I am starting to wonder if I made a mistake.
At the prompting of my partner, I started to date on an infrequent basis. After watching an television program in which the husband admitted to cheating on his wife because of a prolonged lack of sex (6+ months), I felt very self-conscious and uncomfortable. That is to say, that with my partner, it was an ongoing problem, minus the cheating. I felt like I was being deprived of a basic element of a relationship, but acknowledged that her very low libido as the reason (she's also not really big into intimacy, or displays of affection). I supposed that most people in my situation would either cheat, end the relationship, or explore alternatives. That was when she prompted me with the suggestion of casually dating others in order to have my needs met.
My 'introduction' to polyamory had been tumultuous. Several years ago, I ended up dating two women (separately and monogamously for my part) whom I developed strong feelings for. Unfortunately, the first one ended horribly, as I ended up unwittingly as both the cheated and 'cheatee'. The second one, while certain parameters were discussed, ended up dumping me for another who almost literally swept her off her feet. Zero communication was offered on her part regarding the new man in her life, although it became apparent from almost everyone important to her that something was developing between them. In both these cases, polyamory was more so an ideal, poorly practiced. With these experiences, I vowed never to inflict such pain upon others by willingly cheating.
In retrospect, while I offered myself several months to recover, I was still feeling vulnerable and numb going into my current relationship. My current long-term, and live-in partner offered me something that I needed after the difficult relationships I experienced prior: comfort and acceptance.
Now, as my schedule has cleared somewhat, I have started focusing more on dating and I met someone new (she hasn't been the first I've dated within my current arrangement). I am feeling the NR energy and it has made me all the more confused and depressed. It is as if a huge crack has emerged in our relationship - as though I've finally come to realize that I don't really love her - or at least not romantically. I am no longer content being 'comfortably numb'. I want to feel romance, which has been void in this relationship from almost the beginning (a good 4 1/2 years). I feel as though we are good friends who happen to share the same bed.
All of this, of course, is happening as I am dating someone whom I feel could develop into something strong. My new interest is currently dating others, but stated that she would like to find a primary eventually. I would like to fill that role, but I acknowledge that it may not go as I'd like, and that some of these feelings could be attributed to how I'm feeling about my long-term partner. I feel as though I moved in with her too soon, and that I didn't designate enough time and space for myself (we moved in together after 6 months, and saw each other almost every day). Another complication is the fact that she suffers from depression, and would no doubt take a nose dive should I reveal these feelings. She also has some anger issues, and I feel as though she might get aggressive with me. Lastly, I'm not in a financial position just yet to find my own apartment, as that may be a couple months away.
So now I feel as if I'm approaching a precipice. I don't want to do anything brash, or hurt anyone, but I know that may no longer be possible. So, what now? Am I being swept away/confused by the NR energy and that I should remain with my partner, or should I seek the bachelor's life once again? If so, how should I do that? How do you let others know, whom you've been with for years, that you no longer love them?
You are in a tough situation, but it does neither one of you any good to remain in an unhappy, unsatisfying relationship out of fear. If you just stay to avoid your partner's hurt and anger, you will only hurt yourself. It sounds like you have grown and begun to get more clear about your needs and what would make you happy, and you've taken a good look around and found some serious lack in your current situation. A "Band-aid" relationship no longer does it for you. I think you need to start thinking seriously about how to leave.
And I say this as someone who was on the receiving end of a terribly devastating ending to my marriage two years ago. After twelve years, my husband simply announced "I want a divorce" and moved out a few weeks later. He refused to go to more than a few therapy sessions and exploded in our mediation meetings. As far as how to tell someone you don't love them anymore, my husband said, "I don't love you anymore and I'm not even sure I know what love is." I understand that he had to do what was best for him at the time, and he took the chance even though I have a history of low-grade depression at times in my life. Yes, I was absolutely beside myself and contemplated suicide more often than I would like to admit. But I got through it and eventually came to appreciate that I now have a shot at a whole new start now, which would not be possible had he stayed in a marriage that was unsatisfying for him. I feel that way even though I am struggling (severely) financially and would have done it much differently if it were me asking for a divorce.
I wouldn't just chalk off what you're going through as being caught up in NRE. It sounds like you have simply gained some clarity, even if it was prompted by a new relationship. Many relationships are just not meant to last forever, so do not feel guilty for wanting out - guilt is a useless indulgence anyway. You are experiencing with this new person the kind of rapport and affection you now want, and she enabled you to open your eyes. Nothing to feel twisted about, so stop beating yourself up. That does no good anyway.
Perhaps you can start by finding out if there are friends you can stay with until you are on your own. Then initiate some conversations with your partner about what you need to be happy and let her know what you would want to change in order to be satisfied. Perhaps find some low-cost couples counseling (churches and county agencies can be a possible source). But if you feel like broaching the subject at all would have hugely negative or volatile repercussions, maybe you need a secret plan to save some money and move out to a friend's place in "dark of night," so to speak. You can't be responsible for how she reacts, but you must be responsible for taking care of yourself! Sorry you are going through this.
You might consider pulling back from the the new relationship (and dating in general) while you work through the whether and how of ending things with your long term partner. If you think NRE might be clouding your judgment, step away from it.
Of course, to some degree, it's difficult for anyone to maintain a degree of romance in a long term relationship. Sparks fade, and the slow burn of a long term relationship energy feels different.
But if there's no heat, that can be grounds to change. But give yourself a little room to focus on this decision, without the wild rush on NRE distracting you.
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