Are my expectations just too high?
I am a married woman, involved in the lifestyle for 14 years. My husband has dated for a good portion of that time; I have had a good bit of practice and time for introspection on dealing with things from that side, but I have only recently begun my own dating. I need some objective input as Iím both an overthinker, and one of those people who tend to take on too much responsibility in any given situation. In my current situation Iím not sure if I have a valid issue, or if my expectations are just unreasonable. (It may be worth noting that Iíve only had 2 poly relationships, and my dating experience before I got together with my husband is also fairly limited.)
Iím currently dating a couple; weíve been together for roughly 8 months. When I first got involved with them, I made it clear that I was not looking for a casual relationship. The issue I am having is with not feeling valued, and I canít seem to figure out quite whatís going on here.
The male half of the couple is very emotionally reserved, and suffers from (currently untreated) depression and ADHD. Neither one of them are very affectionate, this fact is something that has been discussed in the past. Other than a once a week standing date (in which I prepare a meal for everyone, and then we sit on the couch and watch tv for a while), they do not seem inclined to spend time with me, which is made doubly frustrating by the fact that we live literally a block away from each other. They have apparently lost interest in having sex with me Ė the last time he and I were intimate was over a month ago, Iím not even sure when the last time she and I or all three of us were intimate, which is made doubly frustrating by the fact that I know that they are being intimate with other people. Thereís no flirting, no emotional intimacy with him whatsoever Ė we used to at least talk about things other than our shared love of snark, but that has tapered off as well, a fact brought poignantly home when we DID spend some time together over the holiday and I got asked several times ďdid guy tell you about this or that minor thing that happened?Ē If I tell him specifically that I need some attention it will pick back up for a few days, but Iím getting to the point where I feel like I have to make a special request just to get him to TALK to me, and thatís not exactly great for the self-esteem.
He and I have had conversations about this in the past, because this has been an ongoing issue. They tend to go something like this:
I indicate that I need to feel desired, like I actually have a place in his life, like Iím not just another random chick he doesnít object to hanging out with if he has some spare time and nothing better to do.
He agrees that it is reasonable for me to feel this way.
I indicate frustration because he does not express those things in any of the ways that I am used to guys expressing general interest.
He agrees that he does not behave in those ways.
I ask him to tell me what his indicators ARE, so that I will recognize them for what they are instead of discounting them because we are approaching our interactions from different angles.
He is unable to give me anything, other than the fact that he still talks to me Ė if he didnít want to continue to engage with me, he would just stop.
I think I could deal with the lack of sex better if I felt like I occupied a bigger space in their life, but I donít. Typically when I try to talk to him/them about these issues (and he HATES having relationship issue discussions. I wonít have them with him online anymore because he has a tendency to just walk away from them when they get too uncomfortable for him), I typically get told that they DO care about me, itís not about me, theyíre just busy, they have other things going onÖbut I feel like after enough times, it DOES become about me, and how little my feelings seem to mean to them Ė him in particular.
I just donít get whatís going on here. If a girlfriend came to me with this tale Ė ďthatís the guy Iím in a relationship withÖwe donít have sex, and donít play unless we happen to be at the same play event and heís not busy, and we donít really spend time together, and he doesnít really talk to me all that much, or about anything of consequenceÖbut he totally cares about meĒ I would say girl heís using youÖbut I canít figure out what heís using me FOR. Itís clearly not sex, Iím not fulfilling some emotional need for him, itís not like Iím a gourmet chef or anything so I canít imagine that a once a week free meal is worth sticking around forÖI feel like I have zero value in this relationship, and I canít tell if this is just the life of a secondary and Iím not used to it, or itís just that my expectations are too high and Iím trying to treat this like a dedicated mono relationship when I shouldnít, or if Iím just too high maintenance.
And I know that the answer is ďtalk to him/themĒ. Iím trying. They both seem to get frustrated when I have issues. I asked him yesterday if he could make some time in the next day or so to get together with me and talk; he said of course, but interestingly I havenít heard from either of them since them. If I *am* able to pin him down for a conversation, I suspect that our lack of closeness thatís developed over the past several weeks will be attributed to his depression, and the stresses heís dealing with in this life at the moment. And I get that, I really do. I donít expect him to change for me, and become affectionate, and want to see me 4 days a week. But when these periods crop up where life takes his attention away from the relationship for weeks at a time, is it unreasonable for me to want him to acknowledge that once in a while? I donít need a dozen roses or a boom box outside my window, just a ďhey, I know I havenít had much time or attention for you lately, donít think itís gone unnoticedĒ that I donít have to chase down and beg for?
I know that relationships take work, poly relationships in particular. What I donít know, where poly relationships are concerned, is how to differentiate between a normal amount of work, and when itís time to walk away.
Just walk away. If you're not satisfied in the relationship, if you can't talk to them about the issues, if its making you feel worse instead of better about your life -- tell them you're sorry but that its not working out, and could you all just be friends (it sounds like there'd be almost no change). Your expectations are not too high, there are other fish, etc.
Interesting that he has ADHD. This may be completely unrelated. I have ADD (i.e. attention deficit minus the hyperactivity, which is more commonly present in men) and I am discovering that when I have too much life and relationship stimuli, I lose interest FAST. Much faster than I would like. This is how it goes for me:
- I meet a woman, am very interested, lots of contact and long conversations
- Attraction and hopes are very intense
- I become hyperfocused on this and forget about other things, like work (not obsessed - hyperfocus is an AD/HD state of complete attention, whilst blinkering other things)
- Because I've been hyperfocused, I have a lot to catch up on
- I shift my attention to work, friends, everything I've neglected
- I end up losing focus on the object of my attraction
- They then tend to cling, to push, to desire the intensity I first gave them
- This pushes me further away
- Everything ends up messy and I don't know where to best apply my focus
People with AD/HD tend to have trouble prioritising. They also procrastinate and experience brain fogginess. If they don't want to do something, it takes an actual act of God to find the motivation to do it.
With myself, and secondary partners as described above, here's what happens:
- I lose the attraction / focus on the person
- I don't know how to deal with it and hope it will pass
- They start bombarding with me messages
- I procrastinate, avoid, don't have the motivation to deal with it
- The pressure of being forced to focus exhausts me (literally - focus can exhaust people with AD/HD) and I want to deal with it even less
Does any of this sound familiar?
This usually happens to me when I am feeling a loss of interest in the person. It could very well be that yes... sadly... he or they have lost interest and are navigating this in their mind.
Let's say that none of this is the case...
It looks to me, from the outside, as a compatibility issue. Some people simply don't communicate in the same way as others and more importantly - they don't want to. I get what you are saying: how much is too much work? When do you give up?
I give up when I know this isn't what I want. As Annabel said; if it's causing you more hassle than joy, is there much point?
Sometimes people think they want something (i.e. a committed relationship), but the reality surprises them. Perhaps, even if they are still very much into you, they just can't balance and don't have the time and energy.
To be brutally honest... if I'm truly into someone and it is something very special... regardless of ADD or whatever... I move heaven and earth to stay in contact with them. I catch a plane for 16 hours across the world every 4 months to be with the woman I love for just 90 days. I spend about 2-8 hours a day on Skype with her. Yet, I can't find it in me to reply to messages from my secondary. I have two online lovers - the one I've known for longer is starting to bore me... the one I've known for less time thrills me... I feel absolutely awful about it... but I've found myself hiding from the first one online and going online just to talk to the second one. Sometimes we make the effort when we truly want to... and we don't when we don't....
Ultimately, only they know what is going on. Perhaps if you tell them that you are considering walking away, it will give you their answer. If my girlfriend told me that something I was doing was making her consider leaving me, I'd fight for it. If my secondary told me the same thing, I'd tell her I want what's best for her and let her go. Try giving them an easy way out and see if they take it.... that might be the answer you need.
I have ADD and Depression also. It's not uncommon for me to have similar behavior issues ESPECIALLY during high stress times (finals week, before my period, holidays) and winter (darkness exacerbates it all).
However-there is a responsibility factor that comes into play. I make it a point of sticking to the scheduled dates during those rough times and lavish the attention outside of it.
Additionally-both of my partners AND all of our children are also ADD and we ALL take responsibility for making a point during our good moments to pick up the slack for each other and be sure everyone is connecting daily...
And as sparklepop said-for someone I love-I will move mountains regardless of my depression or ADD...
So-I agree with Annabelle-walk away.
1. Read the Five Love Language book. make sure I have a handle on the specific actions I need to have happen in order to feel good about a relationship/s. (I would not ask my partner to read it at this point) I'd reiterate these again to my partner once, say I realize they are vital to me feeling good about a relationship and when I don't have them I am unsure if the dynamic is a valuable one for all parties. I personally would send a summary of this idea in an email. I'd observe how they acted for the next month, without me bringing it up again.
2. About the once a week thing. Identify what you actually WANT, how often you want to see them. (I see my bf once a week, sometimes I am bummed he doesn't want to see me more, but I am content with seeing him once a week, so I know I'm just looking for reasons talk myself into finding fault with something that seems to be working for everybody) Suck it up and be vulnerable and tell them if you want to hang out 3x a week for reality TV, tell them if you want a separate date with each of them once a week, tell them whatever your hearts desire is that you think would make you happy (together or separately if its too awkward being vulnerable in front of both at the same time). Ask if they are interested or not in spending that much time together. Digest their answer and decide if you can be content with whatever it is. (I had to tell my bf I wanted to spend X time with him, he countered that he was only able to spend X-1 with me. Was it awkward, YES, but I felt much better once I'd laid my desires out in the open and been able to hear what worked for him and chose to accept it or not instead of just wishing I had X.)
If two of these did not get me results I was OK with, I'd kick myself if I didn't end the relationship/s. If only one of these did not get me results that I hoped for, I'd figure out how important not having that in this particular relationship was. Certainly if #1 resulted indifference or lack of sustained attempt (not three days) to give me what I asked for that would be an end, with the exception being a response along the lines of "I appreciate that is what you need in a relationship, but I can't commit to providing these things for you. With that acknowledgement at least I'd feel good about knowing my partner knew themselves. So sure, I'd make a last good effort attempt to say what I needed or wanted, and then the ball is in their court. A relationship doesn't have to be miserable for it to be OK to end it!
IMHO there is no sense in trying to have the "right" expectations. Ideals like that rarely reflect human behavior even when they can be defined. The question i would ask is if you all expect the same things out of the relationship. After thinking about this, you could decide you can adapt your desires to the relationship by trying to accept the relationship in its current state. You may or may not be successful in this. Or you could try to work on changing your relationship with your partners by working towards mutual goals (try to make them as specific as possible. Focus on what you would like instead of only the things you want to avoid. For example, instead of saying you don't want to feel unloved because he is not affectionate, say you'd really appreciate it if he could always hug you during hellos and goodbyes. It might not be spontaneous, but if he does it for you even when he doesn't feel like it, you can see a sign of caring in his actions that may go a long way towards making you feel valued). If neither of the above options seem promising, you can leave the relationship Remember that it is your responsibility to communicate with your partners and to look out for your best interests. Take care of yourself first.
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