entirely reasonable in your circumstances. And R, too. I've been the the primary when a new secondary came into the picture and what both of you are feeling is normal. The fact that you can see H only once a month probably means the "new" will take a lot longer to wear off and I can understand R's feeling a little left out about the intensity of your feelings for H. If R is like I was, he's going to need a lot of reassurance that he's the anchor in your emotional life and you're afraid of hurting that.
Nothing does it like keeping talking, and that means baring your souls to each other about your hopes and fears of your relationship. It doesn't sound like there's much overt conflict about what you both want so I think you should be able to work things out so you stay together. (I'm picking up that's what you're really worried about). Reaching an agreement, some call it ground rules, isn't just about physical stuff, it's about emotional needs as well and is an ongoing process if you know what I mean. Sort of like 'I want you emotionally available to me when I need you and if I say these words "------", it's important and I need your time. I can share your love but I need my share, too."
All relationships are complicated, and it's just more complicated when more than one lover is involved so it's reasonable to have the feelings you're having.
Other than that, he has not been involved with anyone other than peripherally (i.e. if one of my female Friends-With-Benefits that he was also friends with wanted to invite him to join us in a threesome). So for 20 years he has had the option of pursuing other women sexually or romantically and has never really taken advantage of it - which is why I list his status as "probably mono". And, yes, I think that this is likely related to his lower sex-drive (and generally passive seduction techniques - I wrote in my blog: "Apparently MrS's method of seduction is to sit around having interesting conversations and looking sexy until some sweet young thing drags him bodily off into the bushes.")
On the other hand, he does appreciate that he could pursue someone if the opportunity arose. That he is free to develop a relationship with any of his female friends to whatever depth they feel comfortable (for instance, he and the wife of one of our friend's will go out to movies together that her husband and I don't like, usually with dinner after - a non-romantic date if you will). That we can go to a party and he can flirt with women and maybe have a little cuddle/make-out session with my blessing (he sometimes needs a little encouragement because he doesn't always notice when someone is hitting on him - I usually have to point it out). That he can come home from a concert and tell me about the pretty hippy chicks he was dancing with/flirting with and talk about maybe finding one to bring home and introduce to me...someday.
So I think he likes the idea of the possibility of other relationships but feels no driving urge to "find someone" - he just kind of takes life as it comes.:)
My thought is that you shouldn't have to feel torn between these two men. Like you said, they each bring something unique and valuable to the table, so why not stay with both of them? Of course, you still have to divide your time between them, but you shouldn't have to divide your heart. Love is an infinite resource.
I can't think of any reason why you can't be close to R, and H as well. Each relationship is different, just as each person involved is different.
I wonder if fear is driving your feeling of being pulled in two directions. Fear that you won't stick with R, or even that you'll break up with H. Perhaps you're questioning your own ability to be polyamorous. I think the trick here is to take things a little at a time, not try to figure it all out at once. When you're with R, be with R heart mind body and soul. When you're with H, be with H heart mind body and soul. Rather than choosing R or H, choose both. That's my advice, anyway.
It shouldn't be a dilemma to have the love of two wonderful men, it should be a blessing. Just make sure you reassure R as much as you can that you aren't about to leave him. It seems to me that you have a very strong, positive relationship with both men. I can't see either relationship as being in danger of ending.
Just curious, have H and R spent much time together (e.g. as platonic friends)? If not, that might be a good thing for them to try. That way, they won't so much feel like they're in any kind of "competition" with each other.
Your poly relationships are unique, and you have to figure out what works best for you. Just try to think of it as a positive, rather than as something that might cause you to lose one relationship or the other. I have more faith in it than that.
With sincere regards,
You only choose to control how you BEHAVE in response to that feeling.
How are you split? The time management problem bugging you?
What's his fear speaking to? Is he feeling insecure? Neglected? What?
Has he told you how he wants your reassure/support/nurture? Are you giving reassure/support/nurture of R at the right volume? Is he working to address this fear and let it go?
How are you going to "lose" either? You cannot control their behavior. They choose to stay or choose to go. Are you breaking any agreements with them? Ignoring any limits?
What is this guilt thing speaking to? You are not "putting R through anything" if he has chosen this WITH you. Is he articulating regret and wanting to change the relationship configuration?
What is this need to feel everything exactly the same speaking to? He feels bad because you have H. And you feel bad that you DO NOT feel bad about R's lady friend? That's odd. Would you feel better if you BOTH were feeling bad?
You are the hinge in an MFM. The hinge person has to be the TMI wall -- do you have agreements for how much is too much? Where is the TMI line drawn? Is that a soft limit or a hard limit?
When I was a hinge I felt fine until the point where the LDR with BF2 started to feel ugh. That was more about time management than emotional management though. Geography, budget, distance -- those were hard limits that could not be changed. I wanted them both to be local, but that wasn't happening. So I had to deal with that. I'm not getting the sense here in your "V" that LDR is the prob.
It reads more like you as the hinge person coping with emotional management and being there for each of your sweetie's without it spreading YOU too thin or you playing outside your own box. Are you feeling like you have trouble letting H own his feelings? Letting R own his feelings? Owning your own feelings? Everyone has to hold their own baggage. Do you know how to be a good hinge or struggle with that? What parts?
Sigh, I'm going to do a now TOTALLY Nyquil filled response. Nothing you said made me think there was some alpha/beta manly chest beating issue going on, just that there are fears and worries within you. You are worrying, but is the only source of worry yourself?
I read your post, and your responses to other threads tonight, and you seem level headed, rational, and sane. I wonder is a big part that R thought poly would boost his libido so now you are supposed to feel guilty/withdraw because it hasn't?
I'll say I had similar thoughts to what was previously posted "I'm not threatened by new partner because they aren't R's type" and say...taking that tact is bad, because someday you will be incorrect and it will rock your world.
And one last thought is...things seem to be going well so..why are you so worried? Stop? That seems like sound advice to me at least, stop worrying if nothing is going wrong, if nobody is saying they are unhappy...
So much gratitude, a few more questions
First, Thanks to everyone who replied and to Galagirl and Anneintherain and to anyone who sent positivity my way because I feel it. Thank you.
The WORRY. My god, the Worry. I think I wrote all this to exorcize that worry. Things are actually going well and I'm very grateful for both R & H. I had a long skype with H last night, a lovely breakfast and brief cuddle with R this morning before he's gone for business this week.
I think part of this has just been me learning to respect R's boundaries when it comes to my other relationships and learning what my own boundaries are when it comes to H's relationships or my own.
I can and do love both of these men and there's nothing wrong with that. I love them both differently. They are both very important to me. I just have to learn how to manage my time and my attention. I believe I am getting better at that by writing about it and talking about it.
Gala: When I said I felt split, I guess I mostly just felt guilty when I was around R (primary) because sometimes my mind would slip to H. Of course, H & I have some fierce NRE going on and the whole distance/star-crossed thing. What I need to do when my mind slips to H is the same thing I do when I meditate and my mind slips away. Just notice it and let go. Come back to the present. When I am face to face with R, he deserves all of me and I can give him that. I did before and I will now.
Time management has been a little bit of an issue, too, mainly because when H comes to town I want to see him most, if not all, the nights he's in town (typically just 2 or 3) and R doesn't want me to do that, even if he's not free to hang out those nights. He feels scared of it. That's a time when I feel guilty, when I wish I didn't want to see H that much, but I do. I really do. In the past I have just gone with what R wants. He doesn't want H to sleep over at my house and doesn't want me to sleep with H where ever he is staying, so I concede to that. R doesn't want me to see H privately more than once per trip, so I do that. I do what he wants because I feel guilty and protective of R's feelings above all else. How much should I compromise? That will be something I am working on, to some degree, throughout this relationship.
The main reason that R worries I would be happier with H is because of my intellectual connection with him. R feels intellectually inferior to H. He feels under-accomplished. I TOTALLY disagree with this, but R just doesn't believe me. He wants the kind of job and esteem that H has. He wants to have read as many books and be as accomplished a writer.... It's been hard for me to communicate to R that I get a lot from him intellectually and even more from him in the spiritual, goofy, creative, free side-- those are some of the big reasons I am with R. He brings out this part of me that is SO needed. He loosens me up and calms me down and gets me out of my head, where I am all the time because of my work. (I'm a freelance writer and novelist.)
Gala, this is what I mean when I'm afraid that my relationship with H is damaging to R. I am afraid it's pushing him away on some level. On the other hand, it's made us stronger. He's more verbal about what he loves about me, he's more attentive. I'm more appreciative of the emotional gifts R gives me now and intentional about our time together.... But it's the WORRY, that ugly little WORRY that makes me feel like my love for H could be casting a cool shadow on R. R simply can't bear to hear about my feelings for H. He asks sometimes about specific things and then shudders when I answer him. He knows I love him. It drives him nuts because it's not at all what he wants for himself and he finds it threatening of us. This is the first relationship either of us have been in that we want to work out for the long haul. I've had longterm things before, but the future was never brought up, or when it was I ended up leaving.
Gala, you're also right about this: "How are you going to "lose" either? You cannot control their behavior. They choose to stay or choose to go. ...What is this guilt thing speaking to? You are not "putting R through anything" if he has chosen this WITH you. Is he articulating regret and wanting to change the relationship configuration?"
Thanks for reminding me of that. I think I was lazy about my language when it comes to the 'losing' thing.
R is not wanting to change the configuration of the relationship, he says. I sometimes wonder if he does wish I wanted less sex, that I had a lower drive or he had a higher one.
Lastly, Anneintherain, you're right about this: "I wonder is a big part that R thought poly would boost his libido so now you are supposed to feel guilty/withdraw because it hasn't?"
Yes, a thousand times yes. I would never say "I told you so" to R, but I was skeptical of his hypothesis that opening up would enhance his libido. I think am getting a lot of guilt because it has unexpectedly boosted mine.
Related question-- how do I gently talk to R about the root of his lower sex drive? Some background: he's in great shape, 29, isn't one to stress about things, doesn't drink excessively, doesn't smoke pot, gets exercise daily and seems to have a reasonable amount of self-esteem. He's a professional actor/dancer and very confidant in front of people.
Also, when he occasionally get a pimple or feels a breakout coming on he complains that it really brings him down and reminds him of being sixteen and not wanting to do anything where he had to see people or have any pictures taken of him. Oddly, his first few girlfriends in late high school and one main one in college were Christian and didn't want to have sex, so he lost his virginity at 22 to a friend. All sex partners after that were short-term and he didn't have any relationships that combined love and sex. He has lots of very close friends.
SO, I guess I say all this because I think it has an effect on his sex drive. I've been up front with him from the start about owning the things that have held me back sexually in the past (being secretive with lovers, being in my head instead of my body, dealing with sexual trauma, body dysmorphia) and I want him to be able to look honestly at his own sex drive as a product of his life instead of some hard and fixed thing.
He thinks he just has a low sex drive, period, the end, that's it. I find this limiting and just flat out wrong, but I don't know how to address that without worrying that I'll come off as a jerk...
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