It's too late to try communication
June 16, 2013 4:28 PM   Subscribe

I didn't communicate with my SO before hand, and now I'm self destructing. What are my options?

I struggle with depression and self-loathing. Specifically, I wish I had lived a more adventurous life. I wish I was more open and comfortable with my sexuality and body. I feel abnormal for what I've missed out on. Any time these thoughts of regret bubble up, I enter a spiral of self hatred and depression that I can't shake.

I've been in a relationship for two and a half years and my partner doesn't understand what it's like to hate yourself to the core. We've tried talking about it but she just doesn't understand. We've also spent a year talking about ways to fix this (opening up the relationship, etc). So far, it's only led to her being able to experience things (kissing other people, etc). I'd be fine with exploring together, but so far the opportunities have just been things for her to do. I've already felt alienated from my own sense of sexuality, but now I'm starting to feel alienated from it even within the context of my relationship.

This weekend she went to a four day music concert. She's going with some of the people she's been sexually exploring with and they're all staying in the same tent together. I should have talked with her more before hand, but I didn't because she doesn't understand my depression and it can lead us into fights. Plus it's my problem to deal with, she shouldn't have to change her life to adapt to my issues.

The only thing I said was an offhand mention that I wasn't comfortable with her kissing her friends. She seemed to understand, but there's going to be a lot of drinking and her friends are agressive and my gf follows peer pressure pretty easily. I imagine there will be situations where it will be less awkward to just participate than it would be to say no.

In my mind, there are several red lines that if she crossed, I would not be able to continue with a relationship (kissing other people, doing hard drugs, watching other people have sex, sleeping/cuddling with other people). We did not talk about these before hand. It's not that I'm against her doing these things, I would just feel very hurt if she did them without me. I've missed out on so much in life, and now rather than being able to experience this stuff together as a couple, she gets to do it by herself, and I'm still left behind.

But it's too late for me to do anything about this. I've spent the weekend feeling sick to my stomach and taking benadryl so I can sleep through as much of the weekend as I can.

Do people have tips for how I can effectively communicate with her when she gets back? To be honest, I hate myself so much right now, that a large part of me wants to break up and run as far away as I can to hide how ashamed I am with myself and how pathetic of a human being I am for being the type of person who misses out these types of life experiences. I've never fit in, and now I don't even fit in my own relationship.

If one of these red lines was crossed, is it my obligation to suck it up because I didn't communicate them before hand? Even if she didn't do anything, am I so damaged that I shouldn't be in a relationship?

I know it's cliche, but other than this one issue, we have a perfect relationship. We've discussed marriage and most days are still like a dream even two and a half years later. This is just one very specific issue I have that cuts me to the core. If only I could fix this, life would be nothing but joy.

Also, I'm in the process of setting up an appointment with a therapist.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's very unclear from this question what boundaries you've previously set. It almost sounds like you're saying you agreed that kissing other people was cool, and now you've decided that it actually isn't but not told her this.

It's ok to be upset if your GF does this, but it wouldn't be a case of her breaking a promise to you.

I'd advise you not to make any decisions about your relationship until you've spoken to that therapist, which you really ought to do asap.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:51 PM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

If one of these red lines was crossed, is it my obligation to suck it up because I didn't communicate them before hand? Even if she didn't do anything, am I so damaged that I shouldn't be in a relationship?

Obeying your feelings is the surest way to loving yourself. You don't owe anyone a relationship. If something is intolerable, don't tolerate it.

It sounds like all of your problems stem from self-loathing. First build yourself up. What are you interests? Forget the Benadryl, and go to the gym.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:54 PM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am sorry you are going through all this. It is obvious you are in a really tough place. My guess from reading this is that you are spiraling pretty hard right now and it's very, very difficult for you to see clearly. You are right to set up the appointment with the therapist. Beyond that, I'm just going to appeal to you not to make any major decisions about your life or your relationship until you are in a better place. I don't want to undermine your specific question, but I promise that whatever happens over this weekend with your girlfriend will look very different when this dark period passes. Whatever you need to do to get through the next few days until you have the therapist's appointment, do: take a walk, go to yoga, meditate, watch 3 full seasons of Arrested Development, whatever it takes. Treat yourself like you're sick, because you are. Stop thinking about the future. Take care of yourself and move forward, one small step at a time.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 4:57 PM on June 16, 2013 [21 favorites]

Even if she didn't do anything, am I so damaged that I shouldn't be in a relationship?

Just as a reality check for you, you're entering your self-loathing spiral for being upset about something that ALMOST EVERYONE would be really, really upset about. If I were in a serious relationship with someone and considered him my partner, the idea of him going to sleep at a music festival in a tent with a bunch of women with whom there was a good chance he would "sexually explore," have sex, kiss or watch having sex, would drive me bananas. I would be a complete wreck all weekend. Some people are poly and don't care but most people aren't poly. And if you agree to poly stuff in principle or think you should in principle, but it turns out that it drives you bananas, that's fine and it's okay for you to take it out of your relationship. It doesn't make you "so damaged you shouldn't be in a relationship."

If one of these red lines was crossed, is it my obligation to suck it up because I didn't communicate them before hand?

Of course not, you can break up anytime you want, for any reason. Like, when it comes to things you really didn't communicate, don't be passive aggressive and make it about her being the bad guy who should have read your mind. But you can still break up for those things anyway and that's fine. But you DID make it clear to her you weren't comfortable with her kissing other people, and if she did that, then that's not something you did not communicate.
posted by cairdeas at 5:31 PM on June 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

I am confused. You say you talked about opening up the relationship, which led to her being able to make out with other people. Then you say you aren't confortable with this. So either A) you haven't made your own boundaries clear to her, or B) you agreed to something you didn't want. Both are problematic.

But I am more concerned with your image of what being young and adventurous is. I am 33. All of the things you say you are "missing out on" and don't fit in because of, I have never done. And I've led a pretty full and amazing life without sleeping around a whole lot and making out with multiple people at once. There is nothing wrong with not doing these things. And if you DO want to do them, maybe you should do so outside of the context of a relationship.

I agree with everyone who says you should see a therapist. You need to work on your self-image before trying to love someone else.
posted by Brittanie at 5:34 PM on June 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
About our boundaries: We have previously agreed that it's ok for us fool around as long as the other person was present. Nothing could be done without the other person there. So far, only my gf has had the opportunity. But she pushes it, especially when she's drunk. She snuck off to another room to start making out with her friend once when she was very drunk. When she's out by herself she has also asked me several times if its ok for her to make out with her friend, and I have to keep reminding her that I'm only ok with it if we're together. This friend is very free and open. She probably would not understand why we have these boundaries, and would have no second thoughts about making out with my gf, cuddling with her at night, or inviting her to participate in any number of other activities. I'm concerned with the atmosphere and the alcohol/drugs that these boundaries will be violated. I'd *maybe* be ok with her bending the rules if this arrangement had led to me being able to explore. But in the year we've had it, she's the only one who has benefited, and it feels one-sided and hurts.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:43 PM on June 16, 2013

Is this an option? "Baby, I am glad you're back. I was a wreck while you were gone because I don't think I'm comfortable with you kissing other people, etc. anymore. Can we talk about that being your last hurrah, at least for awhile?"

... and do you think you need to know the details of her weekend? I know wondering is torturing you. But is it going to torture you more if you know everything that happened, or can you just agree on some new terms moving forward? This could be just one lost weekend that was within the bounds of your relationship as she understood them at the time.
posted by juliplease at 5:45 PM on June 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pease, whatever happens, think about some therapy. Hating yourself is not necessary, and you don't have to live that way.

(This will sound cliche but I have to say it:)
It's hard to love anyone properly until you learn to love yourself.
posted by fireandthud at 6:57 PM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, I can relate to the spiral of self-loathing and depression. I'm so sorry -- I know just what this is like.

I want to make a few points:

- This is not the end of the world. Even if it's the end of the relationship. Even if you never, ever have sex/explore/make out with multiple people. You are going to be ok. This is just something your depression and self-loathing have latched onto. You will be all right if you never do these things, if your girlfriend did them, if she lied to you, if you break up. You will be all right if you get help for your depression. Period.

- I've done my share of exploring in this way. It's fun. It's interesting. It can boost your ego. If you want to do it, you probably should give it a shot. But doing it in the context of a relationship where you are kind of competing to see who gets to do more, and where your girlfriend keeps pushing your boundaries by calling you when she's drunk and asking you to let her do things you didn't agree to... that really sucks. And it sucks because you're not in a good situation, not because there's anything wrong with you. So if you want to explore, do so! but it doesn't have to be this weird and fraught. It can just be... exploration.

- Self-loathing is so very hard to deal with. It's great that you recognize this as self-loathing and are taking steps to do something about it. That's really the problem, not the other specifics of this.

- Your girlfriend is kind of a jerk. She shouldn't be pressuring you to do things you don't want, or to let her do things you didn't agree to. I mean, I know you love her, but it's not nice to call you while drunk and ask you to let her do things or to hang out with friends who make things difficult for you. That is on her, NOT on you.
posted by 3491again at 7:56 PM on June 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

You claim you feel confused and regretful in regard to missing opportunities to explore your sexuality, and this precedes your spiral into self-loathing and depression. I may be completely misinterpreting your OP...or perhaps reading too much between the lines, but why are you doing this to yourself? You appear to be engaging in self-flagellation simply because you're not genuinely...authentically...comfortable with yourself and your partner becoming sexually involved with others whilst within the confines of a relationship.

Why do you consider yourself inferior or abnormal for not being capable of exploring your sexuality in this manner?

Different individuals have different sexual boundaries - and a desire to explore your sexuality shouldn't equate to having to completely demolish your innate boundaries.
posted by Nibiru at 8:56 PM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have previously agreed that it's ok for us fool around as long as the other person was present. Nothing could be done without the other person there.

Just my two cents, but as someone in an open relationship who has several friends in open/non-monogamous/casual relationships, this is a weird rule. It's basically saying you're ok with it in a set of circumstances that the vast majority of people who would be cool with fooling around with someone would get weirded out by. Is this a cuckolding fetish type thing? or did you just want to make sure you could "keep an eye on what they were doing" kind of thing. Because the first is cool, but the second is weird and really what this reads as.

I'd *maybe* be ok with her bending the rules if this arrangement had led to me being able to explore. But in the year we've had it, she's the only one who has benefited, and it feels one-sided and hurts.

Honestly, i think the rules of this arrangement also set you up to fail here. You probably would and could have benefitted from it if the other person didn't have to be present. Who put that on the table? because it seems like she's the one who wants to bend that rule, but you're unhappy with it since you haven't gotten to fool around at all.

I'd also like to add that this type of situation seems to play out very differently when as a straight/bi man your partner wants to fool around with other girls, and so do you. A lot of the other women would probably think that you just wanted to sit and watch them and be turned off by that. Your girlfriend might even see where they're coming from. If you're a woman, which your post didn't clarify, then my advice will not be as on point. That would however make this a much more generic "one partner wants an open relationship, the other one isn't that in to it" dynamic without the weird gender+sexuality stuff messing with it as much. It would center it more back on respect in a relationship, and of boundaries.

Which is why I am, by the way, completely on board with the people saying that her calling and asking to break the rules is crappy behavior dressed up as "open communication". You don't talk about that thing then, when you're sitting there with your finger on the trigger wanting to do stuff with another person. You talk about it when it's couple time at home and everyone has their clothes on. You make the rules, and you follow them. If a situation comes up where you realize the rules suck the adult thing to do is say "maybe later ;)", talk to your partner about it the next day, then if it's cool then you continue. (And this works. Someone who wants to bone you today will sure as fuck want to bone you in a couple days/next weekend/the next time they have time off work/are in town/etc).

I'm not addressing any of the self loathing/depression/etc stuff as that's been covered here fairly well.

Overall though, i think the "other person must be present" rule just doesn't work with this kind of thing. It doesn't display the kind of trust required for this sort of relationship(imo) and will also scare off a lot of potential partners, especially for you if it's the aforementioned she's pursuing women, but you are as a man as well thing.

On preview, i also agree with nibiru. If you're inherently uncomfortable with this kind of relationship and it's something she wants, then this relationship isn't going to work. There's either going to be contempt(and possibly cheating, even) on her part for being asked to close the relationship, or uncomfortableness on your part for it being open. This isn't a recipe for a good relationship.

This weekend she went to a four day music concert. She's going with some of the people she's been sexually exploring with and they're all staying in the same tent together.

I personally, with all the previous things that had happened would be operating under the assumption that this ship has sailed and stuff like that would be going on there. I'd be looking at whether i was comfortable with that or not, not so much whether or not they'd be doing it.

What to do about that is up to you, but my immediate read on that was pretty much "lol no kissing.... riiiiight". I'm fairly cynical, but it doesn't take a super negative person to head out with those thoughts. You're not being super negative there.
posted by emptythought at 9:01 PM on June 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

I think you're confused because the situation is confusing. The boundaries are not at all clearly defined (I'm not even sure who is allowed to do what, when, and why.) I could not feel comfortable, stable or happy in a relationship like this.

Also, everything emptythought said.

I don't think this situation is healthy for even the most secure, well-adjusted person...which I would gently suggest that, at the moment, you are not.

Take care of yourself and your needs first. You're drowning here.
posted by Salamander at 10:07 PM on June 16, 2013

I think I know how you feel and it isn't the kissing and the possibility of her having sex that's bothering you.

It's her living a parallel life to you, doing all the fun stuff, and you're not a part of it, because you've never known how to be a part of it. And not being invited to it.

There is only one thing you can do and that's to talk to her about how you want to start experiencing the fun stuff, the adventurous stuff, the slightly left of centre stuff with her; how you've always wanted to but you just didn't know where to start or have someone to do it with. That's a big thing to admit to, particularly as you get older.

You don't know how she'll respond but you have to tell her.
posted by h00py at 5:43 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Personally, here's what I'd do, in a nice, easy-to-follow step-based plan:

1. write off the past. What's done is done, and there's nothing you can do to change it, so just take a deep breath and let it go. That includes the tent thing.

2. accept your needs and desires. Forget the depression. Forget the self-loathing. Just accept that -- regardless of the root cause -- your needs and desires are perfectly and legitimately yours, and don't need defending. You are who you are, and that's the only person you need to be.

3. commit to being who you are, even if it upsets your girlfriend. Accept that the next step is going to piss her off or upset her, most likely, and that it's okay. She might leave, too. You don't have to placate her, you don't have to justify yourself, you just have to proceed. It is for the best.

4. set new boundaries. Yes, they're new. Yes, they might seem unfair to spring on her now. Too bad. This is who you are, and you don't have to keep suffering just so she doesn't have to. Sit her down, let her know that you're not thinking of the past, just the future. Let her know that you've accepted your needs and desires as being part of who you are, even if she doesn't agree with that. Let her know you realize she might be upset by what you're about to share. Then lay out the specific boundaries, and see what happens.

Good luck. And I'm really glad you're going into therapy. Good move.
posted by davejay at 9:58 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

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