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My hubby and I have been married for more than twenty years, quite happily. Some ups and downs, which is normal, but we’re solid. About four years ago we decided to open up, not because of any sense of lack or boredom, but because we felt so solid and secure. About a year later I started seeing this amazing man, we just clicked. He brought out sides of me that I didn’t even know existed and we unexpectedly fell in love with each other. About six months into our relationship, his job took him overseas. We kept in touch every day several times a day and he flew me out to visit him a couple times a year over the last two years, as well as him visiting back home. So we’ve basically seen each other every three to five months for the last two and half years but no more than five or six days total each time.

About a year into his life overseas—after thousands of text messages, videos, pictures, and emails—he told me that he didn't want to move back home any time soon because work opportunities were better overseas. Plus, around that same time he started seeing someone, whom he insisted on constantly telling me about in the name of "sharing his life" with me. I thought, okay, that’s sad but I understand, let’s just call it quits. He wouldn’t hear it. He wanted to keep us alive because he said ‘you never know what may happen in future.' Fast forward two years and he’s still overseas with no end date in sight and still texting me intimately and regularly.

We’ve expressed a lot of love for each other (my husband is aware of this and fine with it) and we’ve been incredibly intimate with each other, and he has said a number of times that he doesn’t feel for this other woman what he feels for me; that he’s made "us" a condition of any relationship he has or will have in the future. (In other words, if they can’t handle me being in his life, then he won’t date 'em.) But over the past year or so I’ve been feeling a lot of pain and stress about the whole thing. Mostly because I don’t know when it will end. Add to that him telling me about his times with his girlfriend and it’s turned me into someone I don’t want to be: jealous, envious, sad, stressed out, lonely, tearful, confused—and I’m normally not a jealous person. I don’t mind sharing and I don’t expect exclusivity. But this situation has really tested me. I’ve tried to scale it back if not end it because it’s too painful not having a light at the end of the tunnel. When I have raised my concerns, he get’s angry or tearful and doesn’t want to end it.

I’m not really sure why he insists on maintaining our relationship from such a long distance with an indefinite cloud over our heads when I’ve offered him my blessings and the freedom to pursue a relationship with his overseas girlfriend. I’ve told him no more sexting, no more love texts, let’s just be friends if you’re not coming back and also spending so much time with her. But it doesn’t last very long before he’s back to very intimate texts with me.

He took my efforts and concerns as a cruel ultimatum and said that what he does with his girlfriend was none of my business! That it was unfair of me to end our intimacy because he had a girlfriend. He accused me of wanting him to stay single! This of course is not true, which I tried to point out. I can handle long distance indefinitely if it’s with just a friend. I can handle long distance and another girlfriend if there is a reunion date set with my lover. But I’m running out of steam with a long distance relationship that has no end in sight and another girlfriend in the equation—plus I’m married!

As of today, he’s booked a flight back home to see me and will be here next month for three weeks. I’m excited about it but also nervous because I don’t know how much longer I can handle this roller coaster. Am I being a bad friend/lover by wanting something to change? Why does he want to maintain such an impossible situation? Again the only reason I’m running out of steam is because there is no end in sight... I can’t talk to my friends about this because no one knows and I’d love advice from an objective pov. Any help you can offer would be hugely appreciated!

My Extra Nervous Situation

When I read this...

I don’t mind sharing and I don’t expect exclusivity.

...I thought, "You have a husband—remember the husband you mentioned him at the beginning of your letter?—so, yeah, I hope you don't expect exclusivity!"

Imagine my relief when you kindasorta referenced your husband toward the end of your letter ("—plus I’m married!"), saving me the trouble of having to remind you myself that while your boyfriend is off with his other girlfriend, you're at home with your husband.

Anyway...

Your long-distance boyfriend's got a girlfriend and I've got a question: Why does it bother you? It's not just the long distance thing; you were doing the long-distance thing successfully for at least a year before your long-distance boyfriend got himself a short-distance girlfriend.

Here's my guess: the constant reminders of this other woman's proximity—and the likelihood her proximity will lead to her primacy—and the fact that you are susceptible to feelings of jealousy after all have combined to make this, your secondary relationship, untenable. Not because he's over there, MENS; you had been making that work. And I don't think it's because he has someone else in his life just as you have someone else in your life.

No, no: the problem is that you don't want to hear about your boyfriend's girlfriend and your boyfriend won't shut the fuck up about his girlfriend.

A lot of people in open relationships have Don't Ask Don't Tell agreements with their primary partners. Because hearing about the sex and/or feelings their partners are having outside their relationship makes many people feel anxious and/or jealous. Those feelings and the need for a DADT arrangement don't by themselves mean a person isn't cut out for an open relationship. No, no: it's simply the recognition that you're susceptible to feelings of jealousy and consequently don't want to wallow in the intimate details of your primary or secondary partner(s) other relationships. It's good self-care. (Unless it's a workaround for someone who'd rather not be in an open relationship at all, in which case it's a bad sign.)

And for the record: a partner in a mutually agreeable open relationship who isn't telling isn't being deceptive, MENS, they're being considerate; a partner who isn't asking isn't in denial, MENS, they're in the kind of open relationship that works for them.

So ask your boyfriend to shut the fuck up about his new girlfriend—excuse me, ask him for a DADT agreement. If he can't honor a DADT agreement or refuses to agree to one on principal, MENS, then your feelings matter less to him than his concept of how an open relationship is supposed to work. And that would be a big problem.

Finally, MENS, if the fact that your boyfriend isn't returning from overseas anytime soon and consequently you only get to see him a few weeks a year is a dealbreaker for you—new girlfriend or no new girlfriend—then you can end this relationship. You don't need your boyfriend's permission to break up with him, MENS, if that's what you ultimately need to do.


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