Hi from Here
Hi all I'm a 47 yr old trying to adapt to my first experience with ethical non monogamy. Its been a difficult time with a lot of confusion, though it's also been very rewarding and I have really appreciated a lot of the things I've learned and experienced. I have tried to do my best to learn and be open minded but my bf and I continue to have a lot of problems getting on the same page about certain things.
He brought up the non monogamy several years into what appeared to be a very committed, monogamous relationship by being with someone behind my back, which opened the discussion on a note that included many hurt feelings all around and complicated the discussion tremendously. We have been in therapy for the past year, he has participated faithfully, trying to get our relationship on solid footing before we move ahead and open anything, with mixed results. I (and the therapist) feel I have made incredible progress given the way we started and my family history with infidelity, (my father was a very narcissistic person who used sexual control to humiliate women including my mother and myself) which made the event very triggering for me and very difficult to get over.
OTOH my bf (who has other issues such as depression and a bit of alcohol problems) has gotten increasingly impatient, intolerant, and complains frequently about how slow things are going and that I am having way too much trouble with things for him. I really love him, I want to help him with what he wants, and I am very sad becuase I have worked so hard but nothing I do seems good enough. I told him recently I'm ready to move ahead, and I truly meant it, I'd like to start crafting an agreement and get ready to begin opening our relationship, I really feel I am ready and want to move ahead, there is no point delaying anymore, but despite the work we have done to learn to communciate and understand each other, there remain significant sticking points in our ability to communicate that we just cannot seem to figure out.
The biggest issue is that I'm a very verbally oriented person who really thrives on verbal reassurance and positive feedback. Words are my love language (his is quality time). We have gone in circles on the topic since first getting together, he is very communicative but seems to feel that -any- need for verbal reassurance in a relationship is pathological.. (noone else feels my need for reassurance is excessive except for him)
The more I ask him for verbal reassurance, to tell me things he appreciates about me, tell me the relationship is important to him, tell me things that make our relationship unique to him.. to be -explicit- and encouraging about what he wants from me and what he sees in our future.. the more he refuses to do it and just gets angrier and angrier about it and more frustrated with me. He continually accuses me of trying to make him responsible for my feelings, which I just think is completley not true. I think asking for some amount of verbal reassurance is healthy and normal, he feels that if he gives in to this request in any way, he will be 'doing all the work' in the relationship and feeding some sort of pathology... and he compeltely refuses to do it.
He thinks it 'should be obvous' how much he loves me from his actions. But, actions do not give me explicit information in the same way words do. And what I am looking for, what gives me the comfort, is =explicit information=. Actions are wonderful but because of my family history of incredibily huge amounts of disihonesty in actions, I have come to distrust people's actions, and misinterpret them often.. becuase of this I frequently ask for verbal clarity when I dont understand something..... to me this is totally normal and a good thing to do. I have tried to explain this to both him and my therapist, she gets it, he just does not.
I have tried very hard to learn to appreciate the many non verbal ways he expresses love for me.. and I do.. however, I have become pretty convinced after a year of tryign that my need for verbal reassurance will not go away. I think its something that I honestly really need to feel confident in any relationship, especially an open one, and I just dont see what is unhealthy or not ok about it.
This difficulty getting this reassurance through the course of our relationship (which to me seems so incredibly easy to provide) has increased my insecurity by a billion times. Which only makes me need more reassurance, which feeds the problem. We absolutely cannot come to a middle ground on this issue and I think both of us are becoming very discouraged.
I am used to having healthy, supportive long term relationships and have a healthy relationship history. This has been the most difficult relationship I have ever been in, although many things about it have been very good. I have always asked for a moderate amount of verbal feedback and reassurance from my partners and noone has ever seen it as excessive or difficult to provide before.
In this case, his refusal to validate this need has turned it into a huge paranoid obsession for me. We still continue to go around and around and he continues to insist that there is somethign wrong with needing -any- verbal feedback at all. To compound the problem he is quite comfortable sharing -negative- feedback. He will easily say stuff like, hes frustrated, hes giving up, he thinks I cant do it, he thinks I'm not makign any progress, and all the stuff about me he -doesnt- like and that exasperate and annoy him... and this makes it feel even more unbalanced in my mind.... When I feel Im hearing a lot of negative or critical feedback, I have an even -higher- need for positive feedback, to balance it out.
I dont know what to think anymore becuase I feel it is somethign that is healthy to ask for, I dont think its excessive, and its somethign I am pretty sure I cannot be in this relationship without.
I just don't know what to do anymore I feel so good about the progress I've made, I truly am open to exploring this with him and can see many good things that could come of it. But I am positive I cannot do it without more explicit verbal feedback, and we cannot seem to agree on this topic.
Sorry this has gotten long, I am very frustrated and we have had another huge fight about it, and I am losing hope, which is really sad because I feel I've made so much progress and was really looking forward to explloring this with him, but I can't understand why this little thing is such a massive problem.... It seems so simple, I cannot understand the resistance here. Our therapist has not really been able to help us either with this but I think it's the main issue we need to work out or I'm afriad this cannot work.
Thanks for listening. Hope to get some useful feedback.
ah, edit: I hope its ok to add here that my -fear- has become that he is just kind of keeping me hanging on in his life becuase he needs me basically... I provide a lot of emotional comfort in his life I think. Or that, he feels a sense of obligation, or guilt, over what happened. I think to some degree he truly loves me, I know he is attracted to me, he is attentive and spends a lot of time with me, but I can't figure out why he is so obtuse about what he wants and what he sees in the future and things...... I know he is depressed and dealing with a lot in his job and life and he tells me it isnt about me.. I try to believe him and be supportive but I continue to feel a lack and a need from the lack of clarity (seems like mixed messages and I've told him this a billion times) and the difficulty I have talking to him about it. He expresses incredible frustration and defensivenes when I try to discuss these things with him and its very frustrating. He keeps telling me to communicate what I feel and need and I do my level best, but for some reason no matter how I do it, he just can't seem to hear me, and just gets impatient and upset..... I just feel something is going on that I'm not understanding, I feel like on some level, he is not being honest with me. But he makes me feel crazy when I try to bring it up. How can I get to the bottom of this? Thanks again.
Welcome to our forum.
Has your boyfriend read "The Five Love Languages?" If not, he should read it. If he has, then he has no excuse for asserting that a need for words of affirmation is some kind of a pathology. What I see is a pathology on his part that he's trying to re-direct onto you because he doesn't want to deal with it himself.
If your counselor can't get him to accept the "words of affirmation" idea, then you either need a different counselor, or you need to seriously think about whether this is a relationship that's good for you. It's great to love someone, but that doesn't mean you're obligated to follow them down a whirlpool they're determined to plumb. He has a pathology that he's not willing to talk about, and certainly not willing to work on. Meanwhile, it's eating away at your psyche to be treated this way.
People who love each other develop an appreciation for each other's love languages. He isn't even trying to develop and appreciation for your love language. That's not a good sign. It says to me that he wants to get his way even if he's continuing to hurt you in the process. That doesn't show love to you; it shows love to himself.
I'm afraid you can only get to the bottom of this if he agrees to open up, and that's his decision. Trying another counselor is about the *only* option I can think of for you, shy of letting the relationship with him go.
I'm sorry he's depressed and dealing with a lot in his job and life but that *doesn't* make it okay for him to refuse a very simple, reasonable, easy-to-do request on your part. I'd give him a fixed amount of time to start showing some verbal improvement, mark in on the calendar and inform him about it. If the date comes and goes and he still refuses to express anything good he sees in you, I would regretfully cut the ties with him.
Of course, there's always the option of just letting him do this to you for the rest of your life. But does that really sound like a good idea? It's all well and good to take care of him, but you need to take care of you too.
Sorry you find yourself in this pickle. Hope some changes for the better are on the horizon.
Thank you Kevin. He hasn't read the book but we have both gone through the website several years ago... To be fair, he has made attempts to be more verbal.. he has focused on giving me compliments and does that a lot, which is lovely, and he tries to be more aware of telling me things he appreciates about me... (when he feels like it) Both of these things have helped and show good intent. The part that isnt' changing is in the reassurance and positive feedback specifically about the relationship. I think this is because at root for some reason he just believes its not soemthign healthy to want. (Or becuase, he simply doesnt truly want me, and for some reason, doesnt want to explicitly say that) We have gone around and around on this.
To give a short example of how this goes: he will say (as in, from the fight we had last night) something like: "You are right i have felt pretty preoccupied lately and i'm sorry if something about that is bothering you or something sweetie... i don't know just maybe you can explain a little more what you're feeling here or something, or if something actually is bothering you ok."
So, that sounds normal. He is always asking me to tell him how I feel and what I need. So, I reply:
"Ok well a lot of things you have said recently have been really bothering me. it really bothers me how many times you have said things like you are losing patience, or at the end of your rope, or super exasperated with all this stuff im doing, especially, when you said:
1) you don't trust me
2) you do not believe i 'can' be in a relationship with you
3) you dont see or acknowlege -any- effort or progres ive made over the last year
alll that stuff super depressed me honey and made me feel really shitty. i just dont know what to think about that stuff when ive put in sooooooooo much efffort."
I guess if there is one thing I did incorrectly there, was ask directly for somethign I want.... for instance, could you please explain what you really meant by those things, or, could you please tell me if those things are not how you really feel.. and that was an omission.. but other than that, I feel like I could not have been more direct and clear about what was bothering me and why.
It makes me feel completley insane when I am so crystal clear, and he replies:
"I'm tired of just re-explaining stuff i said or what i really think about these things or what i mean by what i say etc. and having you continue to just not get it, so instead of having that conversation yet again can you please just cut to the chase and stick to explaining how you feel, instead of expecting me to infer it from this list of what amount basically to misinterpretations of my behavior and things i've said?"
(He is blaming it on me, not hearing what I said, not paying attention to what I said, just arguing that its a misinterpretation? Which is silly becuase as a verbal person I have photographic memory for language.. and either way its beside the point, if he feels those things are not accurate, why can't he just tell me what he -really- meant instead when thats obviously what I want?)
"I don't have any idea why you are choosing to interpret shit this way and i sure don't have any fucking clue why it makes you feel the way you do - and you aren't even explaining what you actually feel. what you're saying sounds very accusatory and makes it sound like i'm a lot more responsible for how you take things than i really feel like i am."
(He always thinks its about me trying to make him responsible for my feelings???) How are I supposed to take it when he says straight out, he can't recongnize any progress I've made over the past year? I was asking him directly to make a positive comment on my progress.. to say somethign encouraging that would make me feel appreciated.. and that is what he said instead. How am I -supposed- to take that?
"That is why i'm asking you to please stick to what the actual facts are for you - which are your own feelings and your own desires, not "what i said" because we are clearly _not_ going to agree on the "objective facts" of what "really" was said etc. "
Why can't he just -hear what I said-?? Why is it so important he 'disagree' with what I think he said? I feel like hes calling me a liar. He asked what was bothering me, I told him? It makes me feel so crazy.
This is why I feel crazy and why I feel I'm talking to a wall. As far as I could tell, I just told him -precisely- what was bothering me and precisely how I felt about it.... I've told him fifteen billion times, I want him to =reassure= me, about he way he -really- feels, if those things are inaccurate.. that seems so obvious.. Ive been crystal clear. I tell him: I want you to hold my hand, and look me in the eye and say "sweetie I believe in us, I believe in you, I know this is hard but I want this and we'll get through it. I appreciate the work you've done I really see it and I have faith we can do this even if its hard." I've been crystal clear about that repeatedly. And he just -cannot- do it. I mean seriously, how hard is it to hold someone's hand and look them in the eye and say soemthing encouraging, IF YOU REALLY FEEL IT?
Instead he just argues that I heard him wrong, and blames me for 'misinterpreting' him, when he puts no effort into reassuring me that those things he said, or even those thigns I 'mistakenly' heard, ARE NOT TRUE... It mystifies me. The very thing I've told him over and over again is what I need, he is directly saying, he will not do... and he just seems to sidestep it over and over and turn it back on me. And I just can't figure out why.
Then he goes on to tell me why don't I do a better job of explaining how I feel and what is bothering me.... This is why, I absolutely feel as though I am going crazy. He just, ignores it. He just, ignores what he doesn't want to hear. And tries to make me feel like somehow, -I- wasn't clear.
I'm almost starting to think that he is getting off on this somehow... that its some kind of power play. I hate to be that way but It just is starting to almost feel abusive.
Our counselor is pretty good, but we dont have extremely frequent sessions because of insurance issues. I feel as though its become an emergency though. I am thinking of printing out the emails of this argument and just bringing them to her and having her evaluate them.
I want to ask her once and for all: is this need healthy, or not? Is this somethign that =is= healthy, but for some reason, he just cannot do? These are my questions. I simply do not get why if someone loves someone and believes in them and wants to be with them, its so freakin hard to get them to JUST SAY IT. You can see he accused me of a lot of weird things on several occassions, while totally sidestepping what I actually told him.... what in the world am I doing wrong? Or, am I correct, and he is just messing with my head?
I really don't think, my communication is quite as bad as he continually tells me it is. I really honestly think, that he is just messing with me and tryign to make me feel crazy so he doenst' have to do somethign he doesn't want to do.
Seriously what am I missing. I agree with you, there is absolutely nothing unhealthy about having words as your love language, and needing reassurance in that form..... I really don't think what I am asking for is too much or unhealthy at all.. or that hard to understand... so I just don't get why so much resistance.
I guess to continue this I should move it to another section of the forum? If I should continue this elsewhere please let me know. Thanks again.
Or like you said, you can just start a new thread on another board to continue this topic; if you do that then just be sure to start that thread off with a link to this thread for reference purposes.
Now, really, there is something wrong with him if he can't see that you simply need him to tell you that he thinks you're doing a good job in the relationship, or at least that he can see you're doing your best and he appreciates it, and that he has faith in the future of the relationship and would like you to stay with him. If he can't say that, then there's something seriously wrong, and I'm afraid it could be one of the following:
The problem could easily be both of the above bulleted items.
I don't think he shows much care/concern for your feelings. His care and concern seem to be directed inward; that is, he wants to know how to attain his own self-centered objectives, not how to help you attain your hopes, wants, needs, and dreams. I fear he just isn't able to recognize your feelings as being a valid part of reality. Only his feelings, goals, and agendas matter in his mind.
Besides couple's counseling, I suspect that he is in need of individual counseling for himself. Either he needs to learn to be more honest (toward both you and himself) about his feelings about you and the relationship, or he needs to learn to be more forthright (toward you especially) about his feelings about you and the relationship. Since he clearly can't and/or isn't willing to do either, then he's in some kind of a state of deep verbal (and probably mental) denial. What's causing that I don't know, but in my opinion he needs some heavy duty psychiatric evaluation.
It seems to me like you've attempted to explain to him in many ways, shapes, and forms, what you need him to do, and have tackled the explanation from many different angles. Sometimes there might have been a way to explain it to him in simpler or clearer terms, but the point is, after this much effort, plus the considerable variety of words and layouts you've used, he should have easily been able to get the point by now -- and I suspect that he has gotten the point; he just doesn't want to admit that because it would inconvenience him.
He's comfortable with a certain pattern of attitudes and modes of expression. He doesn't want to bother breaking out of that comfort zone. So instead, he gaslights you into thinking you're nuts so you'll stop bothering him about it. It's an avoidance technique in this case.
I could be wrong but things are sounding pretty seriously bad from this end of the screen. As stated before, I'd give him a fixed amount of time to start showing some verbal improvement, mark it on the calendar and inform him about it. If the date comes and goes and he still refuses to express anything good he sees in you and the relationship, then I'd regretfully cut the ties with him.
It's all well and good that he's giving you some words of affirmation in some areas, but the *one* area you need his affirming words the most in, he is refusing to help you in that area. He is essentially "sneaking around that 'undesirable' task."
I would actually suggest you print out this entire thread so far, give your counselor the print-out, and ask her to evaluate it thoroughly with an eye towards how serious the situation is. It's serious because, if for no other reason, it's essentially tearing you apart.
You deserve better.
And/or you could take the *really* direct approach. Ask him three simple yes-or-no questions:
Just some food for thought.
I'm going to defend, and criticize, BF.
Is he, perhaps, just not good at verbal communications? I mean, if my wife needed me to sing in order to express how much I appreciated her, I would die of embarassment because I would fail, and just end up being humiliated.
Not saying he shouldn't try, just that it might not actually be in his capacity. Is he literally the silent type? It isn't just inconvenience, if it's part of his personality.
Put another way, this may be way outside his comfort zone.
Now, to criticize him; if this is in fact the case, he needs to be able to tell you without being manipulative or angry or whatnot, and if that is the case, you both have to come to an agreement together. He can only give what he can give, and you can't really expect more than he can give.
Part of the discussion my wife and I have together and that we are working on; I'm a very gentle, romantic, and considerate lover, and she has expressed interest in a more aggressive one. It may be that I can give her many things, but she will need another lover to give her other things.
It kind of defeats the point of poly if you need the exact same things from multiple lovers. If A can give you verbal reassurance and B can give you affection and C can give you the spanking you want, you can't expect C to tell you everything special about you and have A give you extra cuddles and B to spank you at night.
At least, that's my understanding or poly!
Still might be worth asking him those first three Yes/No questions. Hard to imagine how the worst communicator on Earth could find those impossible to answer. He just needs to drum up a Yes or a No (or a lengthier answer explaining why it's neither Yes nor No, if he's up for the more advanced challenge).
For example, given a green light (a Yes) on all three questions, you could at least conclude that your relationship with your boyfriend was on good enough ground to make the search for a poly companion a relatively safe bet. Once you find the right poly companion for you, then, hopefully that'll be someone who's a lot better at sharing words of affirmation with you, and then you won't have to "nag" your first boyfriend about it so much.
And I still think printing up the thread (as-is so far) and having the counselor look it over with an eye for clues and details is a good idea. Not to mention the multiple perspectives here from multiple points of view should help shed a 3D light on the issues at hand.
Much luck wished to you both,
|All times are GMT. The time now is 11:43 AM.|