Hi Java, I’ve been with my man 9 years and am deeply in love with him, however, I’m also in love with another woman. I’ve loved her since before I met him – but only recognised recently that it was sexual (I’ve always believed I was straight).
I told my partner and he went nuts. We talked and talked, and I thought we’d worked through some issues, but now he’s saying I have to “choose” and is trying to break up with me (again).
I feel that he really loves me, and I really love him – is there anything I can do to help him? I would be so jealous and scared if he told me he loved another woman; I feel very guilty.
Help him? I’m a trifle confused what help you think he needs. What this sounds like is that your man wants to be monogamous.
It also sounds like what you want is to be able to have relationships while he can’t. While I’m not guilt’s biggest fan, the fact you’re feeling guilty might mean that examining yourself and your motives would be a really productive thing to do.
The reality is that right now you are facing some choices. Here’s some questions you can ask yourself:
What is it I really want in my romantic relationship(s)?
This is probably the most crucial question to ask. Love? Most people do want love. But what does that mean to you? What makes you feel loved and cared about? Are you getting that in your relationship(s)? If not, can you ask for it? You mention being in love with this woman. How does she feel about it? Have you mentioned it to her? You didn’t say, but I’m hoping that what you did was bring the subject up to your partner first. Certainly that’s the ethical thing to do. How do you feel about the freakout? Is freaking out something you want in a partner?1
How do I feel about the repeated threats to break up?
There are at least two possible motivations for your partner to say you have to choose between being with him and being with someone else. One is pretty straightforward. He’s monogamous and only wants a monogamous relationship. He’s only happy in that sort of relationship. If you don’t want to be monogamous, then no, you’re really not the right partner for him, and yes, it would be better for you guys to go your separate ways.
The other motivation I can think of off the top of my head isn’t quite so nice. He knows that a threat to break up with you will make you toe the line and do what he wants. If it turns out that’s what he’s trying to do, is this what you want in a relationship?
It does look like both of you need to have a good, long think about what you want out of life and relationships. I’m also throwing something out there that might be useful to you. This is a reach from a 100 word letter, but I do wonder if the both of you are having some security issues – not only about your relationships, but just in yourselves. I can’t recommend How to Become a Secure Person enough. It’s good stuff. If I’m off base, you know this stuff already. If I’m not, it can do nothing but help, no matter what choices y’all decide to make.
1 While everyone has a right to express their emotions, I’ll point out that saying, “I feel hurt, confused and not very valued” would be expressing one’s emotions without the freak out.
7 thoughts on “You Have to Choose”
“…trying to break up with me (again)…”
Wow. Nothing sounds right here. Trying? Is she refusing to sign the papers? Does he have to convince a court? Is he already gone? Is the “again” counting attempts, or break-ups? Is this some kind of “–or else!” game?
Your advice is spot-on, as usual. Figure out what you want. Believe what others say they want. Act accordingly, with self-respect and respect for others.
Whilst I totally agree with your advice, there is something I’d like to question: where does she say she actually plans on acting on her attraction/love for the other woman? Feeling the emotions doesn’t necessarily lead to acting on them. She could have told her partner about it because she wanted to be open and honest, rather than because she wanted to sleep with someone else. It could be that she wanted advice on how to reassure her partner so he doesn’t feel jealous.
OK, maybe I sound a bit naive here, but I just wanted to offer the benefit of the doubt.
If she did that, talked about her feelings without any intention to act on them and said so, then the freakout by her partner is even worse. Bordering on scary, really.
Yeah, I was wondering whether “You have to choose” wasn’t necessarily “be monogamous with me, or go be with her, but you can’t have both,” or whether it was “This woman, who you’ve loved since before you and I were together, is now ZOMG A THREAT TO OUR RELATIONSHIP now that you’ve acknowledged that you are sexually/romantically attracted to her, so now you either have to cut off contact with her, or I’m leaving you.”
I realize that it’s stretching a little bit because there’s so little information in the letter, but I’ve seen this situation before — once one partner acknowledges that they have feelings for another person (whether or not they intend to act on them), the other partner says that the *existence of those feelings* is enough to cause a “threat to the marriage/relationship,” and the partner who made the admission needs to “choose” between the marriage/relationship and having continued contact with their old and dear friend.
I very rarely have seen that one end well.
I read this post a few days ago and it’s been stewing. While I think that Ms Java is always (unequivocally always) spot on with her advice, I think that this post, and the comments made above, are some pretty hard evidence that the expectations that are being held for this poor couple are unrealistically high.
The easiest way to see this is to look at the following: If the author’s man, who has been her man for 9 years, has been operating for a decade under the assumption that monogamy is the only type of meaningful, committed relationship that he can have, then the author expressing her feelings for someone else is tantamount to confessing she has fallen out of love for him. Remember, monogamists often believe that it is impossible, or insincere, or unnatural to openly and honestly love more than one person at a time. So from the guy’s perspective, he’s done nothing wrong and out of the blue after nine years of dedication, she doesn’t love him anymore. HOLY FUCKING FREAK OUT IS TOTALLY IN ORDER HERE!
I think it’s very easy, and I see this all over polyamorist prose, to fall into a pattern of belief wherein you assume that since you have put in the effort to reach a level of emotional maturity and self awareness, that everyone around you is automatically capable and responsible for having that same level as you do, but that’s really unwelcoming to exactly the people who write to you for advice.
Yes, “I feel hurt, confused and not very valued” would be a succinct way of expressing the same message that a freak out would express, but how many weeks, months or years of soul searching would it take to arrive at it? I was married for six years and it took me one and a half years to finally discover the words to express all the hurt and confusion I felt at my failed marriage, and that was with counseling.
I still think your advice to the author is sound, but let’s try to have a little more reality, shall we? I can’t see her man being made out as the villain here when all we know from the letter is that he acted in a way which is perfectly…human.
Well, you’ve found a serious blind spot. I don’t know what monogamy looks like. I’ve never been monogamous. I usually don’t answer letters on how to transition to polyamory, but I’ve fuck all idea how one does that. I’ve never tried.
I do know emotional blackmail (from being on both ends of it), and the sooner people learn to get over that shit and act like human beings who have some damn idea what love is, the better. Not a high horse. I say it because I’ve been a damn jerk, too.
“monogamists often believe that it is impossible, or insincere, or unnatural to openly and honestly love more than one person at a time”
I was married for nearly 10 years, monogamously, and this sums my husband’s attitude up neatly. One of our most painful disagreements was over an online friendship of mine that he found threatening. He asked that I cut the person off, completely, and then tell no one why. I didn’t understand why he was threatened, because to me, this had nothing to do with my love for my husband. It wasn’t a threat! But he just couldn’t wrap his head around it, and so I did as he asked. Though I did notice that he didn’t want me to tell anyone about this fight of ours because he apparently did realize that it could make him look jealous….and insecure. Our marriage was supposed to be more solid and ideal than that.
So, now I have very sensitive jealousy radar. I don’t EVER want to be in that very painful position ever again. I want my partners to be happy, with whoever, and I want them to be relaxed about me seeing and loving others.
Now, how to move to poly from mono? I also don’t have a clue. I started over from single. I did not negotiate the move to poly with a partner. My current partners have been poly longer than I have been.
I don’t know what to say to help or console someone who really believes that there can be only one true love. I didn’t manage it myself.