Serious problems in primary
This is my first post in this forum and I am seeking help / advice / thoughts regarding my primary relationship. I will try to be as brief as possible.
My gf (J) and I are dating for more than 2 years and living together about 1.5 years. She is poly, and introduced me to poly from the beginning. I've been mono and decided to open-up and then changed my mind about it (more on this later). In my adventure of learning poly, I read, made my research and we discussed and we lived. Overall, this is the love of my life and I do not think it is poly ideas that fail us but us failing them.
We went through a traumatic secondary break-up on her part with massive effect on us more than a year ago. We lost the connection in sexuality and still lived in the same house. We worked through it, and get involved with the local poly community. Our belief in poly was reinforced even further.
In addition to the trauma-bonding due to the loss of secondary relationship, we also connected in our ideas for life and struggle for more. This strength gave us a huge faith on the connection. After various sad events on her personal life about almost a year ago, another disconnection started. She started to seek solutions outside after failed attempts via dates, or focusing on herself.
Long story short, she started to spend a lot of time with another man and it took a lot of time for them to start dating. I have to say that she has been very cautious about who she brings into the relationship, and I value her work there. There are a lot of positive things about the process including metamour connection, hinge work for V.
We both did a lot of work to help her secondary (W) feel safe, welcomed. W also did his homework as he was new to this. Everything seems like a book description poly except what happens home. I progressively was spending more time alone at home, our shared activities are pretty much gone, long-time expectations on things I care about are out of the window, and our sexuality was again on the downside.
I am constantly managing jealousy around the fear of replacement because they share a hobby, he gives a huge support for her profession. Add NRE to the plate (w/o nurturing the existing relationship). And about 3-4 months ago, the sex was gone. While she expresses a general loss in her sexuality for the last 3-5 years, W and J are sexually connected. She says this disconnection is temporary but W and J are connecting more and more as we become less and less. It feels like the gray shade in serial-monogamy during partner change.
They got involved about 4 months ago, and I decided to also embrace poly as life style and practice it for the joy it brings. In my pursuit for other romance, I found a lot of misunderstandings in online dating and (combined with the previous paragraph) it became a place to escape to another woman for damaged self-esteem due to rejection in my primary. As soon as I realized this, I quit all my profiles and informed my partner about it. (I do not want to open-up w/o working on my primary. It will only hurt people.)
I am reading about all these challenges and stories in poly, doing a lot work on it on my side and try to focus on what I can. I think she is doing what she can (and when she can). My anxieties lead to her avoidance and creates a dangerous loop until I ca n distract myself with work etc. She says it is just a waiting thing for her to re-connect to herself through outside activities/people and then come back. However, she progressively becomes less tolerant of my feelings and I feel like I am suffocating her in our free time.
I feel so sad and hurt about the fact that things going bad in her life affect us all the time. My needs are definitely not met. How do you work on it? Any ideas or suggestions?
I hear your frustration. But where is the accountability? Not to feelings. BEHAVIORS done/not done?
Because in my universe that personal standard is actually written out. That's the personal standard in this playground for all players who have signed up to fly that banner. Including me. I have to hold myself accountable to it too.
Right now you have yucky feelings you need to process. You have wants, needs, and limits that are not being tended, and your health buckets not being tended either. YOU are trying to tend to them by trying to communicate with her about them, but she's not giving you responsiveness.
It's fine that she tells you she's processing NRE things. Groovy. Over there in that polymath tier with W.
When's her plan to tend THIS polymath tier with you? Like... put it on the calendar specific. Not "when I get there I will get there."
Because that's not giving you your rights and not owning her responsibilities to THIS mini relationship inside the larger polyship.... if she were a player in my universe.
If I was in your shoes? I could print that personal standard out, highlight the all the ones I am not being given and give it to DH and call him into account.
"I need a calling into account. I highlighted on our thing like we agreed. Could we get an appointment on the calendar, please? We could talk about those to reconcile on... when is best for you? I am good on...."Keeps it really simple around here.
Perhaps you could consider asking her to actually write out whatever the personal standard is in your own polyship so that all players have accountability to each other? Not oral, assumed, perceived reality... no vague or open to misinterpretations stuff.
On paper. Solid. There. Bam. Done.
Could that help? Because if you can hold her accountable to agreements in your personal standard so she will make an appointment time to even TALK with you to take the initial assessment? I don't see how you can do conflict resolution to formulate the plan for how to solve the conflict!
Last edited by GalaGirl; 01-31-2013 at 08:13 AM.
Welcome to the forum.
I can very much relate to your story and I am truly sorry that you are going through this.
So, firstly - has the sex completely stopped during the four months that J has been with W? Have you had sex at all? Do you know for certain that she is regularly having sex with W? What was your sex life (and relationship) like just before she started dating him (still disconnected like before, or better?)
I think it is very understandable for you to feel that your needs aren't being met, since you said that your shared hobbies and time have also dwindled. You are lonely in your partnership and that is a sad thing. I understand that feeling and I am very sure that many people on this forum have felt that way at times, too.
Has J explained this so far? Has she given you reasons for having sex with W, but not you? Do you have a child or anything else at all that could effect the frequency of your sexual relationship? Is she kinky and you're vanilla, or vice versa? Is there anything that you know she finds fulfillment with in him that she doesn't in you? When you do (or did) have sex, was it fulfilling?
Your Needs In Primary Relationship
The first thing you need to do is decide what you are willing to accept from a primary partner. I'm hearing that you need:
- a primary who has an active sexual relationship with you
- a primary who will work on your relationship before adding other people
- a primary who will not neglect the relationship during NRE
- a primary who makes you feel valued and understood
- a primary who wants to take action and work with you
- a primary who gives you reasons for their actions
- a primary who shares some hobbies with you
All of these things are completely reasonable. If you want those things, you absolutely should have them. Even if it isn't perfect, you should be feeling like at least 70% of all that is being met, or aiming to be met, most of the time.
NRE is a tricky one. I think it's complete crap when people neglect their partners during it. However, I do think that some distraction does happen and can be forgiven. I do think that if a partner says "you seem wrapped up in NRE, I'm unhappy, can we talk, connect, do something together?" that a caring NRE partner would immediately be concerned about this. I'm not hearing that J is concerned about this. I'm hearing that she's hiding from it. What you're talking about isn't a momentary distraction - it's long term neglect of your relationship that is never fully patched up.
I do think you are completely right - it's completely acceptable to want a primary that fulfills you in certain essential ways. Poly can be great for getting extra needs met, if you believe in it. But, yes, there is a fine line between avoiding relationship problems by seeking others and simply meeting some other (or shorter term) gaps in your life.
If sex with your primary is important to you, then it's important. If it's not important to her - if she values something else, whilst wanting to get her kicks elsewhere, then she needs a partner who is happy with that. There is nothing wrong with finding sex important - I find it essential to my primary relationship.
How Much is Enough?
If this helps at all, I'm in a similar situation to you. My GF and I have had little to no sexual contact at times when she has been focusing her sexual attention on a new partner. I find this normal - but unnerving. It certainly is not conducive to greater security. I expect a little dip during her NRE, but I have time frames and she knows about them:
4-6 weeks of disconnect - I bring it up, we talk
3 months - bigger issue, needs action of some kind
6 months - very big issue, possible that I will no longer be happy in the relationship
Having these outlined means that she knows, ahead of time, what's important for me. For her, sex isn't *as* important and I accept that. So we compromise. Our compromise is that I'll be patient for 4-6 weeks. If it gets to the three month mark, I'm going to be considering our compatibility.
This also helps me keep things in perspective for *our* relationship. I used to have sex about three times a week with my ex GF. My current could go a month without sex, with no problem. So, things feel good for me in the middle - about every 2-3 weeks. The comfortable point is usually halfway between what you want and what your partner wants.
Outline Your Needs
You have to think about your limits and expectations. What are they? Do you need equal amounts of sex, between you and W? Do you just need *something*? What is measurable and acceptable for you to be happy? What about dates? I'm assuming she has dates, outside of the home, with W? How often? Do you guys go on dates? How often?
So, you've talked to her about this, but you feel that talking about it is stressing her out and causing avoidance and pressure? Again, what reasons has she given for not wanting to have sex with you, but wanting it with someone else? Are these reasons acceptable to you? Are you frustrated because nothing is changing, or because she isn't giving you an understandable answer?
Obviously, I completely understand that this isn't all about sex. It's about intimacy and other relationship issues. Your expectations on those things are equally as important to figure out.
Me: (30f) open poly
Serious long-distance relationship with GF (40f)
Casual FWB with Descartes (27f)
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without." ~ Buddha
Last edited by sparklepop; 01-31-2013 at 08:21 PM.
GalaGirl, and sparklepop, thank you for your replies. I needed to think about for a few days before replying.
@GalaGirl: Accountability to actions is one of the things that I am looking for. Thank you for giving me the words for articulation. There have been a lot of conversations where I explained her about the way our relationship is being downgraded. Her response showed understanding of the situation but lacked actions. And she continued to expand on her connection with W.
She describes the last ten months or so as a time period where she found room to breathe in his space but “void” in ours. This is partially due to W’s activity based personality and that is the core of her needs at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I am activity based as well. However, we are different people as you can imagine.
I am not a strong believer of writing declarations of the type you posted (I talk about it but not write). However, I put some thoughts in it and am currently thinking of a document that I can come up with combined with your points and sparklepop’s. That would be about my needs and where I stand. Thinking about this also takes me from the emotional phase towards a more mechanical, problem solving state. I don’t think this would be new information for her however I hope she will be able to respond in action.
She is aware of my pain and expresses her sadness about it. However, she cannot come back to the relationship by simply talking about these problems because she sees me in pain. Instead, she suggests to spend quality time by activities in our given time and hopes to fight her own void (or disconnection) in our relationship through her outside activities. Her intentions are constructive but her pace is not sufficient for me. In the meantime, I am trying to focus on other fields of my life, and see that they affect my stability at home. It is working most of the time.
A note about W: I very briefly mentioned about the difficulties for me to him (J was present as well). He asked me how he can help. I said it is mostly about what J can do. So metamour connection is still there.
@sparklepop: J has explained her disconnection from our sexuality in different ways and a number of times. This explanation cannot calm me down unfortunately. Partially because it opens up old wounds from the past disconnections, and partially because we were on a journey of exploring kinks when the last disconnection happened (we were more vanilla in the beginning, and slowly got kinkier later)
When asked, she tells me that there are no problems in my sexual interaction with her and says she enjoys it. We came to this point gradually. About a year and a half ago, we lost sexual connection (no sex) for 2-3 months. Then re-connected. About a year ago, the frequency of having sex started to change. Before the last disconnection (3 months ago), we were having sex once a month.
Thank you for sharing your story and also seeing that it is not only about sex. Seeing the shine in her eyes when she comes home gives me a lot to imagine in the midst of NRE about their interactions. While we are on a downhill of intimacy, it is difficult to avoid comparisons and emotional triggers for sadness.
Those questions you presented are great brainstorming materials. I will definitely think about them. I already proposed the option of talking about how we can satisfy my intimacy needs. She responded positively about it. She also was looking for workshops around libido problems. (about us, and herself in general). She expresses some effect of the “void” in her sexual interaction with W but also says things being new with him and not being in a live-in arrangement helps her to be involved with him.
Intellectually, I can understand where she is coming from. In my heart, it is a total wreck around rejection and the fear of replacement. I will eventually share this thread with her but need more time to think / read / research and time for us to do some activities and relax.