Transitioning from Long-Term Monogamy to an Open Relationship
I'm new to this forum but have been reading around many of the stories posted here. I suspect that my story will be familiar to some of you, but I'm also eager to get some advice and input from people with more experience than I have.
I have been in a monogamous relationship with my boyfriend for 13 years, and we have lived together for 11. I'm 35 and he is 51. Both of us have always had flirtatious friendships with others (though never with any sex involved)--it's one of the things I've enjoyed about our relationship, and we've never hidden these relationships from each other.
Last month, I accidentally discovered that my boyfriend was involved in an emotionally intense, 6-month old relationship with a colleague of ours who lives in a different city. To clarify what I mean by accidental: I am the technical person in the house. His phone was frozen, and he asked for help fixing it. When I unfroze it, the phone was stuck in their thread. The whole discovery was horrible and passive-aggressive. I knew they spent time together the last time my boyfriend visited, but I also learned that they also had sex. I have been hurt and anxious ever since, because I genuinely thought that if he ever wanted to have an open relationship, he would have spoken to me about it in a respectful, direct way.
I'm now in the process of moving out and spending the summer in a completely different city, but our future is vague. I've been adamant about how I don't want to end our relationship, and he has said that he "doesn't want to break up." I'm open to him developing a relationship with this other person, but that I would like him to tell me about what he's doing. My main problem right now is that we're really, really struggling to be communicative.
I'm wondering if people have suggestions about communication strategies in the initial stages of transition. I can't tell if my boyfriend is truly interested in having an open relationship with me, or if this is just an exit affair. I have talked with him about how important it is to me to be able to trust him, and that at least initially that means I'd like to know when he's spending time with lovers/friends and how.
All of this feels so drastic. Two months ago, I was living with the person I'd lived with for 11 years. Now, I'm about to move to another city for three months, and in theory he's going to visit. Does this seem like a trainwreck? I'd love to know about people's experiences transitioning from long-term, monogamous relationships into happy open relationships.
From what I've read, honesty and clear communication seem to be at the heart of all open relationships. I understand that, and I think he does, too. But we need practice establishing new patterns. So, any practical advice about how to establish new communication patterns?
Thank you in advance for reading and sharing your thoughts!
During our transition, something we did was write.
It sounds a little silly-but somehow-writing/reading the difficult topics, kept anxiety down.
It was important to re-establish communication, but there were so many things that were just too intense to talk about with one or the other of us getting defensive.
So, we wrote.
Thank you for your suggestion. I'm hoping that we will be able to write to each other when I am away this summer and that writing will be a calmer, less anxious form of communication. Did the writing eventually transition to an ability to communicate in person? My boyfriend and I have always (I thought) had a remarkable conversational rapport, so I'm grieving for the loss of that.
Highly recommend the book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Rosenburg. Vastly improved the way I communicate with Sheila, and everyone.
Writing is a good way to get out all the feelings and thoughts ands resolutions. You can write in a journal to help with your own personal issues. Writing to him, then waiting a day or two to calm down and edit if needed saves a lot of feelings that could be hurt other wise.
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