Ask Page: Messing Around for the Thrill of It

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My girlfriend and I have been together over 3 years. We’ve been through a lot. Big life stuff. We even split up once.

When we got back together this last time, we fought a lot. We’re both manic depressive. But then things got a WHOLE LOT better. We were finally back on track after a lot of anguish.

She in some aspects is far more sexual than I am. I for the most part don’t think about other women whereas she does think about other guys. One day she gave me an ultimatum: It was either a poly lifestyle or we were done. After such a long relationship where we lived together from day one,  I couldn’t just let it go again. I was happy to give anything a try to help her potentially find herself.

The next day she already had someone in mind. The fella was into poly and BDSM, which she ate up instantly. My girlfriend and I formed very simple rules together. One of the rules was that we would set time limits for how long she would be gone, since this guy lived out of town. The first time visiting him, she promised to be back in 2 days.  I had a hard time with the trip already since it was my first time sharing her and being without her.  But she was gone 5 days total!

The second time was much better. We communicated more, and it was a bit more comfy.

But since then she had sex with a best friend of mine in hopes I wouldn’t know but I found out (no close friends was another one of our rules).

She spends a lot of time looking for new partners or just messing with the heads of guys for fun.  

She had sex with someone many, many times in our house (no one in our home is another of our rules). And she doesn’t know that I know yet. All is “well” as far as she knows.

I just don’t know what to do.

I want to make it work, but it seems her manic depression has caused an addiction to the thrill of these situations and not really the true poly lifestyle, which I have grown to love as far as the honesty I have for myself. 

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Sometimes the most honest way that people tell us how they will treat us? Is through the ways that they treat others.

There’s something that you wrote in your letter that really stuck out to me: “She spends a lot of time…just messing with the heads of guys for fun.”

Reading the difficulties that you’ve encountered in opening up your relationship, I can’t help but wonder: Are her repeated violations of the rules that you set together part of that same pattern of messing with guys? Is it a way of testing you? To see what she can get away, what you’ll do?

And I suspect you know this, but while a mood disorder might explain some of the behaviors, it doesn’t excuse them. You mention you’re manic-depressive, too. Do you find that you, too, are addicted to the “thrill” of the conflicts with her?

Just something to consider. I can’t answer either of these questions of course. The answers are something only you would know. And it would require that same self-honesty you mention at the end of your letter.

Shared history can make it very compelling to put up with a lot of bad behavior. To, as you well put it, “want to make it work.”

But there’s workable. And there’s unworkable.

What tells me most that this isn’t a healthy relationship is that you aren’t telling her that you know she broke your rules again.  “All is ‘well’ as far as she knows.” Not only is she repeatedly violating the rules, but it sounds like you’re walking on eggshells about those violations. And I imagine it’s because you don’t want to deal with the inevitable drama.

Not only is she being dishonest with you (by breaking the rules and hoping you don’t find out), she’s not acting in a way that allows you to feel safe being honest with her.

None of this is healthy. Or easily changed. It’s not something you can do alone. You’re 100% responsible — for your 50%. And if she can’t or won’t follow the simple rules you agreed on, it’s not looking good for her putting in the massive amount of effort it would take to change her ways.

So long as she believes there are no consequences for her behavior, she may very well keep on doing what she’s doing. She might only agree to improve after you threaten to leave her. But if you put such a thing forth, be prepared to act on it.

I’ll be honest with you. It’s gonna be hard, no matter what you do. Whether you seethe in silence and put up with more bullshit. Or call her out on it and give her an ultimatum: No more of this, or I’m leaving. Or if you just cut and run.

Because silently putting up with bullshit is hard. Calling someone else out is hard. Working through a relationship is hard. And being alone after having someone in your life for so long is hard.

As Mark Manson writes, “There’s no such thing as a lack of adversity. It doesn’t exist…And that’s perfectly fine. The point isn’t to get away from shit. The point is to find the shit you enjoy dealing with.”

Maybe that’s dealing with more of her shit and hoping it eventually turns into a relationship that works better for you. Or maybe it’s trying to set firm boundaries with consequences with her and seeing where that goes.

And maybe it’s getting out of this relationship. Which is what I would favor.

I wish you the best of luck, whatever you decide.

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