This Feels Overwhelming: A Potential Secondary that I Don't Trust
In June of last year, I met a woman (D) and we started dating. She and I got along well, and I was excited about cultivating the romantic chemistry for myself that she seemed so clearly to feel for me. She and J got along really, really well and I was happy that they liked each other and seemed like they could be good friends.
J and I fantasized about a threesome with her, but for me that is all it was: a fantasy. D had a boyfriend at the time who was very explicit with his boundaries: D could date women but not other men. So I thought those boundaries were very clear, and was happy having hot sex with J fantasizing but never expecting that fantasy to become a reality.
Stupidly, we decided to take her on a 5-day long trip (it had only been 3 weeks at this point in my relationship with D). Our very first night, with the aid of a hot tub and wine, a threesome happened. After that, the chemistry between J and D was palpable to me. I felt completely overshadowed and lost.
I stopped trusting D. How could I trust this person I'd known for 3 weeks if she was willing to break a very clear boundary with her boyfriend of 2 years? I started feeling emotionally manipulated. She would tell me that her relationship with me was "way, way" more important to her than her relationship with J, and it just never felt honest or sincere (it wasn't that I wanted to feel so much more important; it was the context of the conversations and her behaviors toward J, and the conversations that I would later hear about).
I ended up breaking up with her and tried my best to stay connected to J while he continued an emotional relationship with her. But, J and I were not connected because I was so upset from everything that happened and he had ceased to support me and provide emotional support to me around the break up. Eventually, he made the decision to stop talking to her because he realized our relationship was not thriving.
He has made it clear in the past month that D was one of the only people he has met since we opened up our relationship that he has felt natural chemistry with and totally relaxed around and comfortable with. He desires to see her and reconnect with her.
My challenges, fears, insecurities:
1. I didn't trust her. And, what does it mean to me that my partner would choose to have a relationship with someone who is untrustworthy? (J agreed with me at one point that she was emotionally manipulative.)
2. People who cheat are less likely to practice safer sex. It would be imperative for me that she was tested for STIs before they had a sexual relationship.
3. I have pretty deep fears about being replaced or displaced. I feel insecure because she seems so compatible with J. They enjoy a ton of the same activities, and she seemed to adopt poly values (non-possessiveness, less jealousy, etc) really easily when she met us. Because those things have taken a great deal of personal work for me and haven't come as naturally, I feel insecure about how wonderful I am and worrying that J would rather be with someone that doesn't have to do the same amount of personal growth work that I do. (I know part of this solution is to work on my own self confidence and self esteem.)
4. Sleepovers are the biggest source of anxiety for me right now, and when I was with D, she was ready to have one so soon. She ended up staying the night with me once, and it was too soon and uncomfortable for me. I ascribe a lot of meaning to the act of sleeping in the same bed overnight with another person. (Maybe I should just work on taking away that meaning??) I am afraid that she would want to have one with J after a week of reconnecting with him, and I could foresee J wanting that with her. I doubt my ability to manage that situation successfully right now (successfully meaning: not breaking down into a histrionic pile of depressive thoughts and negativity, not disconnnecting completely from J, being able to sleep and eat).
5. I am honestly unsure whether or not I could stay emotionally present and connected with J if he were to pursue a romantic relationship with D. I really don't know how I would feel. Thinking about it right now, I feel resistance in my heart toward J. And I do not want to feel such resistance to my primary partner.
6. It feels really crappy to me to expect that I wouldn't want to interact with my partner's partner at all. But that is how I feel now: I would not want to talk to her, interact with her, or ever see her at our home. But that goes against the kind of openness I want so much in our relationship! I want to be at least friendly with my partner's partner(s). I want to trust them and respect them, and have them respect me. I don't want to operate with a DADT structure, but that's almost how I feel I would need it with this particular person.
Any thoughts or feedback for this confused person? :( :confused:
I'm sorry -- this is a rough situation. :(
He is experiencing "dating partner scarcity." And his solution is not to network more and meet new people... But seek to reconnect to the old manipulative ex? That you had started dating first? Baffling. :confused: (Is he a lazy dater?)
Just having sexual chemistry here with this person is worth the price of readmission for him? Despite the discomfort it causes his partner (you) and previous breaking up with her for emotional manipulation? Well, if he wants to pursue? You cannot control that.
Let him know your discomfort, and let him know where you stand if he proceeds. You are not going to stop him. But that doesn't mean you have to stay in a situation that is yucky to you. You can control you.
You seem to crave more honest, trust building behaviors now. Which is commendable. People make mistakes and learn.
Problem is... J wants to go BACK for more crazy there? :eek: No wonder you feel ugh.
You are responsible for your own well being. In partnership, a partner could sign up to help you to tend to your buckets, but that doesn't mean YOU stop tending your own health buckets! If he's not considering you and helping to tend your buckets well?
You could decide to continue to tend yourself toward your own best healths. Could decide not to expect him to help you as your partner. Could own your own buckets, and let him go own his buckets.
Could tell him you won't stop him from pursuing her. But you will have to dial down your OWN relationship with him to "friends only" (or not even) because you have to look out for your own best healths. It is what it is. What he wants to expose his healths to is his business. But what you are willing to expose your healths to is your business.
You can see no other solution here. Does he? You are willing to listen to his POV.
Right now? I cannot see how his WANT to be in a lover relationship with her can exist in the same place as your NEEDS of
"It goes against the openness I want so much in our relationship. I want to be friendly with J. I want to trust J and respect J, and have J respect me."Why is that missing from your list? Could sit with that a bit and discern.
Because again...maybe the solution is to Dial J down from "lover" to "friend" so you that you CAN trust and respect him as a friend person? Not have primary partner/lover expectations of him and be suffering and upset with him if he is not delivering it?
What does HE want to be to you? What is he prepared to deliver/not deliver consistently?
Because as a lover / primary -- he's dinging your health buckets without consideration right now.
A friend who is NOT your lover would not ding your personal health buckets if he went off to pursue untrustworthy new lovers. You'd worry for your friend of course, but YOUR health buckets would be ok.
I am sorry you are going through this. :(
But take it one step at a time here. You are being VERY clear in your post in how you feel about his want vs your needs.
You just don't yet categorize your list in terms of
Maybe arrange your thoughts in those terms and present it to him. Maybe he thinks your needs are wants that you could give up?
But if you have presented it already and he doesn't care... well, he doesn't care then. He wants his wants over your needs. Sigh. :(
Then you could accept this and then make your next choice in the interest of preserving your best long term healths. Even if it means having to wade through some short term health suckage of ending romance and changing the relationship shape to get there.
Could choose to put your own oxygen mask on FIRST and keep your own nose clean in all the wacky. Hang in there. It sounds rough.
You can control YOU and whether or not you choose self respecting behavior for yourself. If you do not choose self respecting behavior? Wanting/needing others to respect you? Why should they? If you yourself don't? You set the tone for what you will and will not put up with.
You can get through this and take good care of YOU. I believe in you. You could believe in you too.
My 2 cents.
I don't envy you this position. I am guessing you feel horrible about yourself too for being involved in cheating - you feel bad about it, he doesnt, maybe you envy that he doesn't care, maybe mostly you envy that she seems so interested in him. I'm also not clear if she broke up with the partner she cheated on? If not for me him dating her would be a dealbreaker NOW because I'd want to not be associated with that at all.
If she did break up with him.... I'm guessing for ME in this situation I'd say something along the lines of "I don't feel comfortable with you dating somebody who would cheat and not be bothered by it. I feel like a bad person for being a party to cheating, and the truth is that makes feel you're goals are skewed if you know she isn't the most ethical person but want to date her anyway - it makes me wonder if we are compatible in the long run. I want to move forward and only be involved with people who are behaving in an ethical manner. With that said, I can't tell you what to do, but I really don't feel comfortable with you dating her and would like you to take it off the table for X amount of time, and spend that time open to new people. If you decide it's important to explore this, I will work to be OK with it but I might find it's something I just wont get comfortable with and will have to make my decisions based on that.
Not sure if any of that is how you feel at all, but it's what I'd go with for myself....even though I know by now that only works if the other party is honest and trustworthy and won't say things just to placate people. I can't really address the other stuff until I have a better take on that stuff. Ok, now I'm going to go back and read GG's response and see she said it all better and added 20 other useful pieces of advice.
Hi Katja, I don't trust (or like) my husbands girlfriend. He's been in a relationship with her for 19 months now. Here's how I deal with it.
When he met her, she had a BF in another city. She told my husband about the BF, but she did not tell the BF about the fact that she met my husband and got involved with him. She said she would, soon, but in her own time. The fact that she was cheating made me not trust her. I met her in person a couple of months after husband and she started dating. I did not like her much but was still hopefull that she would tell the BF and it would all be more open, and that that would make me like her more.
To make a long story short, she ended up cheating on my husband with another guy. Lied about where she had been and with whom etc. Husband found out. Almost broke up with her. Right now the situation is: my husband knows about her 2 other lovers. The 2 other lovers dont know about each other or about my husband. We assume (ha) that there are no other guys in the picture but who knows!
So the thing that was most difficult for me to deal with through all this, was the fact that I did not respect her, and that it was extremely difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that my husband loves and cares for a person who I think is not worthy of his love.
It took me a long time to realize how stupid this is.
It is not up to me to decide who he loves or why. I am not a part of their relationship, nor am I his conscience. He has to make his own decisions and do what feels right to him. I can and will not change anything about the way he chooses to live his life and how he loves and what he is willing to put up with. I still trust him with ME. He has lied to me about some things when he was deep in NRE with her. So, yeah, he made mistakes. I made tons of them in the beginning of our poly life. But right now? I trust him completely. The fact that he trusts someone I would not trust, does not really change that (anymore).
In the end, you cannot really control the amount of openness in your relationship(s), because there are other people involved whose behavior you can't control. You can control the level of openness you execute. You could say, for instance: "I will never lie for you or for D. If there is ever a situation where it would be asked of me to lie about her cheating, I won't do it. Just so you know, that is the risk you have to take".
There are, of course, lots of things that have to do with my life, that I do want to have control over. I had to give up my dream of spending time with my husband and metamour. My BF spends time at our house sometimes, and I know my husband would love it if I and his GF got along and we could spend time together. But it is his choice to be with her, and it the choice has consequences.
One thing that I asked him to do, and I know this may sound trivial and silly, but it helped me, is that he now sleeps on my side of the bed when she spends the night with him and she sleeps on his side, this means I don't feel that someone I don't like has slept in my bed.
My husbands birthday is coming up. I usually cook a big dinner for all his friends. This year I said: "if you want to invite her to your birthday, I can't and won't stop you. But if you do I won't cook, because I cannot treat her like an honored guest like I treat your other friends. If you invite her, the whole party will be your responsibility and I will be a guest like everyone else. I'll behave, I'll be nice, but I won't be the hostess".
A year ago? I would have thrown a fit if he had told me he wanted to invite her for his birthday and told him no way.
Not sure if there's any advice in all this. Just wanted to share a similar story with you.
Part of my confusion with all of this:
I don't know how much of my overwhelmedness is coming from the fact that I broke up with her because I didn't trust her OR from the fact that J and I have yet to experience either one of us "falling in love" with another person. We have certainly had separate relationships and felt love toward others, but neither of us has experienced any kind of intense romantic love (falling head over heels) for anyone else. And I anticipate that J might experience that with D. Which makes me feel anxious, nervous, and fearful. It is an unknown experience and while I have done a lot of work around the ideas of sexual nonmonogamy and emotional nonmonogamy, combining the two is harder for me.
Also: I did not trust D when I knew her and when I broke up with her. Because I was having so many confusing and overwhelming thoughts surrounding what happened, when I look back on the experience, it is hard for me to think about it clear-headed. Sometimes I am unsure whether I simply imagined or fabricated all of the emotional manipulation and drama that I perceived to be coming from her. Could it be that I was the overdramatic and freaked out person and she wasn't at all? In which case maybe she's not that bad of a person to have in J's life? (Most likely, we were all having issues not communicating well, not being as honest as we each should have been, etc). Does this change the fact that I feel overwhelmed and a bit pained by the possibility of having her in our life again? Not really.
I talked about this with my counselor this week, and she offered some similar advice, as you did, GG. She emphasizes a lot to me that I need to consider my own needs first, because only I can ultimately take care of me (duh). My tendency to put others before myself is something I have been working to correct, but I also don't want to be irrational or close-minded in this case. I don't want to keep my eyes shut to how I played a part in what happened with D, and keep them shut unnecessarily and make a hard limit about J's relationship with her.
Thank you, GG, so much again for providing insight into my situation. You really know how to break it down!! I need to take some inquiry/introspective time to really define my wants, needs, and limits.
I am grateful because this conversation about D happened organically with J. This is not an urgent desire/request on his end. I feel like I have some time to really sort through my feelings before I lay everything on the table.
[I wrote everything above before going to bed last night. J ended up reading my first post, and then came and talked to me, saying that he had no idea how overwhelming it had been for me and that he doesn't even want to see D if it so overwhelming. He emphasized that a secondary relationship can only work for him if it does not throw us out of whack, and that it seemed like one with D definitely would. I told him that I hadn't yet talked with him about all of my feelings, because I wanted them clear in my own head before I tried to communicate them with him. I feel like at this point, even if J doesn't want to see D, it seems really important to me that I still define wants, needs, and limits for myself. I also still really need closure around what happened with this relationship. She pops up in my head pretty much every day still, and it causes me anxiety.]
Now on to the other two responses:
Anneintherain: Honestly, I feel like cheating is a really complex behavior. I haven't ever really judged D for what she did. It was the implications of that behavior, because for me, it spoke about her willingness to be trustworthy and honest with me, her new partner. She has since broke up with her BF (J found that out a while ago- maybe 4 or 5 months ago), but I don't know anything else about her life, including what kinds of partners she has had. I really appreciate that you shared your perspective and way that you would approach it. I have similar feelings.
Cleo: Wow, thank you for sharing. I think it is super impressive that you are able to make that kind of relationship work. I can't tell you how helpful it is to read a similar story where all of you make it work. Thank you.
1) Healing hurt of betrayal of trust.
2) Healing from grieving a break up thing.
3) Anxiety that J is having a new Sweetie in general.
4) Anxiety that J is having a new sweetie and it is a known UGH making person
I don't see where picking apart WHICH overwhelm matters because while introspection is useful? Eventually gotta move on to taking some kind of ACTION to see if you feel better after the new behavior or not. Introspection used like an avoidy snooze tag button? That foments "tempest in a teapot" whirlwind thoughts that keep you in the suffering stuckness. :(
Could just apply solutions... take action in the present situation and see if you feel better and take note which solutions did it. Then you have your answer for which tools in your emotional coping toolbox serve you well.
There you found a solution to relieve some of the suffering.
1) Vent the "heat of the moment" stuff online safely.
2) When calmer, go to your partner and talk it out.
That served you well this time. Could remember it for next time.
I'm afraid I don't have any additional insight to offer to the OP - the others have done a great job. I think you are doing a great job working through your feelings and I think that it's great that you realize that working through your "wants, needs, limits" is important even if J takes the potential for a relationship with D "off the table." (So many people seem to only be willing to put time and energy into their relationships - including their relationship with themselves - when that relationship is threatened in some way, not realizing that the effort is worthwhile even if there is no immediate crisis.)
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