Wow. I didn't expect to hear so many comments to the effect of "you should just dump him", and all. The idea that this relationship could just be over is really... overwhelming. Painful. I don't want it to be true.
Just to clear a couple things up... I think "Mark" honestly believes at this point that he wants to be monogamous, and because of that, he feels that he has to decide between either me or "Cathy". He's threatened to leave me a lot lately. I think he honestly does want to stay with me, but doesn't know how to deal with losing one of us. So when anything goes at all wrong between us, it's right in front of him and he thinks "this is the deciding factor. I'm unhappy right now
and if I weren't here I could be happy again." I think the main reason that he's unwilling to be poly himself is that he can't handle the idea of someone he loves seeing other people. I think he's telling himself that he's no longer "dating" Cathy, but he's still having a relationship explicitly for the purpose of staying on good terms with her so that if we break up, they can be together again.
Mark isn't a bad guy; he's hyper-sensitive and has a lot of anxieties, but he can be really sweet, and is, most of the time. In terms of our day-to-day interactions, he actually treats me really well. We have an incredible amount in common--we're both in physics, we have great chemistry, and we have very similar lifestyle preferences. If you throw in the fact that I have physical disabilities... well... it would be very difficult for me to find another partner who would be a good match. The other issue is that he was/is my first boyfriend, and my first love relationship. I've been dating him since I was 18. It would be incredibly emotionally difficult for me to break away from this relationship at this point. I'm taking the GRE's in the spring, and I'm in my senior year of university.... there's a lot of stress in my life right now. Also, I'm not in great financial shape at the moment... it's not to say that living on my own would be impossible, just that it would be harder than things are right now. It means that I want to be really, really sure before I abandon this relationship. The stress right now kind of sucks, but going from a long-term partnership to totally alone would mess me up. And... as I've said... I still love him.
If it turns out I have to leave, I will. I don't think I could do it today, but if I decide I have to work toward that point, I think I can. I just want to do whatever I possibly can to salvage this relationship before taking the irreversible option.
Originally Posted by Ceoli
Right now, you should not be negotiating with Cathy about your boundaries with Mark. She's not Mark, and he's the person you should be talking to about that. Plus it's clear that she has no respect for your relationship with Mark and is a pretty poisonous presence. Quite frankly: fuck her. And I don't mean that in the fun way.
Ceoli, my intuition agrees with what you've said: that talking with Cathy would be a really bad idea. I don't see her as someone who's just going to walk away if I ask really nicely. On the other hand, the fact that we haven't talked about boundaries is partially my fault. I didn't talk to her right away because Mark had said she was going to reach out to me, and I didn't want to seem pushy/bitchy/suspicious of them. When it started out, things weren't happening at my place or in my life, and I figured that the first time we were all three on a date, she'd talk to me. Actually, she just monopolized Mark. So... at that point, I could have demanded that she talk to me... but it was really clear that she'd rather be spending time with Mark. And I didn't want to seem mean or suspicious. That just continued until I found myself here. So... I don't want to talk to her. But I feel like maybe I should have insisted she and I talk about boundaries... that by not asserting myself, it was really my fault that my lines got crossed. In which case, I wouldn't have any right to really blame her.