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Cheated on in an Open Relationship

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OpenButBetrayed posted 8/30/2013 08:23 AM

I'm in an open relationship with a man I am deeply in love with. We've been together about a year and 1/2 but from our first date, we agreed to be open sexually. Not polyamorous. Meaning we can play with others within a certain set of parameters but we don't share love or relationship stuff with anyone but each other.

We initially just had rules like no romantic dating while obviously meeting someone out for drinks a few times is important to get to know them, and no sleeping over. Obviously we'd covered that there should be a lot of feelings involved, while obviously you have to LIKE the person you're playing with but it shouldn't ever approach love. We talk very openly about each other's partners, we've met each other's play partners and in general things have gone really well. But over the last 4 months, I've just had a feeling that things aren't quite right about his connection with this one girl. She got upset once when he was going to see someone else - I'm going to call her OP since that's what it feels like. He immediately canceled his plans with new-girl to go talk with OP and make sure she was ok about it. I voiced concern at that point - it just didn't seem that she should be upset if all they had was a "friend" connection. He downplayed it, said she just didn't know and wasn't expecting it, maybe felt a little nervous that he might like new-girl more than her, etc. For her birthday, even though we'd already gotten OP a very nice gift, he ran out the day he was going to see her and bought her some sexy underwear. He didn't tell me until later and I was a little thrown. It took me a while to register that it didn't feel right. Sexy underwear is not a friend gift. A book is a friend gift. It bothered me but it was already done so I let it go. For the last few months we've had a period of high stress with him moving, me leaving my 12 year career to take another job, my ex applying for lower child support, his house needing a lot of renovations so he could rent it out, his parents having some health issues, and his uncle dying of cancer. Our relationship was strong but definitely stressed and our sexual energy for each other was pretty minimal. But he was still managing to find time and energy to go see OP - not often, maybe once a week, but it was still really bothering me that he'd have energy for that when our world was not quite what it should be.

At any rate, things with OP have not quite felt right for about 4 months. And I've voiced my concerns several times and always my partner has convinced me that everything was fine. The feeling never went away however and I finally told him that I was going to need to make some more rules because this "play partner" had seemed to become a relationship and it was entering an area that felt really bad to me. He agreed to all my new rules and suggested a few of his own and we agreed I'd send her a message so that she didn't feel like I was out to get her or anything and I could fully express the reasons that some of the things were bothering me. New rules were stuff like, no connections on social media sites, no gifts, she should expect some periods where we're not seeing others so that we can focus on each other, pretty basic stuff for an open relationship. I asked her to evaluate her feelings and make sure she was solidly in the "close friend" camp or to do the honorable thing and back off a bit.

He read it before I sent it so I really wasn't expecting any big reaction - I figured she'd feel a bit marginalized and maybe would admit to feeling a little more than she should be. She sent back a message almost immediately that I should ask my partner when he first told her he loved her.

Floored. Absolutely floored. He admits that he did, after she asked him to, say he loved her. But he maintains that he was always clear that it wasn't close to the love he feels for me. There's a thin line and I admit that, but he knew how I felt about him ever saying that to anyone else, or if he felt something more than close friends, he should be pulling back. I'd specifically asked him if he'd ever used that word with her and he told me no - but he says that was before he did use it. I would think having been asked that once he'd know that it was a massive betrayal to go ahead and do it.

I told him to write to her and copy me that this was over. We are breaking all contact with her and he did not hesitate. But now the fears and doubts are going through my head. I'm going over every conversation we ever had and wondering what else he's lied to me about. He's begging me to forgive his stupidity and says he'll do whatever it takes to earn my trust back. But right now, I don't see how I'll ever be able to trust him again.

Intermittently experiencing immense grief, anger, and then periods of feeling nothing at all. Help me. Tell me how to get past this?

Broken in Open

[This message edited by OpenButBetrayed at 8:24 AM, August 30th (Friday)]

k94ever posted 8/30/2013 08:33 AM

Dear Broken,

Time. And what you do with that time is what will help you get over this.

Have you two considered seeking professional help through counseling with this? Your WS really needs to figure out what is broken inside himself that allowed him to take this relationship out of the "friends" category and into a full blown affair. And a counselor will help you deal with trust issues.

I really wouldn't be surprised if your WS and the OW don't take this underground. And yeah...he trying minimize his feelings for her.


OpenButBetrayed posted 8/30/2013 08:38 AM

I was cheated on by my husband of 12 years and I know that I could never have gotten over that with him. Sadly, I love this man more than I did my spouse, but I have a hard time believing that this will be the last time he'll lie or obfuscate the truth and I'm worried that in forgiving it, continuing on, I'm just being a complete idiot. I feel like such an idiot already.

Kierst13 posted 8/30/2013 08:58 AM

If you and your s/o seek professional help you will need to find a MC that is *sex positive* and has experience with infidelity.

Give yourself time to accept what and how you feel. Be gentle with yourself.

SeanFLA posted 8/30/2013 09:04 AM

Wow that's a tough one. The way I see it maybe you've just learned a very valuable lesson here. It's kind of like putting a child in a room full of cupcakes and telling him you can sniff all you want, but you can't desire or eat one. Eventually it's going to happen sooner or later.

If this is the kind of relationship you really want with a man, parameters included, my opinion is that it's playing with fire. Eventually somebody is going to get burned here. And in this situation it was you. As much as you would like to believe, you can't ever fully understand what another person is going to think or behave like. That's the basis as to why all of us are here. You hope your partners will always make the right decisions if ever tempted, but many don't.

I know somebody who tried this with her husband (ex husband now) and they went to a swinger's party or two to "observe". He wanted to go further and participate. She changed her mind. He wound up having an affair of some sort behind her back and she couldn't understand why. Nor did she trust him any longer. Eventually they divorced over it. Well I told her that much of it was her own fault (you know that 50% we all talk about?). She had already given him the key to unlock the door. What makes her really think anything different would eventually happen? You already gave him permission to be with someone else and in now that action has come back to burn you. My feeling is that whenever you allow a third or fourth person into a relationship like that somebody eventually is either going to get angry or become jealous. I think it takes a very unique relationship to be able to separate sex and love like that. Maybe you need to redraw new boundaries. If he refuses possibly you just weren't meant to be together and move on.

Rubyred posted 8/30/2013 10:08 AM

Getting information on what to do when something goes wrong in an open relationship is both difficult and easy. Most people and many counselors aren't familiar with the dynamics of this type of relationship.

Often people will assume that since you were involved in this type of relationship that you somehow made the relationship more vulnerable, or deserved it. This is bullshit. People cheat in both open and monogamous relationships. There are rules and boundaries that should never be crossed in either. A counselor well versed with both infidelity and alternative relationships can be of great assistance. They are out there. They can help you get through hard part of the emotional turmoil of being cheated on.

The easy part is that this fantastic website is here with great information. Most of it will apply to any type of relationship, whether it is alternative or monogamous. Affairs follow the same textbook patterns in both relationship styles. The actions you need to take to care for yourself and to get the treatment you deserve are the same as well. Please do some reading in the Healing Library.

At this point you need to figure out what you want and if your SO is up to healing this. Oh, and he was cheating on you. He went against your rules, and was lying. He left out information because he knew it was wrong.

His first step with going no contact with the OP is the right one. Now you need to make sure he is sticking to this. He needs to be open to you checking emails, phones, etc. to verify. He needs to be open to answering your questions. He needs to commit to counseling. He also needs to do whatever you need for your healing. If you decide to stay with him, I wouldn't recommend either of you bring others into the picture until you have had counseling, done some healing, and he has earned trust.

I personally will not be in an open relationship with a man that lies and that I cannot trust. These relationships are based on developing trust and very open communication. My heart, health, as well as my parners' are not worth putting at risk.

You deserve more. Eat, drink fluids, exercise, and get some support. You have a rough ride ahead of you.

[This message edited by Rubyred at 10:09 AM, August 30th (Friday)]

OpenButBetrayed posted 8/30/2013 10:52 AM

@Rubyred: Thank you so much for saying that my choice of an open relationship does not mean I was asking to be cheated on. It's hard feeling this way but it hasn't convinced me that non-monogamy doesn't work. I know that non-monogamy can work and further I know that it works for me. Whether my partner can manage to be honest and adhere to our relationship rules is in question.

>>he was cheating on you. He went against your rules, and was lying. He left out information because he knew it was wrong…..At this point you need to figure out what you want and if your SO is up to healing this.

He absolutely cheated on me. I told him that last night after I'd had some time to think and some distance from him doing damage control. I was happy with his immediate and emphatic agreement to end the connection with the OP. He didn't seem very upset about it, even. In contrast to how upset he got when he thought I might end our relationship because I couldn't trust him. I also told him that if we're going to remain together, until we're past this, we're no longer in an open relationship. Figuring out what I want is tough. Right now I just want to not be hurting. I want to be in love with him like I was yesterday. I want there not to be damage and mistrust. But we're not the same couple we were yesterday - something is gone and I have no idea if I can get it back.

My initial reaction is to push him away, not let him see me, not think about it. But I'm afraid that we won't be able to fix it if we don't work on it right away. But the thought of putting any effort into that right now makes feel like throwing up. I just want to lay down and sleep forever.

ReunitePangea posted 8/30/2013 11:00 AM

OpenButBetrayed - I am sorry you are here. I wanted to tell you that you are not alone dealing with this type of betrayal. I too was betrayed in an open relationship and there are others here as well with this type of experience.

Any type of betrayal is often associated with a spouse with very poor boundaries. As you demonstrated in your story, a successful open relationship makes having very solid boundaries extremely important. In my case finding out about the betrayal of the open relationship led to the discovery of a very long LTA that happened before we were open. Poor boundaries are ultimately at the center of both A's.

While an open marriage A is different than other A's that you find here, there are many similarities to how you will need to deal with it. Lying and deception is still at the core of the problem.

Read up on the info you can find on SI as much as you can. You will have to adjust some of the info you find to your own personnel situation. I have found that while everyone here tries to help, some don't have much personnel experience regarding open relationships and it affects their advise some. But if you discuss it in terms of just the betrayal itself they are better able to relate and many of the issues are really the same.

Abbondad posted 8/30/2013 11:08 AM


I am so sorry. This is how my STBXWW's infidelity started. I am going to send you a PM if I may.

OpenButBetrayed posted 8/30/2013 11:11 AM

Thank you all. I'm open to any advice or personal experience that you wish to offer, by PM or here. I truly appreciate it.

sodamnlost posted 8/30/2013 11:31 AM

In my opinion, your having an open relationship doesn't actually factor in to his cheating. He cheated. Period. Weather your boundaries as a married couple are pure fidelity or just emotional fidelity - he broke those boundaries and betrayed your trust. You did NOT ask to be cheated on by having an open marriage. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. This is in NO WAY your fault. While it may put you at a higher risk - so does marrying someone in a band, who works at a bar or works with mostly opposite gender people. That doesn't change his decision to cheat. Not does it make your "rules" for how you live your lives minimize what he did.


BeyondBreaking posted 8/30/2013 15:36 PM

It doesn't really matter WHAT exactly your boundaries were- just that he was aware of what the boundaries of the situation were and he broke them. He was aware of the fact that if he was having more feelings than platonic/friendship for someone or she was for him, then they needed to end it. He continued. That is hurtful, he is in the wrong, and you didn't ask for it or deserve it.

Now might need to be the time where you sit down and re-evaluate your relationship boundaries. What are you comfortable with now, what are you not comfortable with? I might venture to say that while the two of you are struggling with trust issues, you might want to hold off on sex with anyone else.

Hang in there. :(

OpenButBetrayed posted 8/31/2013 10:51 AM

@BeyondBreaking - yes, I hear you about re-evaluating the open relationship boundaries. We'd already done that before I sent her the message and before the betrayal became apparent. We talked it all through again last night - not for the last time I'm sure - and I asked for a lot of details and made him tell me his thinking at each stage, how it grew, shifted and changed, and why he felt he should keep it to himself. He definitely was, and knew he was, feeling more than he should. But when he realized it, he was trying to figure out if he actually wanted a poly relationship. He was planning on talking to me about it but felt like it would cause a major rift and at that point, he didn't know exactly what he wanted, so wasn't sure he could express it well. But then the summer stress started with his house renovations, his move, my job change and family illnesses. Our sexual relationship started to suffer and he felt there was then no way to bring it up so he just stuffed it away. Did he keep saying he loved her? Yes. Did he let her believe they had more than they should have? Yes. He only saw her about 4 times over the summer, so with the decreased visiting and the fact that she was dating again, he thought that the whole thing might just go way. Obviously, that didn't happen.

The thing about open/poly is that the regular communication is so important and I thought we were doing that so the fact that there was a massive secret and they both knew about it makes me feel like a complete idiot. He knows that if we ever make it back to a fully trusting relationship again and if it's ever strong enough for being open again, that you can't be in a relationship with someone if you're only giving them 1/2 the information. It's just not fair. We've learned something new about ourselves, about us together, and about where we want to go, throughout this process. And we've made changes as necessary to make sure we're both comfortable. But we've also grown in our own relationship to the point where neither of us can imagine losing the other. That's a pretty tough place to be in and be feeling this way right now. I feel like I SHOULD walk away. I've been lied to and disrespected, made into a fool by two people I trusted. And if I had any self respect whatsoever, I'd give him his walking papers. But I just can't.

Filling up my time with loud, crazy, busy stuff so that I don't have to think. Medicating to sleep so I stop the hamster wheel of horrible images, and just trying to get through the days. I've been here before and I know it will pass. But will the doubts ever go away? Will I be able to say I trust him implicitly ever again?

OpenButBetrayed posted 8/31/2013 10:59 AM

My friend said something very insightful and I'd like to share it because I do think that sometimes this is how things go awry:

My guess is that he felt he could keep things "under control" with him and OP so that their stuff wouldn't spill out into his relationship with you. But, of course, he couldn't control her feelings. It might not be real "dishonesty," but more like a kid playing with matches, thinking he can keep it all under control, and then something catches fire and there's still this period where you don't want to tell anyone because you still think you can keep it under control, and then it's all too big and you're panicking.

I told this to my partner last night and I could see an immense sense of relief that someone had been able to express what he couldn't. If you'd have asked me three weeks ago if he was a trustworthy person, I'd have said "the most trustworthy person I know." He's the most kind and caring man I've ever known in my life. But the problem is that he's kind and caring with everyone. And when you treat a sex-friend like gold, especially someone who's had not-so-great relationships with men in the past, she's bound to get all wrapped up in you. I warned him about this and about how it's easy to let feelings slip and slide all over the place in open relationships. I'm just worried that because he's who he is, he'll never be able to find a way to be open without the risk of the deeper feelings.

Do you think that the grand canyon between us right now will ever get smaller? I feel like I put something down somewhere and can't remember what or where it is. I know I need it, but I can't find it. It's that panicked gripping feeling of dread. I hate this.

Later posted 9/1/2013 04:33 AM

IMO the key to remaining faithful is to have personal boundaries that will protect you from temptation. You don't rely on your strength at the edge of the cliff, you don't go near the edge.

For me, that means I do not go to lunch alone with women I am attracted to. I don't go out for drinks with them. I don't talk about my marriage with them.

I don't see how you can have boundaries that will keep you far from danger in an open relationship. You are dancing at the edge of the cliff.

I am not saying you "deserve" his betrayal. I am looking more to the future. I don't share your optimism for "fidelity" in an open relationship.

Just my 2 cents. Feel free to disregard if you don't find it helpful. I am sorry he broke your trust and hurt you.

Loyalty2Liberty posted 9/1/2013 06:22 AM

Others will tell you that's what you get for having an open relationship, but the way I see it, it actually takes talent to fail when the bar is set so incredibly low. All the "variety" he wants, and that still isn't enough.

Nope, because gosh darn it, that wouldn't hurt the one he professed to care most about badly enough. I mean, really, if it doesn't fuck up your whole damn life, where's the fun in that?

It takes constant, willful betrayal over time to build a "relationship" like that. And he was callous enough to do it right under your nose. Nice...

How to get past it? First, you gotta survive the trauma. Time is a key ingredient here, and good coping mechanisms help. Gallows humor, venting on SI, having a family member or friend to cry on, a little ice cream if you're in between vommiting sessions. Anything to get by.

Meanwhile, he better be pulling his weight and carrying you through this like a champ. If he even once flinches at giving up even his very last freedom or his last ounce of strength just to support you, he ain't R material. It's that fucking hard.

Reconciling from a deep betrayal is one of the most difficult tasks two consenting adults can undertake. You should take time to step back and decide if it's absolutely the right thing to do in this instance.

alphakitte posted 9/1/2013 07:04 AM

What you describe is a betrayal.

It sounds like he needs to be
KISA (knight in shinig armor), broke a promise because it suited his purpose, and covered it up. Nothing new here. He wanted external validation and has poor personal boundaries.

It is too early to know if you will consider this a deal breaker, or not.

movingforward13 posted 9/1/2013 07:27 AM

Might I throw in some insight here...

I find it very difficult to believe your boyfriend is going to have an easy time finding women who are OK with just being used for sex and not mean anything, because essentially, that is what you are asking him to do. Giving him permission to sleep with other women but not share his love with them.

Women want to mean something to someone who we are giving our bodies to. So the chances are highly likely that this will happen again because he will need to say or do something to keep up getting the sex, even if he doesn't mean it. Many waywards do this all the time.

I am not judging your relationship arrangement, but I honestly feel it doesn't work in the long run, especially with a person with poor boundaries. You definitely have to reevaluate and maybe just close off all borders.

OpenButBetrayed posted 9/1/2013 07:56 AM

Women want to mean something to someone who we are giving our bodies to.

I respect that this is the way you feel and I know that traditionally, this is how we see women, but trust me, and I know because I'm one of them, there are women out there who can separate sex and love.

And I don't think for one second that OP was in love with him. She barely knows him. She knows nothing about his life. She hasn't shared any of his pain or fears or hopes for the future. They shared sex for a few hours a few times a month for a year. There's a thriving open/poly community and I'd be willing to be that some of the people you know are out there in it. Monogamy is not the only relationship style that works. And cheating in a relationship isn't about having a ready partner to cheat with, it's about:

He wanted external validation and has poor personal boundaries.

@Loyalty2Liberty, I hear what you are saying and it is particularly galling that the variety wasn't enough. But I don't agree with the below:

it actually takes talent to fail when the bar is set so incredibly low

Actually, the level of trust and communication that has to occur to be successful in open/poly relationships is so far beyond what mono couples do, I'd say the bar is set far far higher. I think most mono couples set the rules at "I do" and don't bother to ever talk about how they're feeling in their marriage again. People grow and change and the relationship does the same. It takes intense communication to remain close friends and lovers and to stay on the same trajectory in your relationship, or soon you end up in two different relationships that don't resemble each other at all. And this is true whether you're mono, open or poly.

sinsof thefather posted 9/1/2013 07:57 AM

My guess is that he felt he could keep things "under control" with him and OP so that their stuff wouldn't spill out into his relationship with you. But, of course, he couldn't control her feelings. It might not be real "dishonesty," but more like a kid playing with matches, thinking he can keep it all under control, and then something catches fire and there's still this period where you don't want to tell anyone because you still think you can keep it under control, and then it's all too big and you're panicking.

This doesn't make sense to me. How can lying by omission not be 'real' dishonesty? The second he KNEW he was 'playing with matches' (and according to that theory he always KNEW he was) then the moment he realised that fact and decided to not tell YOU what he was doing - that was 'real dishonesty' by choice. I think he
felt great relief when you told him your friend put it this way because it lets him seem less guilty than he really is.

All the "variety" he wants, and that still isn't enough.

This ^^...and I think you have to think very deeply about this. Variety wasn't enough for him. It was about more than that - it was about him choosing to have another relationship and choosing to lie by omission about it. I'm sorry to be so frank but it's my honest opinion and I think you need to think deeply about this aspect of it. ((OpenButBetrayed))

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