Transitioning off of NRE (rather long, sorry)
This is my first post on this forum, but both my husband and my real-life poly friends are tired of hearing about this, so I thought some new eyes might make my path a little clearer right now.
My boyfriend (we'll call him HipsterBoy) and I are currently discussing the future of our relationship - which is sort of a euphemism for "he tried to dump me and just be friends and I am either too stubborn to admit it or he's making a mistake". But we're still talking about it, so I'm not quite ready to call it quits.
The background: started dating last May. His first experience with anything poly, my first experience with an actual *relationship* instead of a FWB arrangement. (And by first, I really mean first relationship as an adult - my husband and I met when we were 16 which is an entirely different thing. We've made it work - 16 years dating, 14 non-monogamous in various configurations, 11 married. Still a different thing.)
In a weird but fabulous-for-a-while arrangement, his wife (Pink!Girl) and my husband (TheKnight) also started dating at around the same time (thank you, OKC algorithms). We all hung out together, our kids got along really well, she and I even had some level of potential (we're close friends now with some past intimacy, not sure whether there's any future potential or not due to AllTheOtherThings). Not that things were perfect - Pink!Girl and TheKnight had wildly incompatible communication styles and possibly life outlooks, and there were more than a few misunderstandings and drama amongst the 4 of us. But it felt like it was turning into some sort of permanent quad.
(Also, HipsterBoy and I had some weirdly unhealthy communication patterns going, too, that I didn't realize were there until a few days ago - I make assumptions instead of asking questions, he avoids talking about things that he thinks will be hurtful... led to a lot of being in the dark about things.)
Then, a ridiculous amount of life drama happened to all of us, more to them (3 deaths of people close to them in 2 months, 1 unexpected) than us but nonetheless. HipsterBoy pulled back from the relationship at that point, but it seemed to be more about not wanting to deal with the logistics than about not having the connection. Although all this - which happened in January - was also almost exactly the point at which I think the NRE was fading, which got lost in everything else. We talked and were going to be "more casual" then, although he meant a different thing by that than I did, apparently. (I thought it was a question of practical demands vs one of relationship depth, he goes back and forth about what he meant.) So we got back together and when we were actually *together*, and not around our partners or our kids, it was back to amazing. Admittedly, there were several times in which we saw each other that were a little bit more "meh", or at least not the "I want to rip your clothes off" level of intensity that we once had, but those were on occasions in which the context was Not Great for various reasons.
Meanwhile the relationship between Pink!Girl and TheKnight was circling the drain in a truly spectacularly drama-filled, on-again off-again fashion, with lots of collateral damage and complexity. They finally broke up a few weeks ago, though they're trying to be friends, of some sort - it's a weird situation. And she and I are closer than ever, partially over talking about their breakup and now my... whatever it is.
HipsterBoy started getting distant at that point - just like he had in January. This time I called him on it, and the answer I got was "oh, the connection isn't there anymore, I love you and we're more than friends but I think we should just be platonic".
Much conversation ensued.
He hadn't realized that the NRE would eventually mellow, he hadn't noticed that the evenings he was basing the lack of spark theory on were affected by everything else going on around us, nor that the evenings without that were still pretty electric, and (after an awkward evening spent hanging out platonically) hadn't realized just how different the lack of casual touch would make things.
So in many ways he agrees that there's still something there but he's not sure if he wants to pursue it as a serious long-term thing, just due to the time/energy question, and not being entirely sure he's capable of multiple long-term emotional relationships. (And I think he's afraid I'll try and go more serious than he is, given I reacted a bit dramatically to the initial idea of being platonic.)
I think we could keep all the good parts of this as "occasional lovers" / intimate friends without having to define it as Some Giant Romantic Thing, and without it having to be a thing where we have to keep pouring energy into it (as yeah, trying to maintain it at NRE levels without feeling like that wasn't / isn't working.) There's a lot here I don't want to lose - a very deep friendship, we're somewhat kindred spirits in a lot of ways, and, well, some pretty amazing sex.
Am I insane? How do you negotiate the transition of a relationship in a graceful fashion? Is that sort of casual intimacy even possible?
I'm sorry you are struggling with this. :(
Bottom line? In your post I count THREE separate times where he indicates he wants to be broken up and be friends.
You could be at risk to lose his friendship too if you don't focus.
Here's "shock and denial"
Here's "bargaining" --
It's not friendly to not listen, not respect his limit, or keep sucking him into long convo that's already been had -- just to try to make it not so or assuage your own disappointments. :(
What would you do for a friend in mourning for 3 people? Keep on bugging him when he's been clear about his need for space? :(
I see that you hurt and have your own disappointments to process -- but this is not the way to be his friend. :(
I mean that kindly. I get that this is hard for you. :o But if you are also wearing out your husband and RL friends with this, maybe you want to seek professional support to help your process and help you get you past it?
You can do this. Hang in there.
I completely concur with what Galagirl wrote-so I won't re-write it.
I will say from the perspective of someone in a similar position as your boyfriend;
The pressure to negotiate for more after I've stated what I want/need/feel comfortable with-
Sends me into "UGH DON'T TOUCH ME" mode.
Hmm, I apparently have the talent of making myself sound far more like a crazed stalker on the internet than I am. Perhaps I phrased a few things badly,
Or left out some relevant details. Or possibly I'm just feeling a bit defensive. :)
Possibly they don't matter, I really give the whole thing about a 10% chance at this point of becoming anything more again. But just for the sake of argument...
1. I wasn't forcing the conversations; he suggested that we talk about it more even when he first suggested the platonic thing. Nor am I now. And that was part of it - those conversations had _not_ been had and should have been...
2. The idea that going back to being more is still on the table is not just in my head; he's the one that told me that there is more there than friendship and isn't sure what to do with that. So while yes, there is some degree of focusing on the parts that I want to hear, even his concept of what we should be to each other is a bit hazy.
I've pulled back from more than surface communication at the moment; I'm not even sure I _want_ a "just friendship" relationship. Seems as though it'd be a sad mockery of what was possible and got thrown away. Which probably sounds like I'm just being shallow and sulking over the lack of sex, but really it's just that I don't know that I have the capacity or desire to maintain that level of emotional intimacy with someone who isn't a lover. (And I have no idea why he thought I would / could - given months ago I told him I wasn't sure if we weren't dating that we could ever be friends...)
LovingRadiance - I'd be curious about your situation if you don't mind sharing - what happened to make you want just friends and how do you even picture that transition as possible? I'm sure it's entirely different situations but still...
I don't think you are stalker-y. I think you are struggling with inner conflict and I'm very sorry you struggle. :(
Why call yourself names? :(
Thank you for more details. In the end? I don't know how he presents in RL -- "firm and solid" or "wavering" because of the mourning or what. But I'm not perceiving joyous yes type "HOORAY! Let's be romantic dating partners!" from him in your descriptions. That's the bottom line however it is the conversations played out in real life to me.
Since it isn't a solid yes? Could call it a "no" just so YOU can move it forward and find relief. Could tell yourself something like:
"No. he doesn't want to be romantic partners. He wants to be platonic friends. Stinks, because I want more, but there it is. I choose to accept it. Next step? "So now it becomes inner conflict rather than external conflict between his preference and yours:
On the one hand? You WANT to be very deep friends.
On the other hand? You don't know HOW to do that with someone who isn't a lover.
This is uncomfortable. Hanging out in "uncomfortable" is not comfortable! I get that. :o
I will also gently lift this up -- Growth happens just outside the comfort zone. If you knew how to do it already it would not be growth -- it would be exercising an established skill. :o
Deciding if you want (to put up with some discomfort) with the possible pay off of (learn how to be very deep friends and keep a close connection with someone who isn't a lover) at this time or not? That's only something YOU can answer for yourself on your side of it. :o
He seems to be willing to try. So maybe you want to tell him you want to try that (friend thing) with him, but need a little space to think first before taking that on because you don't know that you have those skills.
Take some time to think it out, get extra support if you need help thinking it through, and then come to a personal decision.
I think once you DO decide, and can resolve yourself to it you might start to feel better because then wheels aren't churning any more. The main decision was MADE. That part of it is DONE. The smaller decisions under that main heading usually fall into place easier once one knows what the headliner IS. At least, that's been my experience.
Hang in there!
Also when you do what GalaGirl suggested, you might be open about it to him. Tell him that you are working on things and that it's a struggle, but you still want this friendship. This way, whatever dark emotions you go through when you work on your stuff, he'll understand the process.
Didn't at all perceive you as a stalker.
Probably-yes defensive (I know I would be-aren't most of us when we are already hurting?) That's a-ok!
And it's awesome for you to come back and say so-and still be open to continuing to communicate. :)
FYI-in my example; I love my partner. We live together, we have children together and a 21 year history.
But our relationship has morphed into a place where being lovers isn't comfortable for me. But-he still wants that.
So-I wasn't at all suggesting that you should just walk away or that you were wrong for feeling the way you feel.
I was giving you the perspective of the person who is needing space.
EVEN IF I want to hope for a possible future together as more than just friends; When I'm not in that place;
the other person trying for more in any way (verbally, physically, in writing etc) triggers my guard and I pull further away.
Sometimes; giving space is the only way to allow a person to find the place where they can relax and consider options.
For me (and I understand other folks do stuff differently) romantic love can only evolve from friendship.
Sexual attraction + no friendship = fuckbuddy
No sexual attraction + friendship = friend
Sexual attraction + friendship = FWB/lover-friend with the potential to evolve into something more significant (i.e. dating).
What I haven't managed to do - nor, in some ways, do I really want to - is give up hope for the future. ::shrug:: Which may mean I'm making my life more difficult for no reason, but c'est la vie. :o
And LovingRadiance - you're right about the space thing. Which was partially a conclusion I had come to already - it's why we haven't discussed anything relationship-y in several days - under a working theory of "even if I'm right and you're just not seeing what's still here, if all we ever interact about is The Relationship (™) there DEFINITELY won't be anything there". Especially given one of the Issues we had was having to deal with the fallout from the disintegration of our spouses' relationship...:(
The other version is what happens when you take two people who would be, say, casual acquaintances - have fun together, have some amount of things in common, add "hormonal carbonation", to quote The PolyamorousMisanthrope, and enough time together and intensity to turn it into love while skipping the "dating" phase. That's pretty much what happened to Pink!Girl and TheKnight...and now they're trying to learn to be friends after the fact. Which is exactly as awkward as you would think.
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