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struggling and looking for perspective/advice

Okokok posted 12/4/2019 11:36 AM

So I've been in what has felt like a pretty amazing post-divorce relationship for a couple years now. I won't spend a ton of time going into it, but we're super compatible, she's amazing, and I'm totally in love (her too), but we have had our issues. We're not on the brink of marriage or moving in (our kids aren't even really aware that we're more than friends), but we are committed and are partners.

In the course of two years, we've had a few brief breakups due to (in our estimation) problems related to distance (we're about 1 1/2 hours apart). We are different people with our own lives, and sometimes we also struggle to communicate perfectly. However, whenever this has happened, we essentially can't stand being apart and after a few days just re-express our love and find our way back to each other.

The last time a breakup happened, several months ago, I was very much not on her wavelength, and I was pretty devastated by the abrupt ending of things, EVEN THOUGH we had been going through a very disconnected and rough patch in the preceding month or more and things really weren't great. This breakup felt permanent and real, and it was not what I wanted. I was heartbroken and hurt. About a month passed, and we found our way back to each other as we had a couple times prior.

However, I've found myself in a very anxiety-producing spot these days and I could really use some perspective/advice. Almost feels like I'm back in my D-day days in terms of how my mind is racing, stomach hurts, etc.

During this most recent breakup, she dated and slept with someone else, someone sort of peripherally in her friend circle and someone who is a part of her community. It is worth noting that during this time I *also* went on a few dates and slept with someone else (this person is *not* in my friend circle or connected to my community), so it's not like I was just home wallowing while this happened.

I'm a confident, generally unable-to-be-threatened dude and have up to now had 0% concern at all about who my partner has slept with in the past, what they've done, etc. In fact, we've been able to talk openly about this stuff with no issues. I *don't* care about that stuff, and I have my own past as well.

But this man has remained connected to her through social media and seemingly occasionally through text, and while I hate giving a shit about this, each time they interact there (comments, likes, etc.), it's like a sledgehammer to my heart. I really, really struggle with it.

I will also say that I think part of my problem here is that I think things started between her and this other guy like right at the instant that we "broke up" over the summer. While we have talked about this and she has been adamant that she never did anything with this guy before we were through, and I 100% believe that they didn't go on an official "date" or have sex or anything prior to us ending, I also feel very confident that at the very least she had been talking to the guy and was thinking about the possibility of dating him *prior to* ending things with me.

Anyway, as a former BS, you can imagine that a lot of this shit is triggering to me. I've talked with her some already in the past few months, but as I've also been to therapy again, my doctor, and really tried to work through what I'm feeling and why, I realize I need to talk with her again, explain my feelings, let her know my boundaries, and be prepared to permanently end things if necessary, because I simply cannot move forward if I continue to feel like this about another man.

I am going to have a serious talk with her tonight, and I know I'm going to tell her that I cannot handle another day of her continuing anything beyond a professional (when necessary) relationship with this man, and that's it. This really is a deal-breaker for me. Whether she's quite innocently continuing to be "friends" with this guy, I have enough experience to know that from his perspective, the "door is still open," he'd like a relationship with her, and he's playing that angle. I'm just positive about that.

However, I'm posting this looking for perspective. Why do I feel so hurt/triggered/bothered here, when in fact I was with other women during this time, too? Do you think it's because of the blurry boundaries surrounding the breakup? Do you think it's simply because this feels, to me (even if innocent on her part) that their relationship is continuing? Is texting and/or social media connection with a former sexual partner, especially if it happened during a brief "break" from a long-term relationship, just a universal red flag, dealbreaker, etc.?

I want to be clear: I know that what I'm experiencing is not Ok; it's not ok with me and I think it's objectively hurtful and bad boundaries. I will be expressing this tonight, and I won't go another day in this situation, but I guess I'm just struggling with how to navigate it because this relationship is so much different than my marriage, and I'm just struggling to make sense of boundaries, what's reasonable/not reasonable/etc.

Anyway, thanks for reading. I

barcher144 posted 12/4/2019 11:42 AM

Just my two cents, but you gloss over what I think is the most important part. You try to claim that your relationship is healthy, but you have broken up several times (and reconciled)... and one of the times that you broke up, both of you slept with someone else?

Not two be a 2x4-wielding cretin, but I think that you need to re-assess your view that the relationship is healthy to begin with.

Is texting and/or social media connection with a former sexual partner, especially if it happened during a brief "break" from a long-term relationship, just a universal red flag, dealbreaker, etc.?

My GF has slept with a lot of guys in her past. She is still friendly with a handful of them. She has obvious (to me), clear, and well-defined boundaries and this has never been an issue for me. Of course, I am sex-positive and I understand that a girl has needs, yo.

[This message edited by barcher144 at 11:52 AM, December 4th (Wednesday)]

Catwoman posted 12/4/2019 11:50 AM

You're in a long-distance relationship--what was the plan for removing the distance?

Frankly, I believe a long-distance relationship should include the plan to remove the distance.

I'm also troubled by how many times you've "broken up" and then gotten back together. There's a good book out there (aimed more at women, but written by a man), titled "It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken." Good and easy reading about red flags in relationships and what breakups actually mean. I wonder if you aren't each other's "Plan B" during those breakup times, and so you fall back into easy and familiar patterns.

Just a couple of thoughts.

Cat

Okokok posted 12/4/2019 12:31 PM

You try to claim that your relationship is healthy,

Not sure I'm trying to claim that, but I take your point; I actually feel like it's very *unhealthy*. But, rather than just calling it quits, I am definitely trying to find a path toward something that is healthy.

I think that you need to re-assess your view that the relationship is healthy to begin with.

Yes, you're right. I am doing that and have been doing that; I'm seriously questioning relationship health, viability, etc. I know it's not healthy the way things are, and I really mean it when I say that I will not continue if things remain this way. Still (and it's hard to explain the intricacies of a relationship in these little posts), there is so much good and I'm not (yet) in a place where I just want to call it quits without really exploring what I'm feeling, why I'm feeling it, and what I might be able to do about it.

one of the times that you broke up, both of you slept with someone else?

Yeah, I can understand how that could be problematic for some, but I'm less worried about that aspect of the issue, I think. We both have a libido and the ability to find sexual partners. While sex is of course important and sort of falls into its own category, I'm not concerned about the fact that it happened, for either of us. We were in fact broken up, however brief or red-flaggy.

you're in a long-distance relationship--what was the plan for removing the distance?

Yes, this was very problematic, especially in the beginning. We both had very clear boundaries related to our kids, etc., and I think this prevented us from really committing to each other for a while at first because of our distance, and is what led to our little breakups while we were figuring out what we were. However, as time went on, we have explored ways we can reasonably close that distance in the next few years if we truly find that we can be healthy, committed, and stable. Due to the nature of our work and a few other factors, closing the gap *is* realistic, though at first it didn't seem so.

I'm also troubled by how many times you've "broken up" and then gotten back together.

Me too. Certainly doesn't look good or feel good, and as I write it out it seems even worse. Not trying to sugarcoat, but the times this has happened were mostly when we were less committed and much more unsure of our distance issue. However, once I thought we had become relatively stable, this last breakup truly was problematic, and you're right to point it (and all of them) out. Obviously, healthy relationships don't include breakups.

***

I appreciate all of this perspective, soooo much. While I am an old pro on SI, I'm feeling a little sheepish finding myself back here in an unhealthy relationship situation, asking for advice. I know the red flags and I know the standard answers, but when you're in it, things really do seem complex and difficult to navigate.

Rustylife posted 12/4/2019 13:41 PM

The woman/women you slept with after the breakup? How did you meet them? Probably a dating app right? In my experience, those who hookup fast and early after a breakup, either they strike out with a stranger using apps and bars or they had a certain person in mind if that other person already existed in their circle. A certain spark caused by "harmless" flirty conversations.

It's impossible and unhealthy to keep track of what your partner is talking about and to who. Kind of a grey area tbh. Where it's not outright cheating but still leaves you with more questions. Her case might be different than my experience and it also depends on how close they were before and during your relationship. Just the pitfalls of modern dating I guess. But some people I feel are very intuitive about this stuff and completely avoid it out of love/respect for their partner. It's a grey area honestly and without any right answer.

Have a talk with her. Don't be ashamed of your feelings. So many men do this. Why should you suppress your feelings if certain things make you feel uncomfortable? Personally I won't be comfortable with the guy hanging around. If you're not as well and feel she is behaving in an inconsiderate manner,it's up to you to change that.

Also, I won't second guess myself about the guy playing an angle. I'm sure you have good reasons for believing that and some people just like to tug that line where you can't really call them out but it's super apparent. Unless your girlfriend is super naive or an airhead, I'm sure she sees that too.

NeverEndingGame posted 12/11/2019 12:58 PM

Trust your instincts. I learned it a LONG time ago, but seem to always forget when my brain or crotch or both take over. You wouldn't be asking for advice if there wasn't a little voice in the back of your head screaming at you to let go and run. Something is just not quite right with the two of you. I'm guessing that it is much more than distance. You are the only one of us that is IN the relationship, so ultimately you are the only one that can know what is right for you. Sit quietly and listen to that little voice. It doesn't always say what we WANT to hear, but it always knows what we NEED to hear.

LoveTKO posted 12/11/2019 13:35 PM

I think you're right to establish boundaries. I've been dating someone for over a year and in the beginning his ex-girlfriend was still his "friend". When I met her, she glared at me like I was the devil even though they had broken up months before I even started dating him and I didn't even know her. I felt like I was in Junior High. This happened several times and then she was writing poems about him on Facebook.

I told him flat out that I would not be part of a "trio" and that if they were going to remain friends, I was out. Just to be clear, if she had been mature and normal I wouldn't have felt the same way. I'm not insecure.

He listened to me and decided on his own to cut off communication in a nice way. Our relationship was more important to him. He understood and has no regrets.

Go with your gut. If she cares enough about you, she'll want to protect your relationship.

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