Help! New to Non-monogamy and Having Trust Issues Now
So I posted a few times last year but have not been back on in quite sometime.
I will try to summarize our background and then go into the current situation: I've been with my girlfriend now for 2 years and about 4 months.
At the beginning of our relationship, she voiced to me that it is important
for her to have the option available to hook up with other people
outside of her primary relationship. She qualified that it would
probably rarely happen, if ever, but having this freedom is important
to her. She is emotionally monogamous and wants the same of me.
Prior to entering this relationship, I was always in monogamous
relationships. Every single one of my girlfriends has cheated on me in
the past. So when I met my current girlfriend and she told me about
this, and also voiced how honesty and communication about any activity
outside of the relationship is a MUST, I figured, "why not try it? At
least it promotes honesty ... and monogomous relationships never
guarantee that someone won't cheat anyway." I, myself, am also a flirt
and I figured that it would be fun to be able to have the option and
permission to engage with other people outside our relationship.
Throughout the course of our time together, I have hooked up with
someone, although have not had sex. I can say that it didn't mean
anything other than just the excitement of the chase in flirtation ...
and that is what it continues to be. She has been fine with everything
that I have done as well.
What I always worried about, however, was how I would feel when she
hooked up with someone. What I know of myself is that I am a
possessive person and I get jealous pretty easily. I start to think that the other person she may want to have sex with wants to fool me or take something from me, or that there is a secret relationship they are having behind their back. Even if brief and just during sex, the thought of her having any (NRE - or New Relationship Energy) feels very threatening.
What I'm learning
is that this is probably an ego and self-esteem issue. I have a
tendency to base my sense of security in life, identity, and
validation on whether or not I'm in a relationship and how that
relationship is going. I also get a huge ego boost from "having"
someone that I know that other people want ... but feeling special
because they cannot have them. I also have learned that I have some pretty significant abandonment issues where when I even think of her with someone else it feels like it does when you break up with someone where your heart is tearing out of your chest.
What I'm learning is that these are core beliefs that probably don't
serve me well at all ... whether I am in a monogomous or poly
relationship. Nevertheless, I am having an EXTREMELY difficult time with her being with someone else.
Okay, so here is the CURRENT situation: She has not had sex with anyone for the whole 2 1/4 years we have been together. She recently went away to an area where she used to live and has had fuck-buddies there. I knew there was the possibility that she could hook up there ... I'm pretty sure I may have asked her if she was thinking about it, but she expressed that she did not know. I did not really have a sense of what I was going to need or the boundaries I would need around her being with someone else, so I didn't really talk about it much with her before she left. Although I feel like I remember a long time ago, we discussed that we would communicate about possible hook-ups before they happen. She also did not mention anything to me before going about the possibility of hooking up with anyone.
About 2 days after she was gone, I started feeling pretty vulnerable and finally figured out that I needed for her to call me and tell me that she loved me (I had not spoken to her via phone for that whole 2 days). She called me, of course, and told me that. We were having a great conversation and she didn't mention anything about having sex with anyone, until I asked "so, are you interested in hooking up with anyone?" At that point she expressed hesitation about talking to me about these matters over the phone. I then became extremely emotional and scared and I told her how important it was to me that she communicate to me everything going on so that I could process it emotionally with friends and get support while away. She then told me she had had sex the night before with a long-time friend (initially she was hesitant to tell me who it was). She said that she wanted to wait til she got home to tell me everything rather than telling me on the phone. When I asked if the hookup was spontaneous and if that was the reason why she did not mention it to me prior to it happening, she said that it was. So that was a difficult conversation ... it definitely helped that she re-assured me that she loved me and that I am the only one that has her heart ... and so I processed all the difficult emotions until she got home. I also asked her not to have anymore sex because I felt flooded and overloaded ... and she said that she did not have sex after that. I also realized that there was a lot that I didn't like about what happened and realized that I need preparation before and communication immediately after she hooks up with someone, even if via phone ... I need for her to make me a priority and take the time out of her day to process with me.
This is the real tricky and complicated part: So we have a conversation when she gets home. Over the course of the following two days, I realize and she comes forward on the fact that she outright lied to me. 1) She did not tell me that prior to leaving she had received texts from her friend asking her if she could have sex and where she answered "possibly" (her reason for not telling me was that she did not have plans to do so and did not know what would happen, and also that she forgot that we had said a while ago that we would communicate with each other before anything happened); 2) She actually had sex two times with the person - not only the night before we spoke but also the night prior to that; 3) She lied about them being spontaneous - when she got there, the person and her made plans to have sex the night that she got there.
I confronted her about all this in a very difficult couple of conversations. I felt so completely furious about the lying, on top of all the stuff I was already going through about just dealing with her being with someone else. I told her that if she ever lies to me again, that will be the end of our relationship.
I do not want this to come off as adversarial. We have talked about why all of this happened: 1) She freaked out - she wanted to control how she gave the information to me when I got home, so when we talked about it in the moment, she panicked and was afraid of my feelings; 2) She has had a history of lovers who told her that she was "too much" and wanted to keep her from being with anyone else, or left her when she was "too much" - she was and is afraid that I will leave her; 3) she may have "checked out" at a certain point - when somewhere in the back of her heart/mind she knew that I would be pissed and it would be uncomfortable, she may have pushed that aside in her awareness unintentionally; 4) We both knew how difficult this would be for me ... I think if I were in a relationship with me, I think I would be afraid of my response too.
At the same time, lying cannot be acceptable. Even with understanding all of her emotional hang-ups and mine, and how they intersect, I don't know how I will be able to trust if there is lying. I have told her through this, and I think that she has realized, that I will walk with her through all the painful stuff and I will face my own pain head on without leaving (unless I truly believe I need to be in a monogamous relationship) - I don't leave/avoid - so she can trust that I won't leave automatically if she is just honest with me.
So the real tough part is that I am having SIGNIFICANT trust issues now to the point where I have wondered "has she lied to me before?; has she slept with someone and not told me before?; when she tells me that when she is thinking of something she will tell me, can I trust that?" And I am now coping with this while also trying to figure out how I felt about her having sex with someone else and whether this kind of relationship is going to work at all for me.
It is tense in our relationship now - I tend to want to process stuff a lot because when there is a problem I want to fix it. She needs more space from this stuff than I do - and it is hard to find a balance of communication that works well for both of us where I am not bogging the relationship down but also where I feel like we're addressing the issues.
While I have all those questions about trust in our relationship, I have made the decision to try to not spiral in my head about all the possible "what ifs" and wondering if there is more she has not told me, and I am CHOOSING TO WORK ON TRUST AGAIN. We are going to couples therapy next week, she has agreed to go to therapy and I am already in therapy. I have asked that sex for her with others be off the table for now, and that sex with her friend be off the table because there is now deceit associated with it. She as agreed to both, without much reservation. I have also asked that she at least temporarily not communicate with the friend - this one was harder for her to agree to.
Wow, so I know its a lot, but I felt the need to explain the whole story. I am sure there is more, but thats enough for now I suppose. Here is what I could use help on:
1) Has anyone experienced being lied to? What was your attitude about it? How did you cope with it in the relationship? Was there any hope in re-establishing trust? or, to what extent did it impact trust in the relationship? If you were able to regain trust, how did you go about doing that? What did you have to do and what did your partner have to do?
2) Anyone else new to non-monogamy or remember what it was like to go through something like this - experiencing your partner sleep with someone for the first time? I am especially interested in the perspective of people who were monogamous at first and had real jealousy/insecurities at the outset of starting any form of non-monogamy and how you got to a better place with it in your relationship?
3) Or are there also people who were not able to work through it and went back to monogamy ... how did you determine the need to do that? OR did you figure out some other kind of in-between solution?
4) Anything else that anyone can relate to and your insights on it.
Ok, I know its a lot but I really appreciate any feedback.
Hmm, I think I fit the bill 4, and just wanted to say it is a delight to read a post, however long, by someone who really has done some introspection and has so much of their shit together as you do.
To the issue at hand;
1) She has cheated on you. Trust issues are bound to happen.
2) The vast majority of cheaters are not bad, rotten people. Most are just really confused, as it appears your gf is.
3) What's the deal with this friend? Does she want an on-going relationship with them and is just really scared to ask for one, because that would considerably alter the dynamics of your relationship?
Oh, and hello, too!
I think you are handling it pretty well. I understand both sides. You need the honesty and full disclosure; she was unsure of how much you really could handle knowing, was afraid of your reaction, and wanted to give you the information in a way she thought would be gentler. I think, although she was dishonest, she was really trying to protect you.
It sounds like you both have a strong basis for moving forward, and I think reassuring her with how much you love her and that you will stick by her as long as she is forthright and open with telling you things, is a good way to go.
As for wondering about whether or not she has lied or had sex before, since you're all getting everything out in the open now and going to therapy, why not ask her? Or at least tell her that is a concern of hers. You want completely honest communication, don't let your fears over what the answer might be allow for something to get pushed away back into the dark. Keep shedding light on everything , with love and respect -- as it seems you have been doing -- and you will be fine.
And yes, working on trust issues is something you need to do for yourself, but she has to know just how important the honesty is to you. Though it may seem very difficult now, I believe that, with practice, it will become second nature for both of you to be able to reveal everything to each other.
Well that just sucks now doesn't it? I'm sorry to hear you are going through this. Unfortunately its very common...
Yup, you have been cheated on again. She broke her promise and broke the boundaries you set. That sucks for everyone.
Cheating causes huge issues for people. Those issues get right at the core of a persons feelings of worth. To me there is probably nothing worse in a relationship than cheating. The results quite often lasts a life time and nothing is the same again. Sure, you can move on, even love again, or continue to love the same person, but the trust is never there to its fullest again. Something very precious and innocent dies.
I have abandonment issues also and they have only been kept at bay by my realization that I am alone in the world and that I can only rely on myself. I forget that regularly and have to pull back from most people. Its been a life long struggle and I have worked hard at it... still do. The loves I have I trust entirely right now in my life and I have decided to allow myself that... I have been truly blessed that they are trustworthy and have proven that. I still feel incredibly vulnerable though and its quite often very uncomfortable.
So what to do now. Well, she has some work to do. She clocked out. That is a huge thing. I think looking at that would be the first place for her to start. She seems to think that might be an excuse and it isn't. There is no excuse for breaking a boundary... if she knew this was coming then she should of mentioned it long before hand, gone over the boundaries and made sure you were okay. If you weren't then she should of not done it. That is how trust is built. Not by fucking around behind your back and telling you she forgot what the boundaries were...
I think now is the time to cut right back and not engage in anything for a very long time so as to build trust. If I were her I would put myself in some very tempting situations and NOT do anything so as to prove that she can do it; not only to you, but to herself also... its not okay to think that whatever she wants is what shall be. It's whatever you have agreed to that should be. I struggle with that too, I think most people do... its just practice and figuring out how to NOT clock out when someone tempts me.
The joy of holding an agreement, being respectful, having integrity and being considerate far outweighs the moments of sex that are long forgotten after you cum and realize you are in deep shit. It's just not worth it until the moment is made out of everyone being on board... this I know from experience.
There are some people that are free agents in poly and do as they wish. That is fine and suits the situation... for couples opening up it is much different... just saying as some people who read this might have a different idea about openness in poly.
As for you and where you are WTF (nice name :p), I think now is the time to do some huge work on your issues with this. You have become damaged I would imagine by now and you really have little reason to trust, nor should you. Doing some work around your issues will help build you up to realizing that you are independent from her and anyone else you date.
You have no control over others, but you do have control over your own thoughts and feelings and they are totally valid. At some point you might be able to trust her enough to be okay with her going out into the dating world and know that you will be okay because you have yourself and your own stuff going on. That sounds like it might be a long way off; thanks to her and the other women that have cheated on you. I would love to say that by letting her go do her thing she won't perseverate on having sex with others but I think its too early for that... she has a lot of sucking up to do and a lot to prove.
I just don't know what to make of all of these responses. Thank you all. Its so mixed ... on one hand I feel that some of you are saying it is promising and on the other I feel that you are saying I may never be able to fully trust again. If I can't, then how do I continue in this?
Has anyone ever been lied to about this stuff and managed to regain trust and work through it with your partner(s)?
you will have your own journey with this and the results will vary from person to person I would think. Life is a journey, we just have to keep on the path to knowing ourselves more and staying true to what keeps us healthy. Only you know how to do that and what that means... hope it works out. :)
I might have a different reaction if I had gleaned from your story a much more treacherous or manipulative motive on your gf's part. But what I got from your telling of it, is... she made a mistake. A big one, nonetheless. However, now comes the challenge of forgiving and making agreements. I personally hate the idea of asking someone I love to "prove" anything to me. I feel like seeing how much they've hurt me should be enough of a motivator for them, rather than extracting a promise and waiting to see if they uphold it. But that's just me - I can't feel like I have one over on anyone, or that I'm a judge and jury and my partner has to prove he is trustworthy. For myself, it should be enough to state what my expectations are, listen to the other person's, come to an agreement on how to manage our relationship, and to keep talking.
Because on some level, where the hurt resides, I don't think anyone could ever prove it enough to me. I would want to feel that our relationship is strong enough to be equal partners and to know what each of us has to work on, and keep checking in with each other on a regular basis. Part of the agreements you make might also be how often you two talk about this, since she doesn't want to keep revisiting it. Maybe if you both compromised on how and when to discuss it, it won't feel so much like the Sword of Damocles over your head.
Learning to trust again is not dependent only upon my partner's behavior, but on how I work through it. Maybe I won't let myself be blind to certain signals anymore, or will speak up more often, or meditate on my contribution to any misunderstandings, look at my past and any left-over hurts I still have -- whatever my process is -- but I have to risk trusting again at some point or else the mistrust and blaming will eat away at me. If I am hurt again by my partner's behavior, down the road, then I have a choice to make. But asking them to prove they can keep promises, isn't how I would do it.
You may well get a few more differing opinions from people here, and you'll have to sift out what rings true for you. I think what most people here might agree on is that it takes time, and compassion for both her and yourself.
She is not a failure or not worth it... just not ready to be in a poly situation yet and create a healthy environment for her or you. Now you know, now you can work on it more.
|All times are GMT. The time now is 10:49 PM.|