Mono in New Poly Relationship with Intimacy Issues?
Hello. I'm new here and haven't really said much about myself yet. I'm currently in a vee with my ex-fiance as the hinge. His SO is a wonderful woman, and I think we'll be great friends. I am however, having issues allowing myself to be emotionally present in the relationship between myself and my ex-fiance when we're all together or even when we're alone. It's become really noticeable to everyone involved at this point, and it's definitely putting a strain on things.
I don't know at this point if I'm shutting down emotionally because I still don't understand or accept polyamory yet or because in my heart of hearts this is something I don't want and cannot be happy with. I think it's still early to say that I most definitely cannot be happy in this situation, but I'm also afraid that I may be glossing over my unhappiness in an effort to save my relationship with my first and only love.
I met my ex-fiance, (we'll call him W), when I was just out of high school. I went to a tiny Catholic high school and hadn't made any school friends during those years. I was friends with some of the girls from the local public school, but more than 10 years of Catholic education had made me very wary of the opposite sex, so I had never had even a casual hand-hold-y relationship before that.
I had never been sexually attracted to anyone before, never kissed anyone before, and certainly never had sex with anyone before. I honestly didn't realize we'd had sex until he said something about it. ("Just inserting it counts as sex? I thought the guy had to ejaculate inside for it to count." <-- Private school sex ed, lol.)
He moved into the house I was living in really early in the relationship. He didn't have a place to stay and I needed roommates, so it seemed like the logical step. We really enjoyed this setup and kept falling more and more deeply in love. We got engaged after being together for about six months, and spent the one year anniversary of having gotten together at my family's Christmas gathering across the country. Things were really good for two years.
I have bad health and a generally weak body. It eventually became apparent that if we had sex as often as he liked, I would spend half my time on antibiotics or with abdominal cramps. (I was tested every time for STD's and STI's. These never played a role. My reproductive system has been problematic since puberty.) I eventually suggested that he just find someone to have sex with on the side. I didn't like seeing his needs go unmet all the time.
There was never any jealousy over the sex. But he ended up falling in love with her, and I couldn't handle that. I thought we were supposed to be engaged. I was pretty young and inexperienced in communicating at that point, so I just figured I'd sulk without doing anything about their relationship until it either ended or I couldn't take it any more and broke up with him. It ended first, but he was disturbed by the incident and decided to move out. All my questioning him yielded about his reasons for the move was that he really just wanted his own space, but still wanted to be in a relationship with me, and didn't want to break off our engagement.
I don't remember the next few months very well. I was sick a lot, and was in a very emotionally unhealthy place. I remember at one point he was telling me that he was flirting with girls online, but that online relationships weren't real and that he didn't intend to get serious with anyone. The next thing I really remember happening was him asking me to drive him to the airport to go to Seattle to pick up his new live in girlfriend. I'm sure there was some discussion in between those events, but I've completely blocked it out of my memory. All I clearly remember is asking him to make love to me the night before I drove him to the airport, and him saying that he wanted this new relationship to be our secret from my family.
I drove him to the airport. I picked him and his girlfriend up from the airport. I then distanced myself from him completely. Over the next year, we gradually started meeting up on friendly terms to do things like grocery shop and I would go to visit the cats we adopted when we lived together. When he and his girlfriend were in a rocky patch, we got closer and ended up becoming romantic and sexual again.
I consider it my biggest moral failing. He said that they had never specified whether or not to be exclusive, but it was obvious his girlfriend thought they were. Even though they eventually broke up, the incident has been haunting me. I was also in a relationship at the time, (basically to see if I could force myself to love someone other than W), but I had specified that I wanted a casual relationship from the start. Even though that was the nature of my relationship with the other guy, I felt like I was wronging him and ended up shutting down in the relationship. He broke up with me, W and his girlfriend had broken up, and there was a connection between W and I, so we started talking about starting a relationship.
Within months he was talking about someone he had met online. He didn't say they were flirting. He didn't say he was thinking about going after her. I knew from how his eyes were lighting up that he was, though. I told him that if he wanted to start a new romantic chapter in his life with someone else that I was going to transfer schools as far away as possible and never look into being with him again. He cried. He said outside relationships weren't just things that he enjoyed, they were necessary to his enjoyment of relationships period. I told him to go after whoever he felt like. I just didn't know if I would still be along for the ride. He said he didn't want to give up what we have, and he apologized for "being so messed up" and for "not being able to give [me] something so simple, and something that every woman wants".
He agreed we could see couples' counseling in order to work out my issues arising from our previous relationship and with this potential relationship. I said I'd give this poly relationship a try. His new SO, (we'll call her A), moved down here, (although they are NOT living together, which was one of my stipulations), and we've met and gone out places. She's a great person and I think we're really going to be friends, regardless of whether or not I can continue to be in a relationship with W.
Although they've both assured me that they aren't looking for this to become a crazy threesome filled excursion into sexy-town, she's started saying she loves me after only knowing me for about three weeks, which makes me a little uncomfortable. I'm physically attracted to women, but as I said earlier, I'm only sexually attracted to W. Period. I wish I felt sexual or even just romantic attraction to people in general, but so far in my life it has just been him.
Since I seemingly have the capacity to love exactly ONE, not just at a time, but in general, the ideology of polyamory is something I don't know if I'm capable of grasping. I'm reading everything I can find on the internet, but just reading isn't really helping me to internalize it very well. I found a nearby poly meetup group, and I may go and observe and ask questions there as well. It just seems to me that when we got engaged we promised to work towards sharing a life. It seems that he just wants separate lives that occasionally overlap. I don't see the difference between what he wants and close friends with benefits who happen to be roommates. (His end goal is co-habitation.)
We haven't started therapy yet, since it's expensive and the closest poly-friendly couple's therapist is more than 4 hours away, but we're saving up for it. In the meantime, I'm feeling a complete emotional shutdown. I know that jealousy is common, but the only time I feel that is when I hear about them doing things that were important to W and I as a couple or see the gifts I gave him over the years appearing in her apartment. I don't feel jealous when I see them kiss or hear them say "I love you." I feel nothing. And I feel nothing when he kisses me or says "I love you" to me.
Sometimes when we're alone there's warmth and eventually passion, but never when I'm in the company of him and anyone else. It doesn't matter if it's A or a mutual friend of W and mine, but if there's someone else around, I feel awkward just being around W. Touching is uncomfortable. I feel like I'm doing something bad. Maybe it's because I was helping him to cheat before, but even during that time I at least had very clear feelings of guilt and love. Now I really just don't feel anything.
Well, I've rambled long enough. If you read all of that, you're really a saint. Thank you for listening to me! Just typing this has been helpful to me, I think.
Welcome to the forum :) it sounds to me like you might benefit from some counselling to perhaps; catholic school, health issues, cheating. All those alone might be difficult for some and with poly on top, maybe even more. Couldn't hurt anyway.
First off, you've only known this woman for three weeks? That isn't near enough to trust someone who is a new partner to yours. That could take up to a year or more. You don't have to love her, you should probably not even try to. Certainly don't expect that you will be sexual with her. Its not a requirement. So she loves you. That's nice, what an added bonus. Thank her and do your thing. Its great you can see you will even be good friends. Just be yourself.
I don't see why you would necessarily feel loving in this situation. Its new and you have a history of cheating with this guy. Give it a chance, take your time. See how you feel at three months or more. If nothing changes and your trust still isn't there enough or you just don't feel love then I would suggest you have just settled for them or will never trrust with them. No biggy, move on. You have a whole life ahead of you and lots of other things to do.
Being on top of your love and being what you "think" you should be is not necessary. Just be. Let whatever it is come. Leave it all be and relax into it. When you do this I would think that you will see how you feel and how your body reacts to the situation.
Thank you for your kind words, RP! I'm sorry it took me so long to reply! Between finals and a dead router I've not had much time on the internet lately!
Here's a little update on where things are with me. A asked me out on a romantic date a few days ago and I declined, explaining to her that I am not poly by nature and am still trying to get used to my current relationship dynamic. She was apparently very hurt. I explained to her that I am not sure where I am in my relationship with W, and that I do not subscribe to the theory that a broken relationship can be fixed by adding more people. If A and I were to start dating, and things were to somehow be magically great between us, it doesn't change the fact that I am in a rocky relationship with W and have no interest in splitting my romantic affections between different people. If anything, dating A would mean breaking up with W for me.
She said that our current setup is just not how she envisions a polyamorous relationship. She believes that we should be in a triad, not a vee. I am not interested in trying to change my orientation to accommodate someone else. I am happy being monogamous, even if I am in a relationship with a partner who is not. W wants a triad as well, but has stated that he will support me no matter what I decide. He wants me to be a part of his life in whatever ways I will allow. I'm not sure if she is comfortable with me dating only him without dating her.
W and I have decided not to talk to her until she has calmed down a bit, but we both know that we all need to discuss what we want out of this relationship. If she's not able to deal with a vee formation, then I should probably step down as a primary co-partner and just become his FWB or just plain friend or something. They can focus on their relationship, search for a third, do whatever they need to do to feel secure, and I can just... whatever. I've been dealing with my feelings for W for going on five years now, knowing that we're probably not on the same page for the last three. If he's poly and she's poly, there will probably be a lot less heartache for those two if I take my mono self elsewhere. I've been in a near-constant state of heartache for a while now, so it won't change much for me.
He's really upset that I'm considering giving up on this relationship. He says he'll support me, but he feels I'm making a mistake. He says that I could have everything I ever wanted out of a monogamous relationship, but even more so with two people. I think he's missing the point that I don't have enough energy to deal with just him, let alone another person in a romantic sense. I think I might be able to handle having a relationship with him while nurturing his relationship with someone else and maintaining a friendship with a metamour, but I have no doubt that anything beyond friendship would drain me dry of energy.
Besides non-violent communication and "I language", is there anything I can do to make sure that when I do discuss things with A and W that I do not cause unnecessary hurt feelings? I am almost certain that if I discuss scaling back my relationship with W that A is going to feel like she caused it, which isn't entirely true. I don't want anyone to have to settle for something they truly do not want. I don't want her to settle for a vee out of feelings of guilt, and I don't want to try to date two people when I know it's not for me.
It sounds like you are sticking to your guns and doing/saying what is right for you. Good for you. That is exactly what you should be doing I think. All you can do is be sure to be gentle and kind in your words, have compassion and consideration for everyone's point of view. Listen to what everyone says and then be sure to stick to what you need in your life. Using some of the NVC techniques is an excellent idea.
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