Want to have my cake and eat it too.
August 27, 2011 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Am I a bad person? It's recently been pointed out to me that I have HUGE abandonment and rejection issues. The guy that I'm seeing told me this - not my husband. Get ready for a bunch of conflicting information...

My husband and I have been together for 9 years. Seven of those years have been without sex. There's emotional attachment, affection, caring for each other, and all those little things that make a couple a couple - except physical intimacy. All in all we're 'happy'. I've just figured that this is what happens to all couples eventually.

So I screwed around. Several times. That worked for a while... it was kind of like a Don't Ask Don't Tell relationship.

Then one day I met a guy who's knocked me on my ass. He's just like me. Never met anyone before who I finally felt I 'fit in' with. Even with my friends, I don't 'fit in'. Things progress, get deep, get emotional, and boom we're in love. Dangerously in love. And of course the sex is amazing. Except he can't have me 100% because I'm married - and have no intention of leaving my husband because well dammit I love him too. I suppose that makes me childish and greedy. But this guy and I have a bond of some sort. A connection. On a level the same as that as my husband. Maybe deeper. I hate to admit that, but there it is.

We've come to the impasse (not agreement) that we can still be close friends, but the physical side has to stop because he needs to go find his own man in life that he can have 100%. But that bond between us gets in the way and we don't know what to do without hurting each other. We've actually told each other we wish we'd never met cause the pain of going our separate ways is too much. It physically hurts us both - puking, can't sleep, eat, think, focus on work, etc. He has to leave 'us' but it's killing him, he doesn't want me to leave my husband, I don't want to leave him and it's killing me, and I don't want to leave my husband either.

I can't just be friends with him. The thought of him with another man crushes me (quite hypocritical of me, no? No, not really - cause I'm not having a physical relationship with my husband). I can't fathom sitting in the same room as him and not want or be able to put my arm around him, or hold each other and just 'talk', or not be able to kiss him. And sure, have sex too. I'm human.

So the 'boyfriend' can read me like a book, and points out all the times I've been abandoned in the past and how I don't deal with rejection. And I can read him - pointed out that he won't just walk away and let the pain set in cause he feels like the bad guy from his last serious relationship.

And that bond is still there between us. Looms over our heads. It's not a sex "physical" bond... it's like finally meeting your soul-mate. Flesh, blood, heart and soul.

But I love my husband. Deeply.

I've told my husband all of this, and he accepts it. Not sure why he's not kicking me out of the house.

At this point I don't feel like I deserve either of them, and I wish I could run - but that doesn't fix anything either. I feel like a victim, yet I'm the perpetrator. I honestly feel dead inside one moment, afraid and alone the next, and madly in love right after that. Feel guilty a lot too - to both my husband AND boyfriend. Basically my head is all over the map. I don't want to hurt anybody and I don't want to feel any pain myself.

What do I do???? How do I turn off the pain and do what's right?? What's the right thing to do???
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You enjoy drama. What to do? Take the focus off yourself, find a more meaningful path in life.
posted by kmennie at 1:27 PM on August 27, 2011 [29 favorites]

Somehow, anon, I get the feeling that you know exactly what you need to do.

There is a voice in your ear telling you pretty damn loudly what you need to do...if you weren't such a clever, stubborn dude, who's kind of thriving on this melodrama, you'd have listened to it by now.

I am rejecting your original question "What do I do????" on its face and suggesting your real question is "How do I get there?"

The answer, is, as always, cut the through the crap (say it with me... "in therapy") and address the real problem of not yet being a grown-up.

It's OK. It's hard. But you can do this.
posted by pantarei70 at 1:31 PM on August 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

I've just figured that this is what happens to all couples eventually.

Nope. It's not.
posted by ook at 1:32 PM on August 27, 2011 [35 favorites]

Sorry, I'm not getting where your abandonment or rejection issues play in here?
posted by thinkpiece at 1:38 PM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I know someone in this exact spot right now. I'm gonna tell you what I told them:

Stop being dramatic. Stop playing games with both these people and do what's right. Whether you acknowledge it or not, you are playing games with both these guys and they deserve better.

You need to cut your husband loose so he can find someone who loves him and is faithful. You need to let the boyfriend go, so he can do the same. And you need to get yourself in therapy stat. Figure out why you like playing these games and living in drama.

It's not healthy for you and its not healthy for them either. Be the bigger person and let them go from the misery you are creating for all of you.
posted by Sweetmag at 1:39 PM on August 27, 2011 [17 favorites]

A voice of dissent here: maybe you do like drama, but it also seems like you may be a prime candidate for an open relationship. If hubby is (at the moment) cool with you getting your jollies elsewhere, and the other dude is interested enough to have that be okay with him, I say give it a shot. Theres nothing to say you can't have your cake and eat it too.

That said, given your specific situation, maybe this will also give you a different perspective on your relationship with your husband, be it something that stokes your passion again or helps you realize that maybe you shouldn't be married to this wonderful person that you love dearly.

good luck!
posted by softlord at 1:43 PM on August 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

If you & others were poly this could work out. But it sounds like you really only want one person in your life (as do they), and that means leaving the other one. There's just no easy choice. There's no way of knowing what will grant you love and security forever because there is just no way of knowing the future. Whatever you choose will be difficult. (But of course that doesn't mean you shouldn't choose anything - the longer it goes on the more it will hurt) So think about it deeply, make a clean break in one relationship and go face the future with a light load.
posted by everyday_naturalist at 1:45 PM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I suggest talking this out with your husband. Then your boyfriend. Then your husband again. Then maybe your husband and your boyfriend at the same time. Rinse, repeat, until you all get to a place where you're comfortable.

If your boyfriend really can't share, though, he needs to let you go, whether he wants to or not. If that's what you two have to do to save your marriage, then you and your boyfriend need to deal with the misery for a larger cause. Breaking up hurts. It hurts physically sometimes. There's no way around that.

I DO NOT recommend unilaterally breaking up with your husband so he can find someone who "deserves him". That is patronizing bullshit. Your husband has the right to be consulted about his own love life.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:48 PM on August 27, 2011 [14 favorites]

Yep. Tell your husband what you have been doing and why and see the response. No sex after two years seems absurd. He may need help. You too.
posted by Postroad at 1:57 PM on August 27, 2011

Postroad its SEVEN out of NINE years without sex according to the OP
posted by zia at 2:08 PM on August 27, 2011

I was in a very similar situation for many years. Here's what I recommend: therapy. I'm much happier and healthier now, even though I didn't end up with either guy.

If you want more info, MeFi Mail me.
posted by roger ackroyd at 2:11 PM on August 27, 2011

Except he can't have me 100% because I'm married - and have no intention of leaving my husband because well dammit I love him too. I suppose that makes me childish and greedy. But this guy and I have a bond of some sort. A connection. On a level the same as that as my husband. Maybe deeper. I hate to admit that, but there it is.

Love isn't quantifiable like that. It's possible to love both people deeply in different ways without worrying about loving one of them "more" deeply. The fact that your husband seems to accept this is a good thing, something which you should certainly not punish him for by further complicating things.

No one will ever "have" you 100%. Your husband doesn't, and if you divorced and married this new guy, the new guy wouldn't either. It just doesn't work like that. Trying to conform your emotional expectations to economical principles leaves everyone wanting. If new guy isn't happy with the situation as-is, let him go -- that's his issue to sort out. Turning it back on you as if it is rooted in YOUR issues is not a very gentlemanly approach.
posted by hermitosis at 2:25 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are few things that I consider wrong in this world, and 'selfishness' has never really registered on my radar, either. However-- #1 sign you're doing something Very Wrong is wanting to avoid pain and keep pleasure from every possible source. If you think about it, that's the attitude that most commonly leads to disaster and self-destruction. That's a sign you're not growing past the mentality of a child, who hasn't yet learned to deal with personal loss, or only deals with it by rejecting it as impossible. It's not a 'being rejected' issue at all; you're the one rejecting. It's more fundamental: at the heart of one's inner child, we all refuse to believe we can 'have it all', and the day never ends, the bills never come due, and we will live forever. It won't really hurt if we hit somebody if it doesn't hurt us. That's the child's logic. But that's the reason we have a conscience as a counterbalancing influence.

Concurrent with the avoidance of pain is the child's possessiveness. You don't 'need' the old favorite, as he's basically been 'replaced': but you won't share, won't give up, won't let go. Sure, it's ok to have a sexless yet open marriage if all parties agree, but that's not the situation-- it seems like your husband just accepted you and loves you, but isn't a partner in your love-life. His passivity validates you, so you seem to have accepted it without much of a problem or even wondering what's going on in his head, whereas the boundary drawn by your boyfriend is not something you have accepted. Think about that. He's told you what he wants, and that's to pull back and be just friends. If you can't do that, there is no decent thing to do other than to let go entirely. That's just common sense. If you continue to value your own comfort above your boyfriend's stated desires, then you're admitting that you don't really love him and only love how he makes you feel, which is not the same.

Therapy is not the same thing as ethics, and ethics (and not simply your feelings) is something you need to consider when you're dealing with people you care about. That's how you try to make sure your pleasure doesn't translate into others' pain-- that's what ethics is for. The very simple, basic gist of ethics is the Golden Rule-- wondering if something you're doing would be something you wouldn't want done to you, then not doing it. Asking 'does this hurt' and then stopping-- that's the first moment when a child's heart breaks, and they accept pain in themselves as the price for avoiding the pain of others. It's a beautiful moment-- when a child becomes truly innocent and human. It's not 'grown up'-- it's just that accepting pain and sharing it, that's what truly bonds us. It's not sex, that's for sure.

Anyway, so unfortunately you're not as close to your boyfriend as you think if you can't or won't share his pain and don't have the overwhelming instinct to prevent it. Oh, you love him, but your love hasn't blossomed into reality yet; it's cocooned inside you, where you can protect it from the dangers of others' needs, of the outside world. Yes, it hurts, but that's what life is, and that's what love is; avoiding it long enough mangles your love and makes it into a mockery of itself. People aren't pets, so you can never 'keep' them; loving someone and keeping them by your side have pretty much nothing to do with each other-- ask any parent. Loving teaches us-- so listen to its voice. Loving teaches us to live with pain, reconciles us to loss, to caring about others more than ourselves, to doing the difficult thing, to doing the right thing. If not with love, then how? If not now, then when?
posted by reenka at 3:22 PM on August 27, 2011 [29 favorites]

No. Stop doing this.

Break it off with the other guy and return to the husband or get a divorce. There is no "remaining friends" option--you are kidding yourself. You are destroying yourself.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:23 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't understand the problem here.

Marry your bf with whom you enjoy having sex and stay friends with your husband, since a sexless marriage is kinda just best friends living together, anyway.

Boom! Fixed that for ya!
posted by jbenben at 3:26 PM on August 27, 2011 [10 favorites]

I honestly don't understand. If your husband already knows and accepts that you have a boyfriend, what's stopping you from continuing as you are or going forward as a poly relationship?
posted by Space Kitty at 3:30 PM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Poly relationship.
posted by mleigh at 4:19 PM on August 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

If your husband already knows and accepts that you have a boyfriend, what's stopping you from continuing as you are or going forward as a poly relationship?

Maybe because he doesn't really know and that the truth was stretched for this part of the story.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:29 PM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Being polyamorous is not the same thing as lacking the strength of character to commit to a single partner.
posted by DWRoelands at 4:42 PM on August 27, 2011 [9 favorites]

The book Opening Up has some practical things to discuss and I recommend it highly. I also recommend a polyamory friendly marriage counselor if you decide that's the way to go.

I genuinely feel for you, and I don't think you're a bad person. Maybe you could have approached this in a better way, and you should seriously look at your unwillingness to communicate with your partner, but when it comes to this situation that ship has sailed. You have to do your best to fix this and that doesn't mean self-flagellating or viewing yourself as powerless, weak, a bad person who can't change, or a victim. You're responsible, in the sense that you have the responsibility to do your best, honor your commitments, and be a good person in a rough situation.

Good luck, and please update after a few months if you get the chance.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:13 PM on August 27, 2011

It's actually not uncommon to wind up in a poly relationship as a result of a situation like this. Research polyamory on the Net. It comes in all kinds of flavors. If all of you can come to a place where you are happy (maybe all living together, maybe splitting your time), this can work. Most importantly--talk to your partners!!!!
(FWIW I am a poly queer woman with a wife and a much loved girlfriend.)
posted by mkuhnell at 5:18 PM on August 27, 2011

Your husband accepts it, as in, you can keep doing it? Or accepts that you've done it, but expects that now you've confessed and it's over?

I've known people in open marriages, but only in so far as that extends to the sexual part. Falling in love and considering someone else a "soul mate" is a completely different thing. You should have an uncomfortable talk with your husband about what is and is not ok with him from now on, if anything. You've said you don't know what to do, but if you don't intend to do anything, again, that's a different thing.

What you can't do is have your husband agreeing to something he's not honestly cool with, or minimize to him what it really is to spare his feelings. If you're doing that. (Which is kind of a natural reaction, at first.)
posted by ctmf at 6:25 PM on August 27, 2011

If you'd like to change and work through those abandonment issues, therapy is the best way to do that sooner rather than later. In my experience you will be a lot happier, and your relationships healthier, when you've worked through that stuff.
posted by ldthomps at 7:01 PM on August 27, 2011

ctmf---There are some people out there who are fine with their partners loving (and even being "soul mates" with, if such a thing exists) other people.
posted by mkuhnell at 7:32 PM on August 27, 2011

I'd like to pick up on a couple of things touched on above and expand my answer a little bit - which by the way, I believe is an elegant solution here.

The problem is you haven't been physically intimate with your husband for 7 years? That's unacceptable. I'm glad your husband didn't kick you out, although really, he's pretty culpable here, isn't he.

I don't know why you stayed married under those circumstances, but quite frankly, it isn't natural. Humans need touch, and passion, and sex. It's how we are made.

I agree with all answers that support you and your husband pursuing your individual BLISS.

I do not not not agree with you asking your boyfriend to accept that you stay married to your husband because he deserves more than that considering what you share together.

You are not a bad person unless you let this continue without honoring the person you share full intimacy with.

That is all.
posted by jbenben at 8:24 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

"But I love my husband. Deeply."

If you believe that you can at once love your husband and cheat on him, why are you hiding this from him? If you were to tell him what you are doing, would it feel to him like you love him?
posted by 4ster at 8:39 PM on August 27, 2011

I'm going to second the idea that what you and your husband have isn't really marriage; it's friendship. If opening up your relationship would be easier, all well and good. But if not, I'm baffled as to why you're staying with your husband.
posted by tau_ceti at 9:01 PM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I was 16, one of my friends came to my mother for advice about her boyfriend, who was a smart, nice, funny, musically talented, good-looking guy who seemed ideal on all counts... except that my friend didn't want to kiss him.

"Sweetheart, do you know what we call a boyfriend you don't want to kiss?" my mom asked.

My friend shook her head.

"We call that a friend."

Some people have marriages without sex that are satisfying to both partners. In your case, life without sex doesn't seem to be satisfying. That's fine (that's a lot more common than not, in my experience), but if that's the case then you and your husband need to do the uncomfortable thing and address the fact that your marriage has been sexless for 7 years, that this is not a way you can see living the rest of your life, and that something has to change.
posted by Lexica at 9:17 PM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

mkuhnell - oh, no doubt. I was trying to say that there was a (big) difference in the two things, not that one was normal and the other not. I worded that badly. I just wanted to emphasize making sure the husband (and the boyfriend for that matter) know the whole story.
posted by ctmf at 9:23 PM on August 27, 2011

Try and have an amicable divorce so that you can stay friends with hubby since you can't seem to let go of any relationships no matter how tragic. Then see where things go with the boyfriend... slowly.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:07 PM on August 27, 2011

Here's the sentence that popped out at me (late to the party, I know):

I've told my husband all of this, and he accepts it. Not sure why he's not kicking me out of the house.

I'm guessing "the house" is your husband's? I'm also guessing that there's a big missing piece in this story, and that's the economic relationship between you and your husband?

I know a lot of male/male couples who aren't having sex with each other but "can't leave" each other, and when you break it down, it comes down to a lifestyle they've been able to maintain together, but can't apart.

Is the boyfriend in a lower economic bracket? Are you significantly younger than your husband? It's just sounding very familiar to a number of stories I've been told by guys I've hooked up with through the years, and it just breaks down to, "I'm too comfortable with the house and the show dogs and the vacation condo in Maine," rather than, "I'm torn between this guy I don't sleep with and you, who I've found this deep connection."

I'm making a ton of assumptions here, but I just wonder how much of the story is really being left out.
posted by xingcat at 8:59 AM on August 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

You don't always get to have everything. Is husband accepting of you having a love affair with someone else? Is boyfriend okay with sharing you with husband? If everybody agrees, then you might be able to have an open marriage. Probably not. So, pick husband or boyfriend. You may have abandonment / rejection issues, but you are not being abandoned or rejected. Think about what the "right thing to do" is. Then get moving. A therapist may be a help.
posted by theora55 at 9:55 AM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get your own apartment for a while and don't see either of them. Time alone should clarify which one you want to be with. Alternately, I find that solo road trips are great for sorting out problems like this. Something about being by yourself in a strange place, with no one to talk to but yourself, can make things sort themselves out.
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:22 PM on August 28, 2011

I'm a little confused.

I'm under the impression that these are same-sex relationships:

We've come to the impasse (not agreement) that we can still be close friends, but the physical side has to stop because he needs to go find his own man in life that he can have 100%.

If so, are you legally married? This changes the analysis. I don't think there's been gay marriage anywhere for 7 years, although Vermont's civil unions may have be an exception.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:23 PM on August 28, 2011

I think the first question is, what happened in the relationship that no physical intimacy has been occurring? That's the first thing that needs to be elucidated, and then we can figure out the rest.

Now, I'm not sure which is true or not, that you are *being* abandoned, or that you are the one doing the abandoning: you've got this great thing with the boyfriend, but you won't leave the husband to allow the thing with the boyfriend to mature and grow on its own. It could be that you are telling him "it has to be my way or nothing". (In not so many words.)
posted by gjc at 8:22 PM on August 28, 2011

If so, are you legally married? This changes the analysis. I don't think there's been gay marriage anywhere for 7 years, although Vermont's civil unions may have be an exception.

It just says they've been together for nine, seven without sex. Doesn't say how long they've been married.

Same sex marriage has been legal in the Netherlands since 2001, Canada since 2005 I think, etc.
posted by Pax at 10:29 AM on August 29, 2011

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