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-   -   Tired of being the obstacle (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=7706)

PenguinDreams 03-13-2011 02:02 AM

Tired of being the obstacle
I'm not really new to poly although I'm mono, but I'm new to a healthy poly dynamic that works.

I've been lurking here for almost the year that I've been with my boyfriend (I'll call him C) and you guys seem really nice and Sage and Mono in particular have been very inspirational to me. So now that my relationship is drastically changing - we broke up, got back together, but now I'm moving out sometime in the next few months and will be seeing him as a secondary - I've finally got around to creating an account so I can say hi and ask for some help.

I'll try and keep this down the tl;dr version (which, wow, I so did not do). Just over a year ago I moved cross-country to live with C. I knew he was poly, we were all twitterpated and said stupid things like "I'll go as slow as you need to and I'll work with you on whatever jealousies and insecurities come up" and "I know that you being with other people doesn't change our relationship and I'm willing to share you because I know you have my best interest at heart." Well, turns out neither of us really meant the things we said when we were infatuated and now we're dealing with the reality of C being impulsive, self-absorbed and impatient and me being incredibly insecure and jealous and possibly selfish. Additionally, I'm finding that adding other people to a relationship does in fact change everything, including how he feels about me and how our relationship suffers or flourishes.

C's first other girlfriend did not go well for any of us and she didn't really want very much to do with me but became quickly frustrated about the amount of time he had to spend with her. We were both lonely and miserable a lot of the time and C felt pulled in too many directions between us and work and school and just wanting to have some free time to himself. She called herself the part-time girlfriend while I came to think of myself as the default girlfriend. As in, yeah, he's home and I'm here but he's not spending time with me. We just happen to be in the same place while we're doing different things. When he went out to be with her that was time dedicated to being with her. When he was with me he was working on work stuff, playing video games, reading or posting on various message boards while I was cooking, vacuuming, doing laundry and wondering when we could spend just a few minutes talking. (I'm not really that domestic - it's just that at the time I had no job which really didn't help things but that's a whole 'nother story.)

So they broke up and now he's found another other girlfriend (I'll call her Misty) who I actually suggested he pursue and I thought I'd try to put into practice some lessons I'd learned from the previous experience. I really thought I was being fair and friendly and reaching out to her early on and letting her know how things had not worked before and what I thought I might work for both of us this time. She's mono, as am I, and I wanted to stress that I came as part of the package and we should develop a relationship with each other as well as getting comfortable with the three of us together so that we both got more of C's time. I know private time is important but it doesn't have to be every time, does it? I mean, if there's an event or activity that comes up I'd like it if we could all go instead of one person being left out because an either/or situation has been established.

Without going into too much detail, we tried going out to dinner, the three of us and it ended up in a bunch of mismatched expectations, hurt feelings and jealousy. I broke up with C the next day. C and I didn't talk much about anything for about a week after the big, ugly fight we had but now that we're talking again, he tells me that Misty feels like the daytime girlfriend. She feels that way because he sees her during the day while I'm at work and about the time I'm getting off he starts looking at the clock and preparing to leave so he can be home when I'm there. I think that's pretty interesting considering that when we broke up I told him that it would take me a few months to get enough money together to move out and while I was still here he could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted and with whomever he wanted, the only condition being that he doesn't bring any of them home.

Funny how when I let go and gave him the freedom to do almost anything, he suddenly starts being concerned about my feelings. That definitely wasn't happening with the previous relationship where he'd tell me he was going to be out all day or overnight and then ask me if I was okay with that. I'd say no and he'd do it anyway. Big fight would ensue but there wasn't much I could say at the time because I was financially dependent on him and scared that if I made too much of a fuss he'd decide things weren't working and I don't know what I'd do. That's not the case anymore and now I have the larger income.

But to get back to the point, it apparently doesn't work for Misty to only see him during the day. Meanwhile, I still feel like the default girlfriend. What she doesn't realize is that while I may spend more time with him, most of that time is just us occupying the same space while not interacting much. I hate that she sees me an obstacle in getting what she wants; which is him and his time and energy. I don't know how to fix that. I hate that despite my earlier efforts, she probably doesn't really want to create a threesome (or moresome with whoever else C decides to have in his life) and just wishes I would have stayed broken up with him. And I hate being the default girlfriend, despite whatever she may think goes on between me and C at home. It's no picnic, really. He's distant, he's preoccupied and I've got my own stuff to take care of. When you add up the total amount of time each of us spend with C focused solely on one or the other, I'm pretty sure she comes out ahead. The only thing I get is cuddling while sleeping and honestly, after everything we've been through together, and how I kept track of every penny while we were broke, making tasty meals on a shoe-string budget, nursing him back to health after a horrific case of mono (which I swear, the previous girlfriend gave to him), taking care of his many car problems and new glasses with a very expensive prescription when he broke his old ones, I think I'm entitled to say that's the single most important thing to me and I'm not willing to share at this point because I struggle with feeling abandoned all night. Am I wrong?

Maybe it doesn't really matter. I'm sick of being the default girlfriend. I'm moving out in a few months and as much as I had really wanted to buy him a new car and take on a 4 year lease to pay for that, and make sure he wasn't struggling financially, neither of us think we can come to a compromise that works for both of us. I know I'll see him a lot less, maybe only once a week, if that, but I want the time I do get to be my time. I want to be the chosen one and not the default. I want to know that when he does come to see me it's because he wants to be with me and not just because he's home and I happen to be there too. I want to come visit him and be the one that gets to hole up in the spare room behind closed doors and not be left out. And most importantly, I want to know when I can expect to be alone and when I can see him and I want to have control over that.

As much as I love living with him, there's a lot about the lifestyle he'd like to lead that I just can't deal with. But I do have to deal with Misty for now. He's over there now and will be until late tonight; probably talking a lot about her feelings regarding C and I getting back together. She doesn't feel like it's enough time. I feel like I want him home and it's not enough time for me. I read here about new people coming into established relationships and how they're concerned about the feelings of the other partner and I'm so envious. How does that happen? How should the original partner reach out to and handle the new partner? Either I'm doing something horribly wrong or C is just choosing people that ultimately aren't going to work. I don't want his other loves to see me as the obstacle they have to work around to get to him. I want to be recognized as being important to him, part of his life and therefore part of the package. Am I asking for too much?

ray 03-13-2011 02:51 AM

Hey Penguin,

I'm sorry that you're going through a tough time with C. You haven't mentioned in your post if you yourself identify as mono? I got the impression that that was what you were saying.

Having just gotten out of a V relationship, I am familiar with the time issue of quality vs quanity/primary/secondary caboodle. I've heard a lot of other people talk about it. When you're the live in partner, you get stuck with the everyday stuff like paying bills and doing the laundry. You tend to spend a lot of time together but much of it doing your own thing in the same house. Whereas time with the non-live-in person tends to be purposefully, recreational and free of the mundane distractions. I think that one of the best things to do for that specifically is to be conscious of having quality, focused time with all partners. I would pick a couple hours of focused quality time over a weekend of being together doing our own things any day.

Be careful of assuming that the only two options are that you're defective or C is bad at choosing partners. It sounds like one or more of you haven't been doing poly for that long. And that you and C are a relatively newer couple. It's ok if making this work just needs a lot more negotiating, self-examination and patience. And it's ok if this relationship isn't meeting your needs. But it sounds like you're wanting to keep trying. Yes, it's totally reasonable to want to feel valued. That can, however, be a vague request. I would try to think of some concrete ways that C could show how much he cares about you and values you. And if his girlfriends see you as an obstacle that would be a red flag to me. ie Cowgirl! Nothing wrong with making sure his girlfriend/s understand what your goals are as a couple practicing poly. Have you had much chance to talk with Misty one-on-one? Oh, if you look up miss poly manners, she did a really awesome segment on the polyweekly podcast regarding how to reach out to a new partner. It has some good ideas.

nycindie 03-13-2011 07:44 AM

C needs to schedule dates with you, just like he does with Misty. He can't expect you to play the bored housewife, sheesh! If I were you, I would tell him that's one of the things you NEED for it to work. He's the one choosing to have two relationships, you can't do all the work for him. Tell him to step up.

Oh, and please don't buy him a car and go into debt for that! When I read that I felt like sicking Suze Orman on you! He seems like a bit of a user, and I fear that you are allowing him to take advantage of you in the name of love.

For me, this was the most significant part of your post:

Originally Posted by PenguinDreams (Post 70709)
I'm sick of being the default girlfriend . . . I want to be the chosen one and not the default. I want to know that when he does come to see me it's because he wants to be with me and not just because he's home and I happen to be there too. I want to come visit him and be the one that gets to hole up in the spare room behind closed doors and not be left out. And most importantly, I want to know when I can expect to be alone and when I can see him and I want to have control over that

. . . Am I asking for too much?

No, you are not asking too much. You want to feel valued and he is not showing you that.

vodkafan 03-13-2011 08:04 AM

I agree with nycyndie DEFINITELY do not buy this man a car. Use the cash to help you set up your own apartment or wherever you are moving out to.
When you have your independence you and Misty are more equal for a start, you will feel so much better about the whole thing.
He wants two women so let him do the running about between you.

Purpurea 03-13-2011 08:55 AM

Are you asking for too much? No, you don't! Who, except yourself, has the right to decide what is too much for you? You feel bad and want it to change, you feel like you can't handle the situation. Of course, you're not asking for too much, if you see things that way!

You probably feel like you have three options: If things don't change, you will go on suffering, he could change his behavior or you could leave. I would like to offer you a different view, a forth option: You could also choose to stop suffering!

That might seem a little provoking, but let me explain: We feel like we need other people to meet our needs and expectations to feel happy in a relationship. We feel like we need to feel loved, needed, wanted, otherwise we feel bad. I shared that view for quite a long time in my life, so I'm quite familiar with it. I've learnt for myself though that it's not anyone else who makes me feel bad but myself. If I choose not to feel bad any longer, it doesn't matter how much time my partner spends with me or someone else, what he does with me or others, how he treats me (as long as he's not forcing me to stay with him or keeping me from doing things I like). I don't need him to make me happy, I can make myself happy! Instead of sitting at home, being grumpy that he sees the other woman, I can go out and meet other people myself. Or I can enjoy my alone time. And then I'm less grumpy when he comes home, I have something to talk about. I don't feel needy but in a position where I can give and share my happiness.

You say you can't deal with the situation. I say, you FEEL like you can't deal with the situation. But I believe that you can learn to deal with it. It is possible, and it requires no skills that anyone with a working brain doesn't have. Learning to deal with it would give you more freedom of choice, and the ability to deal with a lot more situations in your life.

So instead of leaving the situation or asking him to change anything about his behavior, I would take the chance and work on my own feelings. It's a great opportunity!

But this is just my opinion. I know many people have a different one. You go choose your own.

About the car, I would suggest you to be brutally honest with yourself: Why do you want to give it to him? I wouldn't do it if you feel like you could buy him with it, or tie him to you. That probably won't work very well, I guess, or at least not make you happy in the long run. Give it to him if you really just want to give. Also check if you can really afford it. Money is something we really need to survive and feel good, so we should make sure we always have enough of it. There's no point in him having a car if it makes your life worse financially.

PenguinDreams 03-13-2011 11:56 PM

Thanks for your responses! Yes, I'm mono, C has identified as poly for many years but has only been able to live it since I've been with him. I was previously involved with a guy who self-identified as poly but I'd say it more closely resembled poly-fuckery than polyamory and he cheated on me. I spent four years licking my wounds from that one and swore I'd never get involved with another poly relationship.

No, I'm definitely not buying him a car if we're not living together which we don't plan on at this point.

We've talked about scheduling dates and in the past he doesn't understand why I would need that just because he's dating another woman when during the times it's just the two of us in the relationship I seem content to hang out at home and do our separate things. I haven't been able to express why that makes a difference adequately enough to convince him it's important. I think he thinks it's just jealousy and wanting too much.

But today we went out and had a light lunch and took advantage of the beautiful weather we're having and spent some time walking around a lake followed by sitting and enjoying each others company. It was really nice.

He texted Misty while we were out to let her know he was thinking about her. She had work today so they couldn't really have been together anyway but she sounded like she was really sad she couldn't be with him. I felt bad and a little frustrated at the same time. During their time yesterday they talked about how she wishes she could be with him more often and I wonder how much would be enough?

I think I'm going to write her an email to reestablish communication once I figure out what I want to say. What I don't want though is to be around her when she had an emotional melt-down which apparently happens frequently. I don't know how to deal with that and I don't want be there. So I guess that as much as I didn't want things to end up this way we'll be having to have separate time with C for a while.

nycindie 03-14-2011 12:11 AM

Ugh, she sounds high maintenance.

PenguinDreams 03-14-2011 12:33 AM

Yeah, that's kind of my thought.

When I'd met her the three or four times previously it was in a group setting and there was no thought of the two of them developing a romantic relationship so none of that had come up. I just really liked her and thought we had a lot in common and she seemed like someone who could work with me.

redpepper 03-14-2011 04:19 AM

I have noticed that when someone moves across country to be with a poly partner, mono or not, there seems to be issues very shortly afterwards. I have read lots of stories of this and don't know of many relationships that survive it...

What seems to be the common denomonator is that often it is thought to be a good idea to move in to a partners place right away. It's kind of a set up. Poly relationships are not like mono ones. Moving across country to live with someone and have a mono relationship with them is different. There is far more co-dependence going on when you move to a place where you have no job, no friends and often no money. Usually the partner is it for everything. That can be very wearing and cause issues of clinginess, lack of space, an imbalance of financial input, and no privacy for both parties.

What I would of suggested for your situation, before you moved, and what I have noticed works is to move to the same area, even next door and set up ones own life; get a job, find some friends, make some money, establish ones own life and then look at moving in together. I think this is a better idea for any relationship, but especially a poly one. That way a person has their own thing going on, can feel comfortable and happy doing what makes them tick and have a partner to orgainze dates with. Life adjusts to being closer and seeing if this is a situation where living together would be beneficial.

Partners coming into a poly network/tribe/constilation, whatever you want to call it, mean change and expansion. That makes for adjustment for everyone... in the situation you were in when you moved there he had to adjust, his other girlfriend had to adjust, you had to adjust, anyone and everyone adjusts. That is fine, but a strain. It might of gone over more smoothly if you had had a bit more seprateness and independence from him and moved to more closeness and a merger of households slowly.

You can still accomplish all that. It's a change in looking at it really. You are mono and to you, I think, need him to be your everything in terms of closeness, companionship, vulnerablity. It's possible that he is not going to be available enough for you in terms of those things and you have to adjust to that fact. You could create some friendships that offer some of the things he is not going to be around for. Really, in my opinion, everyone in any relationship dynamic should make sure they have friends or family that they can reach out to and be with along with their partner or partners.

If you find that he just doesn't have enough to give you and you are just not satisfied, then I suggest moving on. It sounds like he could be a good match for you in all ways except how he does relationships. This isn't anyones fault, but if you are not going to be happy with this and have tried occupying your time with other things and still come up with your need for him to be around and paying attention to you more than he is able and willing to offer, then move on to someone else who can satisfy your needs.

As to the other women he sees. It might be best to create some firm boundaries about how his time is spent... I would suggest getting a calender, write the times of your dates with him on it. Write the dates of other women on it... and make sure he writes in times where he is going to spend time by himself. It's so important to make sure you have time to yourself when you are dating a lot of people (learnt experience). Then stick to it as best you can, adjusting as you go if something comes up.

When he is out with his other women, that is their time. It's important to respect that. They need to as well... if it causes guilt/frustration/*insert feelings* for you that they are whining to him via text because they want to see him, then ask for no texting while you are on a date with him. Don't text him while he is on a date with her either, set an example by respecting her so that she will respect you. Keep negotiating your boundaries and ask what theirs are too until you come to an agreement that you all feel respected and that its as fair as possible.

I think it's a great idea that you are moving out. As I said before, I don't think it was a good idea to move in in the first place, but it is fixable I think. Having your own place will mean that you can get about the task of setting up your own life and when you see him it may feel more productive and consentrated fun/passion/attention than now while you live with him wishing he would give you the time of day when he is at home... he might find that he gets the time he needs to have a relationship with himself. Do somethings on his own and work on things that are important to him... even if its just navel gazing.

PenguinDreams 03-14-2011 12:14 PM

RP, I agree that moving long distance and living together right away is usually a good way to ensure a rocky relationship that ends fairly quickly, whether it's mono or poly.

We both had our reservations about it but at the time I had been unemployed for long enough to run through my savings and he wanted to support me while I got back on my feet. Living nearby would not have been an option as I didn't have the funds for it and honestly I don't know what I would have done if he hadn't been there for me at that time. The inequity in our earnings, or my lack thereof, was a huge source of stress for me and probably for him as well though he's never expressed any kind of dissatisfaction or resentment due to that. I'm glad to have been able to do what I have since my situation has improved but I wanted to do so much more.

He was single when I moved in. It was just the two of us for about 7 months. So both of his other relationships knew I was part of his life from the beginning and I've had to do the adjusting to new schedules and direction of his attention.

I like the calendar idea but I doubt I could get him to go along with it. He tends to do things spontaneously and resists being pinned down. Same with the texting. It's just one of those things I have to accept about him and find my own work around to achieve a level of comfort I can deal with. I suspect things will improve once I move out.

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