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Q: I’m 24 years old. My girlfriend (I think she is still my girlfriend, I guess) is 24 years old too. We met during our first year in university and started dating a few months after that. We have been together for 6 years now. She is the only woman I have been with and it is the same for her. We don’t live together right now, because we have jobs in different cities, but we have been seeing each other almost every weekend, we keep travelling together, etc. I had a sense that she had feelings for someone in her group of friends where she lives; I understand that it’s normal to be attracted to other people, she loved me and we were together, so I didn’t really care.
Then, three weeks ago, she told me she would like to be in a open relationship with me. She said we have been together for so long, and we were so young when we started dating that she needed to know that it would be OK to explore new things at some point. Now, I guess it’s maybe a bit traditional, but the way that I love does not really work that way. Anyway, she explained that she wanted to “end up” with me, that there would never be someone else that would make her feel so loved and so at ease. That it didn’t mean she was going to hook up with someone the next day, or that she was actively looking for someone. She just wanted to know if that door was open. So I said yes, because I love her and I was willing to try and I want her to be happy.
We had plans to spend Valentine’s Day together, but on Wednesday she called me and said that she needed to tell me something. She had a date for the weekend. With someone she had liked for a while. A male co-worker that she would like to date at least for a while, so she wouldn’t have the same amount of time for me.
And I completely broke down. I feel betrayed. First of all because she obviously lied to me three weeks ago. Secondly because she told me on the phone, and that was shitty when taking into account that three days ago we had been together. Also because she already had a date when she told me that there wasn’t a specific person on the horizon, and on a weekend she supposedly wanted to spend with me.
And last (but oh-god not least), she is going on a date with someone from a group of friends that doesn’t know I exist. I mean, we are out to our families and our closest friends, but her co-workers do not know that she is dating a woman. And what makes it even worse is that if she keeps on dating that guy, everyone from her workplace will know. But no one will know about me. She said that he does know I exist, but, really, what does he know? Does he know how long we’ve been together? Or what we’ve been through? I just feel completely tossed aside.
[question edited for length]
Oh holy mother of cabbage, this sounds so painful, and you sound so sad. I’m sorry that you’re going through this, and that you’re feeling so much pain because of someone you love and trusted. You must be feeling really terrible right now! This is so much. Maybe make yourself a cup of tea first and then come back here and we’ll talk.
The thing that I can’t get over, and what seems to me to be the root of what’s happening between you and your girlfriend, is that she seems to be looking out for herself instead of looking out for your relationship. Not because she wanted an open relationship, that’s not an inherently selfish thing — for many people that’s a healthy choice that strengthens their relationship as well as fulfilling them personally. But it doesn’t seem like your girlfriend really checked in on that first point. From what you’ve described about your conversation, your girlfriend wasn’t trying to make a case that being open would be better for your relationship; she was making a case that it would be better for her.
Which, again, isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker! Compromises in relationships happen all the time, and that’s how life works. Sometimes you end up making big relationship decisions that are centered around one person’s needs — you move across the country for their job or come out to your parents because they don’t want to be closeted — and that’s okay. I’m 100% certain that there are relationships out there where openness was negotiated because one partner wanted it even though the other partner didn’t, and that was the right decision and it went great. But it doesn’t seem like that’s what’s happening here.
Even though your girlfriend did enter into a conversation with you about opening up your relationship, a conversation in which you could have said no, she still wasn’t honest with you, and she didn’t continue to start conversations with you about things going forward — she just informed you. It’s not clear from your question how you responded, but it doesn’t sound at all like these were decisions that were being made with your participation. It doesn’t sound either like your girlfriend necessarily considered how they might make you feel. Major relationship changes, and the sub-changes that come with them, should never be unilateral decisions, and your right to weigh in on how your relationship functions doesn’t disappear once you agree to open it up.
This is all to say that it doesn’t sound like your girlfriend is super invested in your happiness or the health of your relationship, and is more interested in adjusting your relationship such that she’s technically “allowed” to do whatever she wants while still having you as a girlfriend. A decision as major as opening up a relationship after 6 years isn’t one conversation, it’s a series of conversations again and again to continue talking about it and seeing how well it’s working and how everyone feels. If your girlfriend had initiated a conversation rather than a declaration, and said “I’m interested in seeing this guy at work; what do you think?” in good faith, you could have brought up your (extremely valid!) concerns about outness. And something could have been figured out, maybe a lot of pain could have been averted and we could all be having a picnic right now. The fact that your girlfriend hasn’t seemed interested in these latter necessary conversations sucks, and I’m really sorry.
The bottom line is that a good relationship requires everyone in it to think about how things will affect 1. them, 2. the other person, and 3. the relationship as an organism. Even though we live in the real world, and there will be times when at least one of those things has to take a hit, that should never be business as usual. It’s really, really awful to feel like your partner is only concerned about themselves, and the life you’ve built together is an afterthought.
I’m not gonna mandate what you need to do in your relationship with your girlfriend — it’s up to you what next steps you want to take. But your girlfriend has certainly been advocating for her own wants and needs, and now you need to do the same. Your hurt, your fears, your concerns, about this situation and about your relationship as a whole are important; you deserve to have them reckoned with as much as your girlfriend does hers. I think you need to at least confront your girlfriend with the fact that she’s been making decisions based on her own desires and not the health of your relationship, and set some real expectations about what you deserve as a girlfriend and as a person. Whether or not your girlfriend can meet those expectations and be what you need, regardless of who else you two are or are not dating, is really what will determine whether you “end up” with her.It’s possible that even if you do get to a place where you’re having healthier conversations about an open relationship, an open relationship just isn’t what you want, and it won’t be possible to find a compromise that will respect her wellbeing, your wellbeing, and your relationship’s wellbeing. Maybe it will be. I hope that whatever happens leaves you happy and never ever feeling tossed aside.
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Also I feel like opening up the relationship should come from a place of wanting to make the relationship stronger, not from a last ditch effort to save it. I feel like “last ditch openness” has the possibility of leaving at least one party more scarred than just breaking up would have.
Once upon a time when I was newly out, I was desperate and lonely and started seeing this girl who was polyamorous. And by polyamorous, I mean she was in a relationship with a married mother of two and all of her friends (ALL OF THEM) were polyamorous and said a bunch of shitty stuff about people who were monogamous.
Anyway, I was bored and started dating her, thinking I could/should be open-minded enough to deal with her other girlfriend. And all of her friends were saying how all human beings are actually polyamorous and it’s the superior way to live, etc. But let’s be honest here: IT SUCKED. Polyamory is NOT for everyone. It just isn’t, no matter what anyone says. And it made me feel like shit, because I was beating myself up for being jealous when I had signed up for this and was supposed to be okay with it and shit.
Needless to say, I broke it off (…and then relapsed for like three days…then broke it off again…WHATEVER), and she’s off being in a relationship with this married couple in another state with their ever-growing gaggle of tiny humans and I’m in a very monogamous relationship with my person of two years and she’s happy and I’m happy.
Moral of the story is that you can’t make yourself be okay with this. Nothing you do is going to make you be okay with this. Does it suck to come to terms with that when you love this girl and thought you’d spend the rest of your life with her? Sure, yes, absolutely. But such is life. You live and you learn and you can move on and keep boundaries in your next relationship and it will be so much better because you’ll be sticking up for yourself and not being dragged along by the whims of a girl.
Anyway, I’m sorry that you’re in this position. Truly. Pobrecita. I hope you find peace and love.
Seems like your girlfriend is the one making all the decisions here. It doesn’t sound like she asked or really cares how you feel about this open relationship business at all. The fact that she didn’t tell you about this guy until she had already made plans to spend time with him ON VALENTINE’S DAY of all days instead of you IMO says a lot about what she thinks about your relationship. Now I don’t know much about poly relationships so I’m going to ask the poly peeps on this site to chime in, isn’t like one of the first big rules of being in such a relationship that you are supposed to be honest with your partner and not do anything with someone they don’t approve of? I’m disturbed by the fact that this girl pretty much already had plans set up before she even asked you about the open relationship to begin with which means she was going to on hook up with this guy regardless of if you were going to be okay with it or not. I wonder how she would feel if you just started dating someone else without running it by her first.
I say maybe the two of you need a semi-permanent break from each other. Frankly, it sounds like you deserve better.
You are absolutely right that one of the biggest things in making poly work is honesty and, to borrow a phrase from science, informed consent. If your partner doesn’t know what you are doing, that’s not really poly. If they ask after the fact, that’s not really poly. That’s people being shitty to the ones they are supposed to love.
Agreed. My boyfriend knew when I went to speed dating. He knew when I matched with people and made plans to go on dates with them. He told me when he met someone in one of his classes that he was attracted to. He asked me if it would be okay to go out with this person. We talked about jealousy regularly. Currently we’re both not seeing other people because we’ve been focusing on personal things and our relationship.
If you’re not talking it’s not a good [poly] relationship. Both of you should be happy with where things are going. It’s scary to tell the person you are about that you’re not happy. But it’s better for you and for her if you talk about it.
Sidebar: If you’re not talking- it’s not a good relationship period, monogamous or poly.
I think monogamy and non monogamy can be identities, things we’re born with, at least on a sliding scale, and that it’s important to find the intersect on both of your scales.
A) I understand the difficulty, but just trying open when you were uncomfortabl, feels like you swallowed so much of your own desire out of fear of what might happen. Shitty as it is, if she breaks up with you because you are uncomfortable with that experimentation or change in dynamic, then it sounds like it was her last ditch to get you to break up with her, or she’s taking advantage, either way…evaluate,,,what do YOU want?!
B) honesty. It’s key. I am suspicious of any non monogamy that involves bending the truth. The most difficult sad times in my open marriage are when the communication is in half truths or after the fact snooping. Not cool. Sometimes in relationships you can’t have your cake and eat it too. So, while some object to hierarchical pol, it’s a way for me to bridge the gap from our marriage vows to poly that feels okay for me. Doesn’t sound like your girlfriend is doing that type og communicating.
C) New Relationship Energy (NRE) is TOTALLY a thing..and in deciding with rational brain to be open ( not as a benefit or side result of.an already crush) should be prepared for. Its a crazy normal biological brain chemistry mind warp that can leave the partner annoyed that their seemingly rational partner has fallen off the crazy dating deepend.
D) 5-7 years in long term relationships tend to experience a shift. Breakup. Divorce. Change of stylesome type. Not sure why, just seems to be pretty common.
Question-asker, I’m so sorry this is happening to you. My heart aches for you. This sounds awful and painful and just terrible; nothing I know of feels worse than losing trust in someone you care about, and the fact that it’s happening at distance seems like it would make the whole thing all the more isolating and anxiety-producing. Please hang in there and remember that you are beautiful and awesome. I’m hoping and crossing my fingers that things get better and easier and happier for you soon.
Something that may be of interest is Khale’s ongoing webcomic “Polyamory Isn’t for Everyone.” It details her years long relationship with a poly person, who is lovely and seems to have a much better handle on the whole honesty part of polyamory than the letter writer’s person does. It’s still early in the comic, but from what I gather, it’s going to follow her own discovery of and struggle with her own relationship boundaries, wants, and needs, which is why I think it may be of interest here.
A small warning, Khale started this comic as a companion to her ongoing comic “I Do Not Have an Eating Disorder” (spoiler alert: she totally has an eating disorder) because her relationship with this woman was so important to her struggle with her ED. So if EDs are a trigger for you, that may come in to the polyamory comic.
Great comic, thanks for the hint.
All the love an strenght to the asker. It is time to move on. It is hard, but things will get better.
This is not polyamory, it is the end of a relationship.
Thank you for sharing this. It feels very relevant to me personally, as well, and I’ve been looking for resources for not-necessary-poly people in LTRs with poly people, so I particularly appreciate it.
Thank you *endlessly* for posting those two comics. I breezed through both of them because I’ve been going through a lot of the topics covered. Eagerly awaiting updates.
You can still cheat in poly relationships, and it sounds like this person was cheating. I think cheating is underrated as a way to hurt people since it’s so common, and I’m not saying it is never forgivable, but it can cause intense and lasting psychological damage. Question-asker wasn’t given the proper opportunity to consent to the situation she now finds herself in– her girlfriend convinced her to agree to give her what could plausibly be thought of as a “get out of jail free card” for cheating without giving her the relevant information to make that decision in accordance with her own feelings. Moreover she also *knew* something was up with this other dude but since she didn’t *know-know* (since her girlfriend denied it) she still felt that she had to give her girlfriend the benefit of the doubt when deciding to have an open relationship, and possibly felt that she was crazy and unreasonable for suspecting that. And because she consented to an “open relationship” then, feels like she is unjustified in feeling betrayed. That is undeniably emotional abuse, and I would never want a friend to keep dating someone who acted that way and didn’t acknowledge how shitty it was.
Hang in there buddy, I hope you know you deserve better than this.
In my opinion, formed by bitter, miserable personal experience and delighted awe at poly friends in wonderful relationships, nonmonogamy only works when everyone involved is invested in not hurting other people. That’s what was so messed up about my ex–her desires mattered more to her than not hurting her partners, and eventually, there were no compromises, there was just her stating what she wanted, and me saying I didn’t want that, and her doing it anyway.
My situation is not the same as yours, of course, but it’s close enough to make me extra mad on your behalf! Even if a healthy, stable open relationship is in the works for you, you’re clearly not comfortable, and for her to move ahead in the way that she did is so, so, SO not okay.
Oh god, nope, nope, there are just barrels of nope raining from the sky in this one.
From personal experience, I forced my ex-boyfriend into conceding an open relationship because I was too much of a coward to break up with him (as he was my safety net) while recognizing that I was already checked out of the relationship and wanted to date only women. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it sounds like your girlfriend is doing the exact same thing.
One piece of advice that I got from a friend recently who supported me through my breakup was: “It is not their responsibility to be there for you while you grow up and “find yourself””. And that’s very bitterly true. The directions your girlfriend is going in are not for your sake, they’re for her sake. Solely her sake. You don’t owe it to her and pretend be okay with dating other people, especially if she’s starting the conversation on such a deceitful level. She is obviously not okay with your relationship as it is, and your first admission that you’re not even sure if she’s your girlfriend anymore to me sounds like you’ve already made up your mind.
Run, run now, and use that torch that you’re carrying for her to burn the bridge.
(Okay I just got melodramatic with that last bit)
This! This! It’s so hard to admit when you don’t want to be with someone anymore for whatever reason, that a lot of times I think people (and I know I’ve done this) cover that essential truth up with other things. That is not to make any excuses for your girlfriend. I had similar thoughts as Paper0Flowers, it sounds like your girlfriend is trying to hold on to something (your relationship) she knows is safe while wanting to try something new (dating this other person) that is scary. I am so sorry that you are on the other end of this. It’s an awful, painful place to be. I will do that only thing I can as a stranger on the internet and think supportive thoughts for you.
I love that last flourish of melodrama, and I intend to quote it for years to come.
I totally agree with you. I was such a coward I didn’t even want to think about breaking up with my boyfriend. I knew I didn’t have the feelings required for that relationship before we went looking for an apartment. Heck, I knew waaay before then when I started identifying at WORK that I was gay. But I had to take the hard route and move into an apartment with him with a one year lease attatched. I assumed we would be together forever years before so just admitting I couldn’t do it anymore was a thing I just didn’t want to think.
It’s SO much easier being honest with yourself and everyone else. I really cannot emphasize that enough. Hopefully all of these comments will help this person put her thoughts into perspective and be able to take a step forward.
As the person who pushed to open my previously monogamous relationship into a polyamorous one, this just sounds all wrong to me. Honesty and consent are so, so important, and there just wasn’t much of that at the beginning of your situation. It isn’t a request if the other person is not allowed to say no.
Even if everything had been kosher from the beginning, you are not feeling okay now. That needs to be talked about, respected, and worked through by both parties if this is going to work. That may mean changing your existing boundaries, discussing expectations in more detail, ending things, whatever. You need to know what you want, and you need to communicate that very clearly. Your partner needs to respect what you say.
People get hurt in every relationship, but I think it’s easier to inadvertently do so in a polyamorous one. It may be that your partner didn’t know how to ask. If that’s the case, I’d give it another shot, but with my guard up and clear outlines for what you expect moving forward. Be careful.
Here’s a hypothetical: Let’s say you decide, not from a malicious or vindictive place, that you want to see someone else within the open relationship. You tell your sorta-kinda-girlfriend before you ask the other out. How would your maybe-still-girlfriend react to this development? If she’s truly committed to an open relationship, she should be fine with it, and the two of you have a conversation about the parameters of seeing the other. More likely, I could see her losing her shit because you took some of your agency in the relationship back and you’re not playing by her rules. This isn’t fair to you. I think she wants to have her cake and eat it, too. That is an incredibly hard place to be, and it breeds anger and resentment.
Rachel and everyone else have given you good advice. Please take care of yourself, as well – make some friends in your town/city, go to museums, plays, concerts, do what makes you happy. We tend to lose sight of ourselves in relationships, and rediscovering what makes you happy is a rewarding experience.
Good luck. *all the hugs for you*
I’m just going to be honest here….your girlfriend sounds like a douche.
rachel: my ‘you need help’ is almost done
me: oh the one whose girlfriend is an asshole?
rachel: that’s the one!
While I agree with most commenters that it certainly sounds as though she is being selfish here, a big part of me wants to believe that she just has NO idea what she’s doing. It sounds as though she doesn’t know the first thing about being in an open relationship, and that maybe neither of you knows how to structure those conversations. Whoever talked about new relationship energy was onto something as well. She may not be thinking logically or treating you as you deserve bc she’s got this new thing going on and it’s the first time in SIX YEARS that this has happened. I just don’t think that that all ending right now sounds great; yr relationship could change in a way that might be fulfilling for both of you. I don’t think she’s horrible, but maybe she’s acting pretty selfish right now and you do deserve better. Part of me wants to believe that maybe she can give you that, but it would take some brutally honest conversations about how yr feeling and yr perception of whats happening. I bet she has a different perception and doesn’t realize how she’s hurting you.
Anyway off the top of my head I’d maybe recommend you both reading some books about polyamory together and talking about it/structuring some conversations around them. Two that I have that seem pretty good are Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino and The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy.
Just a slightly different perspective.
Did you see the part about how the girlfriend’s decision to open up the relationship was not only extremely sudden, but a demand instead of a request, and how the decision was motivated on a pre-existing interest when there had been a straight up lie (saying she had nobody in mind) used to manipulate the writer into agreeing? She knew what she was doing. Nobody on earth is that dumb, nobody.
Hello, nonmonogamous person here. All of the reasons you said you feel betrayed? Those are totally legitimate, rational, and understandable reasons for feeling betrayed. They are, each of them individually, things that you and your girlfriend should have had conversations about before you opened up your relationship. The thing about open relationships is there isn’t a script anymore, so the parties involved have to be really rigorous about making and sticking to a framework that works for both of them and the relationship as a whole.
You both sound new to this, though, so it’s understandable not to have done that (and IMO the burden of responsibility was on her, as the person suggesting the openness). Don’t worry, you can still have those conversations now, but I anticipate it’s going to be difficult. Your girlfriend sounds like she doesn’t have the commitment to your relationship right now that it would take to come to the table with you in good faith.
It’s worth a try, though, if the relationship is important to you. I would say something like “girlfriend, the way our relationship framework is right now is not working for me. I would like for you to think about what criteria you’re looking for in an open relationship, and I will think about what criteria I’m looking for, and we can come to the table and figure out a solution that works for both of us. Otherwise, this won’t work.”
I second the book recommendation for Opening Up, and I also recommend More than Two, which is Franklin Veaux’s excellent website and the book by the same name.
I also welcome any PMs if you’d like specific advice from someone who’s been doing this for a long time and gets a little better every day.
There have been lots of really great long comments about the complexities of open relationships, so I am going to be more blunt.
Your girlfriend already played her had. She ditched you to go out with a dude on valentines day. Even if you two have an actual conversation about this mess. Do you really think you can trust her again after such a huge slight?
Best to pull the plug as soon as you can.
Sorry, but it sounds like she wants the freedom to fuck around while using you as her “safety net”. I know there are a lot of poly people on here telling you to give the relationship a chance, but the fact that she broke her Valentine’s Day plans with you after SIX YEARS together is a huge red flag and means she’s not really invested in the relationship anymore.
More red flags:
-She basically manipulated you into agreeing to an open relationship when you’re not sure it’s something you want.
-She lied to you about not having anyone in particular she wanted to date.
Also, I hate to say it, but I think we lesbians are willing to put up with way more crap from our girlfriends because finding partners is difficult. Think about it…would a straight man or woman let their SO fuck other people and “come back when they’re ready?” Hell no…they would kick that asshole to the curb and find someone who valued a relationship.
TLDR: She sounds like an inconsiderate person who is putting her own desires above yours, and I think you should get out now before she hurts you even more.
I would like to give this posts a million thumbs up. Pressing the button once can not express the extent of my feelings for this comment.
Actually I know a lot of people in het relationships who have done that (it didn’t end well).
Not saying that there isn’t a push for queers to ‘put up’ with things because you don’t feel as desirable/valuable, I’m sure there is, but your comment really smacks of ‘lesbians beware, the bisexuals strike again!’ (how on earth do you know the writer is a lesbian?).
Replacing lesbian with queer doesn’t really change much…the point remains that those along the queer spectrum feel pressured to put up with more garbage than average
I’ pretty sure that the commenter was talking about the number of women dating women who are around, not hating on bisexual women. If there aren’t that many people of the gender and sexual orientation that the person is interested it, it makes sense that they might be more hesitant to break up with whoever they’re with. Its an issue of limited options.
The girlfriend would still be shitty if she were dating other women and that statement would still apply.
Something you said really stuck out to me, personally: “Now, I guess it’s maybe a bit traditional, but the way that I love does not really work that way.”
My last experience with polyamory came from the exact same place (sort of), where I agreed to be non-monogamous because I cared about this person and I wanted to date them and I thought it was something I was capable of doing (spoiler alert: totes wasn’t something I was capable of doing), and also because I viewed monogamy as a dated concept stemming from socialization rather than nature so I thought practicing polyamory was a way of “rising above” all of that (spoiler alert: it’s not, I was being pretentious and ignoring my own needs as a result, and dragging her along for the ride).
My point is that if you already know the way you love doesn’t align with polyamory, this might not work. It’s possible for the two of you to have conversations and for you to become more comfortable with polyamory (I have seen it happen; I have not experienced it myself, but obviously my experiences being poly have been unhealthy and riddled with little-to-no communication) but that involves actually having conversations about it, not simply being informed of what the other person is going to do, which is what she seems to be doing.
As someone else stated already, I don’t want to make assumptions about your girlfriend, because I don’t know her. For all I know, she’s not doing any of this intentionally, and she honestly might not know better or realize that she’s hurting you. I think, before anything else, you sit down and take stock of what your needs and wants are both for yourself and for this relationship, and then have a conversation with her about it. And (this is especially difficult) try not to have any expectations. If your needs and wants don’t line up, maybe it’s time to part for a little while, at least.
But if you don’t talk about this hurt with her, it will turn into a resentment, and you’re going to have a whole bunch of apocalyptic images of your own, trust me.
I am sending you lots of love and positive thoughts, stranger, as someone who has also been there. I know it’s very painful, and I wish you the strength to get through it. You deserve to be happy.
I think it’s also important to mention that this seems to be the letter writer and her girlfriend’s first long-term relationship as adults, and maybe that’s coloring their decision-making a little bit too. First long-term adult relationships can and do work out, but when they don’t, it’s often a little bit harder to realize that and move on (to leaving each other, to transitioning your relationship to a platonic one, whatever works for the people involved.) It’s always hard to remember that breaking up isn’t the end of the world, but if you don’t have the experience of having a serious relationship and then finding love again after that relationship ends, it’s a little harder to believe that it’s possible. Sure, people say that you can find someone else who meets your needs better, but if your whole adult relationship history is just that one person, it might not really feel like there ARE lots of fish in the sea.
Letter-writer: you’ve made it really clear that nonmonogamy doesn’t interest you (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!). Your girlfriend has behaved badly – clearly having this guy in mind when she asked about the open relationship, and then lying about it, and then blowing you off on Valentine’s Day so she could go on a date with him – but it’s important to think about the issue of the open relationship apart from that, too. She wants to date other people, and part of that is going to be… actually dating other people. She’s going to have to divide her time and special occasions. It sucks to find out about it via being blown off on Valentine’s Day, but it’s the truth.
If you really, really know you don’t want that, it’s okay. You don’t have to agree to stuff you don’t want because you love her. You don’t have to read The Ethical Slut and try to talk yourself out of these feelings. (If you’re actually interested in trying nonmonogamy for your own reasons and NOT just because you’re worried about losing your girlfriend or making her miserable if you don’t go along with the open relationship, then by all means, read The Ethical Slut! But if none of this appeals to you, that’s also perfectly okay, and you don’t have to try to change your feelings.) Saying “no” doesn’t necessarily mean breaking up with her or losing her or anything like that, it just means… saying “no”. And if she is only willing to stay with you provided you sign off on her dating this guy, after six years together, is that really a relationship that’s worth trying to hold together?
THIS x 1,000,000
Your first paragraph hits very close to home. My mom, almost from the get-go, constantly reminded me that my ex-bf isn’t the only person in the world that I could be with and that it’s totally okay to grow apart and move on to find someone else. I resented her for many years because I felt like she didn’t respect our relationship but LOL Nope, Mom just knew best because she’s had 2+ decades on me in terms of dating. So, yeah, I totally empathize with the reluctance to let the first serious relationship go because it’s all you’ve ever known.
Rachel, this is phenomenal advice and you are phenomenal for not plainly telling this person to break up with this ass hat no matter how much it hurts.
ON VALENTINE’S DAY, DAWG?
Anon I am so sorry that you are putting up with all of this, just reading your story broke me heart. I wish you the best of luck with everything, all I can recommend is that you talk to her about all of the concerns everyone is bringing up and if she doesn’t take it to heart it might be time to let this relationship go – it will really hurt right now but in the long run you’ll be happier.
I just can’t see how someone who presumably loves you can put you through this much pain…
Thank you very much for your advice, I know my e-mail was massive and I really appreciate that you took the time to answer. Thanks as well to all those who commented.
So she broke up with me on the 15th. On the phone (I mean, after everything??).
I guess I should have seen that coming. The funny thing is she does not get why our break up affects me, or why I think she lied to me. And she says nothing is going to change aside from the physical side of our relationship and she wants to live with me next year.
I don’t really understand anything right now, but I told her I needed some time without seeing her and so on. And I’m much better now :)
Thank you all again, guys :)
Guess she did not want an open relationship. She only wanted to have me there in case the guy turned her down or something
Really sorry to hear that. Hang in there.
I didn’t read through all the comments and already posted my advice, after the fact. I wanted you to break up with her ,but, shock of shocks, the cocksucker beat you to the punch. You can redeem yourself by adhering to healthy break up protocol (google it, pick one) and at the very least NOT living with her next year. Or EVER cuz she’s a rusty crusty venereal diseased asshole.
Vestal’s comment here is disgusting and biphobic. The ex, regardless of whether or not she treated the letter writer well, does not deserve to be called a ‘cocksucker’ and she does not ever, deserve to be called a ‘rusty crusty venereal diseased asshole’.
Oh yes, an appropriate insult for a woman who has wronged you is her level of impurity for sleeping with men. That sounds familiar but I can’t put my finger on it… Hmmm… Fundamentalist christianity? Bros? The 14th century?
Shame on everyone on this website who agrees with this level of crude misogyny and silently upvoted this comment.
Oh no. I’m so sorry to hear this. She’s an ass.
I’d definitely avoid getting into whatever like, unofficial-platonic-partnership-type friendship with an ex deal she’s proposing (and that’s coming from someone who’s happily in one of those friendships!) Mine worked because we’d both wanted out of the romantic side for a while, but your ex is being hugely disrespectful of your feelings and needs to learn some goddamn empathy. Good for you, asserting your need for space.
I’m sorry about what happened to you and I hope you recover soon from this hurt! Meanwhile, if she ever comes wanting you back in her life, in any capacity, read all these replies here again and make sure that ass knows how she has to act in order to have the privilege of having you in her life. Otherwise, good riddance.
I’m sorry. :( Do take care of yourself. *hug*
Whatever you do, Question Asker, do not let her move in with you next year! I mean, there are 500 reasons not to do this, but also somebody who doesn’t understand why you’re upset that she lied to you and broke your heart is probably not going to understand why you’re upset that she ate all of your cereal or never vacuums, either. Don’t let her have her cake and eat it too — you deserve better!
DO NOT LET THIS GIRL LIVE WITH YOU UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. She is an emotional vampire that has lied to you, used you and strung you along. She does not even deserve your friendship at this point. Please look out for yourself. I’m serious.
I’m really sorry for all she put you through. It is going to hurt now, but down the line, you’ll feel better and will find someone better for you. Don’t move in with her or keep touch. She’s toxic.
All the sympathy to you, question asker <3
Your ex has behaved abominably and you do not deserve any of her shitty actions.
I'm going to agree with the other commenters who have said do not let her move in with you, not under any circumstances. She's already demonstrated how little regard she has for your feelings, and if she is persistent in insisting that "nothing's going to change" and how she intends to live with you at some point in the future, all without understanding she has hurt you, acknowledging that she has lied, or showing any indication of remorse/intent to repair that emotional damage, that does not sound in the slightest bit respectful of your boundaries or your feelings.
Delete her number (even if you know it by heart, if you have to actually input the number to call/text, it's less likely you'll actually do it). Don't return her calls. You are absolutely right that you need time without her (I'd say, the rest of your life).
You are worthy of love without lies.
I’m not the question-asker, but this advice still helped me a lot. I’m in an open relationship with my fiancee, who is poly by nature, while I am not. (I came up with the term “mono-flexible” and it makes a lot of sense for how I feel my heart works.) I love her more than anything and really want to spend the rest of my life with her, but being poly is sometimes very hard for me. I was afraid reading this was going to make me second-guess the decisions I’ve made to be with her, but instead it made me feel really good about them, because the two of us are great at communicating with each other. We’re constantly talking about how we feel and how to make our relationship even better, and I feel so emotionally safe with her.
Whoever you are out there asking this question, I have a ton of empathy and compassion for you, and I also completely agree with this advice. If your girlfriend’s making decisions and then telling you about them in a way that makes you feel shut out, well, for one thing, I can only imagine how painful that must be, and I’m so sorry. But for another, is there any way you can tell her how this makes you feel and set clear boundaries about what works for you within an open relationship and what doesn’t? For my partner, an ideal situation would be one in which she has multiple partners in a non-hierarchical structure. My ideal relationship would be an emotionally monogamous, sexually open relationship. Our compromise is that our relationship is completely open, but we are each other’s primary partners, and we’re both fine with and very committed to that. Is there a compromise you can think of that would work for you, if she’s willing to do it? Like, she has to tell all potential dates about you and you about them ahead of time, but you’re okay with the relationship being a little more open than you might have originally liked?
Oops, didn’t see the comment right above mine. Sorry, question asker! <3
The Girlfriend didn’t sound like an asshole immediately. It’s understandable that young people would feel hemmed in in a relationship after a time. Thats’ how you SHOULD feel. but then the further I read it was just like….’YOU again’. Ew. I mean like why just break up and THEN date the other person like the muggles do. No ooooobviously the thing to do is an “open” relationship. Christ. When I thought the chick was a lesbian my heart went out to her cuz just cuz (especially when you’re young/not married) you wanna explore other things doesn’t mean you don’t love the person you’re with. I don’t agree with opening a relationship that one partner is reluctant to open up/wasn’t open to begin with, but I do empathize.And if the reluctant partner is foolhardy enough to stay with you..well it’s a free country. But…the way the situation seems to be playing out..I mean it just is looking so proto-friggin-typical. You should seriously break up with this chick —-OR, if you truly can’t do that..I want you to choke down the bile and MAKE yourself get a little side piece of your own. You don’t have to go “all the way” or whatever I’m just saying whatever you do DON’T sit there like a pathetic little lost and might I add “typical”, lesbian puppy, waiting for Godot. Girl ya need to represent!
Seriously, I’ve defended you before but this is going to far. You are being rude and disrespectful to someone who came here for support.
Hey advice-givers! I just wanted to leave out a feeling here: there were a few instances of that specific garbage-flavour of biphobia that is given to bisexuals who leave a woman for a man (‘that cocksucker’, us poor lesbians, etc.)
I’d just like to put it out there that a woman is not sullied for sleeping with men and a person who acts like an ass is just that, not a threat to innocent doe-eyed lesbians who had it coming by dating them.
It’s sad to be reading this on Autostraddle in 2015, people.
Thank you for saying this. I had the same sort of gross, awful feeling, reading through some of the comments, but couldn’t quite put words to it.
Yes! Thank you!
i wish i could thumbs up more than once.
It’s not biphobia to act like leaving a woman for a man is different than leaving a woman for a woman – especially under these circumstances, where the relationship with the woman is treated like it’s completely inconsequential (the lies about the open relationship, the ex doing all the hard stuff over the phone and not understanding why the breakup is a big deal to the letter-writer at all, because friendship) and the relationship with the man is put on a pedestal (the ex going out of her way to spend Valentine’s together with the person she wasn’t even really dating yet, etc). Obviously the same thing could have happened if the new partner was a woman, but when society stops treating man/woman relationships as the ideal and treating woman/woman relationships as utterly disposable, then it’ll be equal.
It IS really biphobic to treat bi women like they’re unclean for liking men at all, and it’s also really biphobic to not acknowledge that bi women can also be hurt in this way. But no, we are not in a post-heteronormative utopia, so maybe like… we could all do our best to make sure the way we talk about the unique horribleness of this situation doesn’t end up targeting women who like men but haven’t done anything horrible, and who might have even had this horrible thing done to them, but we can and should still acknowledge that this is a special kind of shit.
See, I agree 100% that a person who is an ass is just that — an ass. Which is why I just feel super weird about the suggestion that it’s biphobic to draw attention to the crap deal this girl is getting specifically because it is a man that she is being left for. (We talked about this a little bit in our senior editor chat this morning, too.) Her girlfriend can be open about dating him but not about dating her. That stings. Being somebody’s secret feels awful!! That’s such a shitty thing for a human to do and her doing it has nothing to do with her being bisexual and everything to do with her being an asshole.
I think what Alice said is really important — society still privileges male/female relationships over female/female relationships. Maybe it’s not like that where some of you live or where I live, but it’s like that in most of the world and it’s like that in this girl’s world, still, and that’s a big fucking deal and it really sucks. I think we can make room for that fact and the hard feelings around it (and the fact that that makes this situation hurt so much more for the question-asker). I don’t think people are slamming the sitch ’cause ew gross a girl who’s been with men, I think they’re slamming the unfair power dynamic at work when a girl can be open about a boyfriend and not a girlfriend. (or maybe i’m just giving everyone the benefit of the doubt)
I’m just super-uncomfortable with protecting criticism of this woman who is taking advantage of that societal discrepancy as biphobia because that is not bisexual behavior, that is asshole behavior.
(just my two cents as a human!!)
I would assume that the reference to the LW’s ex as a “cocksucker” in the same paragraph as a “rusty crusty venereal diseased asshole” and also the reference by the same commenter to the situation being so “typical” was what the person calling biphobia had an issue with. Because, like, that was what I had an issue with, not the rest that you just mentioned.
eek, you’re totally right, i didn’t see that comment!
I’m pointing out biphobia in three strains:assuming the letter-writer is a lesbian (she could be also bisexual), likening her circumstances to something that was bound to happen because bisexuals cannot be trusted, and treating the girlfriend as sexually dirty because of contact with men.
Just to clarify, I think the girlfriend is an asshole and my heart would be broken in a million pieces if someone left me like that after six years, and I would probably hate them for a long long time.
Well put, @rhymeriver. To expand on what I said earlier, think it *is* worth noting the things that Alice mentioned and that Riese defended. I will assume she only saw that angle and some of the more blatant comments got buried/unnoticed.
Holistically speaking (not accusing anyone of this in particular, because different people, just as a general note on rhetorical strategy), it’s a bait-and-switch argument to say “diseased cocksuckers, it’s just so typical” and then when called out on it revert to “but society still does privilege m/f relationships so it’s different”. They are two *totally* different arguments, and should be treated separately as they deserve.
(And separate from both of those, the LW’s girlfriend is still inconsiderate and selfish, and LW is completely justified in being upset, and totally deserves to be treated better.)
“it’s a bait-and-switch argument to say “diseased cocksuckers, it’s just so typical” and then when called out on it revert to “but society still does privilege m/f relationships so it’s different”. They are two *totally* different arguments, and should be treated separately as they deserve.”
This, definetly this!
Yeah, I’m always so fascinated by the twinning of patriarchal slut-shaming with biphobia coming from queer women (sometimes even other bisexuals).
There seems to be an obsession on both sides with fellatio as the ultimate man-servicing, tainting, degrading act (one example is the monologue by White Dreads in that infamous ‘What lesbians think about bisexuals’ video).
It’s so ironic that lesbian activism has a history at the forefront of feminism and yet we are ready to throw that out the window at the first occasion to take the cloak of ‘purer-than-thou-for-i-hath-not-known-man’
Aside from the one remark I had to dig to find) I really don’t see rampant biphobia anywhere else in the comments.
Open relationships can be great- with the right rules, and the right people. Obviously, the letter-writer is NOT cut out for this. At all. If this is a requirement for her relationship to survive, it won’t.
Also, the way the gf is going about this whole thing was shitty as hell. The work-closet means she can’t tell anyone her love of 6 years even exists, yet she is gonna parade around those people with this MAN? WTF is that? Totally shitty.
Hey, i’m sure that i’m no perfect person in a relationship, but i think that
if she was 100% wanting it to work later, then she might go to the extent of helping
find someone in the meantime for you! or at least helping push that along with you.
Just an opinion. I would think that women can be more selfish when it comes to that but it’s just what i’ve seen and not others opinions.
I dated a woman (she 34, me 32) for over two years. She is divorced and has two children. It was truly the most stimulating relationship I’ve ever had. When we first got together I never thought I wanted kids or marriage. After her asking me to spend some time and give the kids a chance I did, my relationship with the kids grew and was nothing short of absolutely amazing. Full of love and adoration. Unfortunately, about 11 months into the relationship I had to go across country for work. I ended up being gone for 7 months though I came back every two weeks and things remained incredibly strong between us for the first 5.5 months I was there. She came out and brought the kids and everything was as perfect as it could be given the distance.
Then the stress of what I was out there doing became significant, I learned I would not have a job (the one I’d been in for 14 years) when I got back due to the company closing, time away was getting extended and difficult and we started fighting over little things. I became a bit ornery with all that was going on in my life so little things that never bugged me before all of the sudden started to. I came back and it was rocky for awhile, again, mainly due to my stress level. This went on for about 3 months but then things smoothed out for the next two until we got into one last fight. The fight that caused the official break up. We were working on a real estate deal together and she didn’t have all the information she should have and I blew up over it.
That was the end of October last year. We went a few weeks without talking but then I reached out to apologize and try to make things right. From that point on through today I have never been nasty or even remotely argumentative. I started a new job, was in a happy place, reestablished old friendships and everything outside of us was and is going incredibly smoothly. People that run into me say I look like I’m at the most peace and happy I’ve ever been. I met with a therapist to see why I had become a person I’d never recognized in my life before during that stressful time, joined a volunteer organization and worked with kids in need, threw myself into my new career and tried to stay as busy as possible doing things that were beneficial mentally. I researched and analyzed everything I could find on arguments and fighting. Learned a ton about how to deal with conflict moving forward and vowed to make sure I changed my life.
So throughout November, December and January I pushed for us to reconcile. I dissected the entire relationship and what was going on with me like I was a member of CSI. My reconciliation attempts were made through writing handwritten letters explaining exactly what I knew I did wrong, various phone conversations, texts and emails. She was hot and cold as to what she would respond to and what she ignored. It was tough to gauge.
I finally went no contact at the end of January for 7 days. At the end of that period we finally got together again in the beginning of February. It lasted about two weeks. There were no arguments or anything bad that happened but one day she said she realized she gave us another chance before she was ready, that she was still concerned about things that took place before happening again. Now I should say that we had a conversation about work wherein I said something which I meant out of respect but she took as an insult and I could not talk her out of that belief no matter how I tried. She said that she couldn’t get the annoyance out of her head as to the way I treated her before which made it difficult for her to see around her own feelings of my meaning despite what I truly did mean.
So for the next 2.5 weeks I kept reaching out with explanations, suggestions, etc to try and get us back together. She gave the typical reasonings most people do for not saying she was too busy and it was unfair to me that she couldn’t devote time to us, that she needed to take time to herself, etc. She sent me this text right after Valentine’s day: “Here is my problem…I need time. I want to be single. I feel like that is completely unfair to you because you are an amazing man and you love me probably more than anyone else will and I am more that aware of this. Deep down I know that we are overly compatible, you will love my children as if they are your own and we can have an incredible life together. The problem is I’m not ready for that yet. I don’t want to be in something and years down the line ask myself if I took all of the time I needed for myself before committing again. It doesn’t make sense and it seems awfully unfair to you but after all that I’ve been through [speaking of the divorce] I need to be fair to me and this is what I need. I think I didn’t realize this until after you left. Some days there was actual physical pain from you not being there. On nights that I didn’t have the kids I would just lay in bed wishing you were home. So I started to realize that I had gone from one relationship to the next and my happiness felt dependent on whether or not you were there. This scared me and I didn’t like it.”
So I tried to explain how I saw that she was happy in so many aspects of her life, that I respected her independence, individuality and sense of self…not only respected but it was a big part of the reason I fell in love with her. Things were quiet for a few days. We would talk on the phone every day. She was having some issues with the ex and I would talk her through it. Then one afternoon we decided to get together. I ran around to a few appointments with her, we went to dinner and then we went back to her place where we cuddled on the couch and watched TV for a few hours before I went home for the night.
Of course then I started pointing out all that was good about us and how I thought we could work taking into account her hectic schedule and all. I admit I did go a bit overboard in terms of the number of texts I wrote to get these feelings across. So this past weekend I was going to help her out with some showings she had as she was going out of town on a girls trip and when I went to pick up the keys from her I asked her what she thought about my suggestions. She told me it wouldn’t work because there were things she felt she needed to do that she couldn’t if we were considered together. When I asked what she said “go on dates. If someone asks me out I want to be able to consider it without worrying about someone judging me for it or having to answer to anybody.” We spoke about it a bit. I didn’t get any closure. I asked her if she was currently dating or had anyone particular in mind and she said no. I should say that we have always been brutally honest with each other before no matter how difficult the news so I felt like I should trust her on this. I said something about her having told me before she doesn’t do casual dating and has always been unable to separate emotion from sex and she said maybe it was something she would just have to try. I remained calm (as I said I learned a lot about conflict during our time apart) and when I left we hugged and she told me she loved me.
I left her alone on her weekend away with the girls and took that time to think. I also took care of all her showings. When she got back I told her “Having had some time to digest our conversation and put it into context with everything that has gone on between us I realize that, unfortunately, I idealized you and the concept of “us.” The reality is that we were simply two people with our own unique sets of strengths, weaknesses and histories that tried to make them work together. They don’t so it doesn’t appear to be meant to be. Since dating other people is what it takes for you to either wholly let go of or end up appreciating what we had (ie grass is greener syndrome) I think you’re right. Dating other people is a great idea as maybe there truly is someone better out there for the both of us. I know I am not a back up plan and though there is a lot I still don’t understand about this, it’s oddly refreshing to have it all behind us.”
Since then she hasn’t spoken to me outside of my having sent a text simply saying I know I went overboard with the texts pushing for us to get back together the week prior and I’m sorry as it wasn’t respectful. She replied don’t worry about it. That’s been that.
I am feeling the same, sadness because the woman that I love ,doesn’t love me,now i don’t know what i have to do, i want forgot about her, and moving forward..i am tired her lies, she broke my heart 3 times ,the last i was enough i fell like shit but i survivo….
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