I am having some complex issues with my long term relationship, and I was hoping you might give me your opinion or perhaps your advice. Sorry in advance for the length.
First, I want to say I love my partner James. I’ve never loved anyone more in my life. He was the first person I came out to, and he told me on the spot that he “wasn’t sure if what [he felt] was love just yet, but there is definitely strong attraction [towards me].” We promised that if we were ever single at the same time that we would date. I went through several traumatic relationships that left me with more baggage than I could imagine. But he was always there for me, he helped me feel like me again. After a particularly nasty break up he put my shattered pieces back together, and in that moment I felt like I finally wanted to try with him.
It’s necessary to mention that when James and I started dating it was as a closed polycule of three; James, myself, and my existing partner Rile. Things went well for a while, the three of us even started living together when Rile’s home was undergoing renovations. Everything was great until Five months into dating, when James woke me up to break up with me. Much, much later he told me that he was frustrated by being in a closed relationship. Two depressing months later we got back together under two stipulations, being an open relationship, and having his privacy. We agreed, being poly it was easier to understand certain needs. For me I just wanted my two boyfriends and nothing else.
Rile started spending a lot of time away from home after we all moved back in together. He thought I started falling more in love with James than him. Much complication aside Rile and I parted ways, and I felt myself shifting more towards closed monogamy. All I wanted was James, and for him not to slip away from me. I started to think that him finding someone else would drive a wedge between us, and I would end up feeling just like Rile had towards me. I spoke with James about it, he promised me time to figure things out, but being closed was only temporary as it was one of the conditions of us getting back together. It was appreciated but not the reaction I hoped for or needed in that moment.
He seemed genuine about giving me time to figure out my sexuality, that is until I heard a notification and wanted to bring him his phone. That’s when I saw all of the dating app notifications. You name it, he had it. I just fell to the ground and stifled a pained moan. He had been cheating on me. He promised me that he never did anything in person, but that he did cheat by talking to others and leading them on sexually. He told me that leading people on gave him a sick kick, but it wasn’t entirely sexually motivated. He even admitted that doing so behind my back gave him a thrill. (This was 10 months after getting back together Nov 4th.)
He told me that if I wanted to break up it was entirely understandable. He also offered me a proposition; though it would be hard for him, he would try to be monogamous for me. That I would be able to look through his phone anytime I wanted to, that I was encouraged to for us. He showed me proof that he had deleted every dating app and his entire camera roll. This was after promising to show me every message he sent another person. Somewhere along the way he decided to change that and delete everything before showing me the phone. Probably to save me from my own anger, and increase the likelihood of me staying with him.
All of this sounds terrible and makes him seem like an awful manipulative person, but I do have genuine romantic feelings for him. Through our years together in and out of relationship, we have shared so very much, and I would be honored to call him my husband one day. For a while after that we were fine, and monogamy was followed through on as promised. I still wanted to check his phone, but I never found the courage to overpower the social awkwardness to ask.
When I did finally check up on him using his Facebook and Twitter accounts. I saw countless RP’ing convos, and more "lead on" conversations as he claimed them later. In particular there was where he told an old friend “I’m stuck in a relationship I can’t get out of.” When I confronted him he said that was mad that he made that promise to me initially [Nov 4], but had grown to support the decision since then [Dec 1], and that this whole thing was a slip up. Again he promised to let me see each convo, and instead blocked and deleted them, before I could see everything. We agreed that he could still RP as long as he told me or asked me.
I checked his open phone another night and found many more RP sessions he didn’t tell me about. In particular I found a conversation where he texted/rp’d? about cuckolding me by having sex with someone else in front of me. This seemed to be (out of character speak) too, he and Vlad constantly specified about talking when I wasn’t around which made it all worse. He claimed that it was just RP, not real, and not sexual, even though he sent messages about riding his dildo to the convos with Vlad. He promised me that he RP’ing with Vlad in particular was off limits, which I know now didn’t stand. I keep seeing messages from Vlad on his phone.
There was even a time where I made an RP account to test him, he took the bait and started RP’ing me while laying in bed next to me pretending to sleep. When I confronted him and told him it was me, he immediately refused to RP with me, and still refuses today.
Lastly, there is the issue of his sex drive. The first and only time we have had sex, aside from two botched attempts, was our very first date years ago. James has been going through a dry spell as he calls it, where he wants desperately to bleed me dry every day, but now is embarrassed and unmotivated due to his lack of a sex drive not aligning with his desires. I have always tried to be understanding of this issue when poaching the idea of sex. But the way he has shot me down countless times now makes me feel disgusting and unwanted. My will to try having sex with him is completely broken, to the degree that I openly fear discussing any of my own sexual desires with him. On top of that is that I am a switch, he is a firm bottom. The few times I slip into a submissive mindscape I want or need him to take on the role of a Master. Recently, I slipped and called him Master, to which he promptly refused to ever accept the title. Hearing him say that broke something very deep inside me, and I haven’t been able to think of him the same since. I love him with every part of me, beyond anything or anyone I have ever known.. and yet, I don’t trust him.
I can’t stop invading his privacy, I am constantly checking his phone, Facebook and twitter. It constantly seems like he’s covering up his mistakes as soon as I find them. I feel sexually unwanted, due to his “dry spell”, and constant RP sessions with everyone other than me.
I feel disregarded and hurt for my occasional need for him to take on a “Master’s” role. Some nights I go to bed distracted by how much I love him, or from us just having a good day. But there have been just as many times I have stayed up unable to sleep next to him.
I don’t want to leave, I don’t want a break, I don’t want to be broken up with.
I want him all to myself.
I want to stop feeling like the bad guy.
I want to stop feeling ashamed of what I want out of this relationship.
I want to be able to trust him again.
I want to be able to call him Master when I need to.
I don’t know how to tell him any of this. I don’t know where to start at this point. I constantly fear that I’ll reach his limit of how willing he is to work anything out, and that he’ll break up with me again. I fear that he will see the real depth of how much he has hurt me, and how much he continues to hurt me, and that he will panic. I’m so scared that one day he’ll wake up and think how much better I would be without him. I’m utterly terrified.
Please let me know what you think, and how you think I could move forward.
Thanks for listening,
* * *
Your relationship with James is severely broken, as you know. This is a case in point in which, when two people are not sexually compatible, it can easily spell doom for that relationship. This just happened to someone very dear to me who is now getting a divorce after a long, monogamous marriage because the other person wanted to suddenly go poly and began ignoring her spouse in favor of the new third party. Poly relationships can work. Open relationships can work. But ONLY if everyone is on the same page and there is no jealousy and mistrust. Reading your letter, there is mistrust all over the place; there is lying; there is cheating; there is bad communication; and there is sexual frustration because you are, frankly, incompatible in the bedroom.
The biggest mistake that people in an incompatible relationship try to do is make the other person change or (incorrectly used) "grow as a person," which just means, "change so that they do what I want." Look, Lindell, you have four choices here:
Of these choices, the only one that has a chance of helping you and James to find a satisfactory sex life is the fourth one. Now, is sex everything in a loving partnership? No, it is just one facet, though a big one. Sometimes sex is not a factor at all, but that is usually not the case with young, healthy couples such as yourself. The reason you are fighting this inevitable conclusion is that you want to keep James in your life because other than this one issue, you love him. I can certainly understand that you don't want your partnership to change. For the most part, it's comfortable and familiar and cozy.
I wish to stress that you are not the "bad guy" and you shouldn't feel "ashamed" for what you want. There is nothing wrong with the things you want; it's just that the things you want do not coincide with what your partner wants.
Your letter likely helped you work out some of the thought processes and emotions running through your head. Hopefully, my reply will help you wrap that process up and finally come to a conclusion as to what you should do.
Hope that I've helped you figure it out.
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