If you wanna be somebody else, change your mind?
October 6, 2016 10:01 AM   Subscribe

How do I cope with a change in my mindset about my relationship?

I would appreciate your gentleness. I'm a delicate flower right now.

I've been dating an absolutely wonderful person for over three years. We're both in our early thirties. We've lived together for more than a year, and we're a great life partnership team. We have a lovely home and a supportive group of close friends. I was a single parent before meeting my partner, who has gradually taken on parenting responsiblities to the point where I no longer feel like a single parent. My life is immeasurably better with my partner in it.

I first met my partner through a kink event, and we began our relationship with that connection. Our vanilla sex life is pretty good. We had great kinky sex for the first year of our relationship, but then I began to feel like I was the one shouldering all the responsibility of that part of our sex life. I asked my partner to take some initiative, and stopped taking the initiative myself. (I was tired, but in retrospect this wasn't a good choice.)

Over the last couple of years, we haven't had much kinky sex, and when we have, it was mostly initiated by me. I would bring this issue up every couple of months, and my partner would feel hurt and criticized. The discussion would never go anywhere. A few days ago, we were discussing my wish that my partner would initiate and deepen this part of our sex life yet again, and it came to light that actually, my partner really may not be that into this type of kinky sex. It would be okay for us to have this kind of sex every once in a while, if I initiate it, but it just isn't that important to my partner.

I am surprisingly devastated. Honestly, my partner showed me in many large and small ways that this was the case, but I had a selective filter. I latched on to words or actions that I thought supported the idea that this kind of sex was as integral to their needs as it is to mine, and dismissed the importance of the signs that showed my partner wasn't that into it. But this kind of sex is so important to me! For me, the power exchange flavors my entire life and our entire relationship -- it's about how power is distributed between us, in large and small ways.

I love my partner, and I love our relationship. On the other hand, everything feels tainted now. I am deeply disappointed in myself for not seeing things clearly. I would like to be able to let this go -- after all, it's just kinky sex, right!? But I am having a very hard time doing that.

We are polyamorous, and I could certainly go find someone else to have this kind of relationship with. Right now, though, I have zero interest in doing that. I want this kind of power exchange relationship with my life partner, dammit!

My partner makes the excellent point that nothing has actually changed. But when you've been seeing things through a filter and then the filter is gone, everything feels very different indeed. How do I cope with this change in our relationship that isn't really a change at all?

throwaway email: sadkinkster@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

My partner makes the excellent point that nothing has actually changed.

Um, from where I'm sitting I think things have absolutely changed. You were functioning under the belief that you were matched in terms of sexual preference etc. and when you believed that you felt that your dissatisfaction in the lacking frequency/one sided initiation to be something you both were invested in working on and improving. Now, however, you know your dissatisfaction isn't shared and that your partner doesn't see a problem so they aren't motivated (or desiring) any change. What had been a "both of us" problem that you were both wanting to fix/change is now a "you" problem that only you want to fix/change.

If helps, try replacing your kinky sex with wanting kids. You met at a "I want kids!" meetup and therefore had every reason to believe that your partner wanted kids and that it was as important to them as it is to you. For the first year of your relationship your partner talked about wanting kids with you, and made it all seem that they wanted kids. Now they are suddenly saying that they actually DON'T want kids.

Sorry, but that is full on a major change.

It may not have been a deliberate deception or willful misunderstanding on the part of your partner, but the fact remains that you were led to believe they were on the same page as you with regards to something that is deeply important to you. And now you find out that they aren't on the same page at all.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:19 AM on October 6, 2016 [12 favorites]

Technically, he is right.. for 2/3rds of your relationship, you have not been having the kind of sex life you want. That hasn't changed. But now you are aware that it is pretty broken. He seems uninterested in fixing it. I'd recommend getting a couples councilor to see if yall can work out the communication and lifestyle issues to a happy medium.... if not, it sounds like you have the classic dilemma of Too Bad to Stay, too Good to Leave (also a book, which I'd recommend)

Say, worst case, he never changes. Your sex/dynamic/relationship stays exactly the same. Can you live with this? Should you? Does the good outweigh the bad? Personally, it sounds like he seems disinterested in working on meeting your needs, which is never a thing I like to see.
posted by Jacen at 10:22 AM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

And don't dismiss your desire/need for kinky sex as somehow not a valid reason to be upset or feeling let down. Everyone has different needs and your need is valid. And personally, I think any sexual mismatch is a major problem in a relationship, be it frequency or type or open/closed relationship, or any other variation in people's sexual needs and preferences.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:25 AM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

I feel like, when a thing like this happens in a relationship (in the sense that nobody's in danger, it's just a philosophical blow), the worst thing you can do is make an instant decision about what to do. We have that impulse whenever we are startled, and we want to make the discomfort or cognitive dissonance go away ASAP.

Find someone to talk to, just plain vent all this out first, and then maybe circle back after you recover from the venting so you can kind of pick through all the stuff you dumped out. It sounds like you're out enough that you have access to people who don't need 101ing, so reach out. Journal, too, but try to find someone you can speak out loud to, it really does make a difference to hear yourself think.

This happens in long relationships, with politics and faith and personal philosophies including kink - people recontextualize, they read more and experience more and wiring changes and develops over time - and you are never guaranteed that they are going to be the way they were on the first date for the rest of their lives, any more than they're going to stay the same age and fitness for the entire time. This is really the fatal flaw in marriage, for the most part. Things change, and rarely the way you wanted them to.

And part of the blow is realizing you let yourself down, or set yourself up, by not seeing more clearly. This is a thing we do to ourselves and it sucks and it'll happen again in the future too.

I would say at least give yourself some processing time before you decide you must end the relationship, or suffer for the rest of your life, or some in-between thing you think you must do. Process it, hopefully there are ways you can connect with your partner in the processing of it. Check in with yourself in a month or two and see where you are.

Something you may have to decide for yourself is whether you think this was a deliberate betrayal, or if it is the more likely case that a) your partner thought they were more into a thing than it turns out they were but maybe didn't notice in the flush of limerence and then tried to stay game b) you made some assumptions that they felt the same way you did and subconsciously or consciously avoided drilling down to find out (and there's an alternate option here that your expression of the thing is not like their expression of the thing, and that can put a person off pretty badly, and sometimes leave scars).

If it's the former, if it was some kind of scam or trick, your choices are a lot clearer. If it's the much more complicated latter case(s), that's harder and you should take your time and try to obtain some wise counsel to figure out how you feel about it and what you want to do about it.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:44 AM on October 6, 2016 [26 favorites]

Seems to me that your choice is simple and clear. Either the life you built up with this partner and they will occasionally accommodate the kinky sex or break up and find a partner that does put the kinky sex as a priority. Before making this choice, like Lyn Never, I think you should live with the new dynamic for some period of time before making a decision to leave. You can always leave, you cannot always come back.

I am in my 50s. I know that as we age, our priorities change, our risk profile changes and our beliefs evolve. I highly doubt your partner started the relationship on a fake desire for kinky sex. Certainly our like and dislikes, our preferences are not static. They are dynamic. Maybe your partner did not even realize this preference had changed until you both discussed it. I have found that there are tradeoffs in life. I think you need to evaluate your priorities such as a stable home for your child, a supportive relationship and kinky sex. It would be great to have all of what you want, but when that is not the case, you either prioritize what you have or look for what you want elsewhere.
posted by AugustWest at 10:55 AM on October 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

How do I cope with this change in our relationship that isn't really a change at all?

You met your partner at a kink event, had a satisfying kinky sex life at first, and then expressed dissatisfaction when that went away. Your partner just now fessed up to not really being as into kink as you thought. It may just be a change is perspective, but it's a fairly big change.

And it's a bit odd of your partner to say "Nothing has really changed!" like it's supposed to help you feel better (or really, just get you off their back) when you've been asking for a change because you've been unhappy....

This isn't to say I think your partner was being deliberately deceptive, but they should be a little more understanding that you need time to figure things out. Because I agree with Lyn Never. You just experienced a big change I perspective, and you need to time process that change, figure out how you got there (not so much because someone did anything wrong, but if there was something sketchy you want to take that into account), and finally, where you'd like to go.
posted by ghost phoneme at 10:56 AM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I feel like some of the answers here are making your partner responsible for fixing something that many people would say doesn't need fixing. Every adult sexual relationship that I have had has included sex acts that one of the participants wouldn't put anywhere near the top of their desire list, but that they were amenable to doing if it was requested.

"This isn't something that specifically lights my kinky buttons, but I'm game if you initiate it, and I don't mind at all if you pursue it with other people," strikes me as a very fair and mature offer in a relationship, and is frankly considerably more accommodating than what most people in LTRs get.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:58 AM on October 6, 2016 [46 favorites]

Is your partner actively disinterested in the kind of kinky sex you are super into? Or is it more that they can take it or leave it? If it's the latter, I think it would be reasonable to request that you engage in that kind of sex on a regular schedule with them (which may take the spontenaiety out of it and not happen as often as you'd like, but at least it's not zero?)

"Partner, how would you feel about doing xyz with me on the third Saturday of each month? Is that too much for you?" Then at least you can get a sense of the depth of their disinterest? There's a wide gulf between "not gonna initiate but will enjoy it ok once its happening" and "does nothing for me but will push through for the sake of my partner", and many places on that spectrum that may be satisfying enough for you to stay in the relationship (especially if you have the opportunity to get that need met more frequently elsewhere)
posted by softlord at 10:59 AM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I really don't think it's likely that your partner faked being kinky to trick you in any way. From what you describe, he seems enough into kink to reasonably qualify as a member of that community, which often, even within itself, has variance in desires and habits. Some prefer to keep it solely to the bedroom, while others prefer to live their power exchange full-time, which it sounds like you prefer. You say the power exchange flavors your entire life - I think even if you had a more dedicated kinkster, you might still find yourself in this situation.

What you need to ask yourself is - is it about the sex, or the power dynamic? Because if the latter, and you talked about that instead of the sex - which, no matter how it is phrased, most people tend to take as "Your sex is boring" - you might be able to add those dynamics into the relationship, which might make you feel more fulfilled.

(Feel free to memail if this jibes and you want the longer version of this, I just don't know if this is the right track at all)
posted by corb at 11:16 AM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

You are feeling a sense of loss, the loss of something precious to you, something that you thought you had. Someone took it away. You feel the sting of betrayal.

It's gone and you can't get it back. You feel a sense of panic. You feel a need to do something.

First mourn the loss. The journey of life, as you go along, is riddled with losses small and big. A new loss brings up the sting of all the past losses - the more you repressed them before, the fresher they feel.

After that, you can rebuild. Hopefully with this guy, who loves and supports you, and until now seemed so perfect, but isn't. Or with another guy, who will be imperfect, just in a different way.

But first, process your sense of loss and learn something new about yourself. Because wherever you go, there you are.
posted by metaseeker at 11:48 AM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

"This isn't something that specifically lights my kinky buttons, but I'm game if you initiate it, and I don't mind at all if you pursue it with other people," strikes me as a very fair and mature offer in a relationship, and is frankly considerably more accommodating than what most people in LTRs get.

This is gold. I'll add that you mentioned your partner is doing a tip-top job taking on parenting; so clearly you have a child who should factor into your thought processes to some extent.

Of course you are entitled to need what you need and go from there, but please consider how critical and important and lovely it is that they have your partner in their life.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 12:28 PM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

For me, the power exchange flavors my entire life and our entire relationship

See this is a big deal. This is a lifestyle issue, one that should not be minimized by either of you.

You're poly so you could fix the action elsewhere, but that doesn't address the real issue. If you are D or S for example and you want to live that role, and now you can't? that's a massive change. It's an issue of identity. It's very hard to fulfill your identity "on the side"

My partner makes the excellent point that nothing has actually changed.

This, as other have noted, is BS. Not only for the reasons above related to identity, but because there is a world of difference between "not tonight" and "never again"
posted by French Fry at 12:49 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I left my husband for a variety of reasons, including his loss of libido. He just didn't want sex with me at all. And we got trapped into this cycle of me nagging him and him rejecting me. I wish Come as You Are had existed then. It is supposedly about cis women and sex but it's actually about life as well as sex. Because I would have approached the issue with my husband much differently if I had read that book at the time. If either of you are cis women, I would encourage you both to read it. Not because it's about kinky sex but because it talks about what normal is (we are all normal) and how to negotiate the differences between partners when it comes to desire.

I know what Dan Savage would say, but I think that's BS; sex is hugely important and so are emotional connections (which sex feeds into, of course), parenting, complementary temperaments, etc. I'm a kinky gal. In your shoes, I would need a lot of time to process the sudden realization that my understanding of my partner's desires and their actual desires were way different and in a disappointing way. But I, personally, would try to do the work of processing, remind myself that my partner is not a villain simply because their desires are different than mine, and see if we could make it work. Particularly since I'm also poly.

You've lost something and it's a true loss that needs to be mourned. Feel your grief, get through those emotions, and then decide what to do, if anything. Because it's too soon to know what to do, IMHO. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 1:10 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

Desires change.

When my husband and I were dating I had a small baby and we only ever saw one another when she was out of the house with my ex.

We had some rough, wild, kinky sex back then.

But now we are married and live with our own children full time and have other stuff on our plates, he just isn't much up for rough, wild or kinky sex. He loves me. He likes sex with me. But he sees himself differently as a father and as a man, other areas of life have cast different shades on everything, and he doesn't need it now. I am probably keener than him in that regard, and he is very obliging if I initiate. But he's probably never going to initiate that kind of sex again, or at least maybe not until the kids are old enough to have left home. And I don't feel anything much about it. He isn't saying not tonight or not ever. He's saying "if you like, I really don't mind". We are monogamous so I'm not going to get it elsewhere either.

But I suppose I married him, and it is him I want, not the sex I thought he was interested in. He will change. I will change. I might never never go off that sort of kinky sex but most of who and what I am will be different in 40 years. The work of marriage is the perpetual re-growing-together during the process of continuous change. People don't celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary because they are both exactly the same in every way as on their wedding day. They celebrate because it is HARD growing together over 40 years and to manage it is a major achievement.

I think you have every right to feel sad, you have effectively had a collective limb lopped off with this news. But if I were you I would focus on what this man IS offering you (the sort if sex you want, whenever, if YOU initiate it, or the sort of sex you want with someone else who can initiate if you need that) and consider carefully how likely you are to find that offer elsewhere with all the other positive attributes he has. Just take some breaths, wear this new hat for a while and see. A series of minor readjustments can change everything, nothing's set in stone. You HAVE been dealing with the lack of this specific sex the way you specifically want it for most of your relationship. And he is not even saying he won't do it, just that he's not bothered enough to initiate it.

I think you will be okay.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 4:15 PM on October 6, 2016 [20 favorites]

.My partner makes the excellent point that nothing has actually changed.

Bullshit. Imagine if a doctor told you you had three months to live, and then said you shouldn't be upset because nothing has changed except your knowledge of the situation.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:39 PM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

You cannot make people be into the sex you want. It goes both ways. If you never had an actual discussion with this person, that's on you. If you did have a discussion and they lied, that's on them.

I think you ought to break up. You aren't compatible and your kink is more important to you than the relationship. Your partner might be willing to engage your kink, but you want your partner to not just service you, but to really be into it.

That's asking a lot. Nobody shares their partner's sexuality completely.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:20 PM on October 7, 2016

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