Hi. I know I’m late to the blogging party here at the brand spanking new Living Within Reason. I’ve wanted to write, but honestly, the types of things I usually write about have proven to be painful and difficult to get through. The truth is that is has been an extremely tumultuous several months and whenever I’ve attempted to write about anything other than the reason for the tumult, I have hit a wall of anger and sadness.
I deeply dislike feeling hatred and anger towards people. It does not make me feel powerful or inspired or motivated. When I get into a pit of anger I have no energy to get out. It is not where I want to be. In the past I used to climb out of these places by blaming myself for everything that has been done to me. “If I were better, stronger, smarter, it wouldn’t have happened”. But this is the most egotistical thing I could think. How could I truly believe that I would be impressive enough, good enough, worth enough to another person to make them be impressive enough, good enough, and worth enough to me? That’s not how people work. We are who we are. Yes, we can change, but we can’t do it for anyone but ourselves. That was something I had to learn for myself and it was something I had to accept about others. Still, even atheists can be the victim of faith when we desperately want to believe that someone will come through for us.
I haven’t written about any of this because I thought it was my responsibility to spare people the truth. Yes, it is my truth, but I have trustworthy witnesses to much of it and I have an impeccable memory. I began to doubt my truth after a while because I was being gaslighted and patronized on the regular, but I was able to rally my strength to not forget. Before, I didn’t have the self respect to speak up for myself, to demand good treatment, to accept that the behaviors that made me uncomfortable were unhealthy and not just a figment of my mental illness. That person is not who I am anymore and I wish for my side of the story to be written, mostly for posterity, in clear, direct terms.
Near the end, Shaun and I were having a heated discussion that was mostly about Wes, because of course it was. At the end, pretty much everything he talked about was how much a selfish, abusive jerk Wes was and how dare I expect more from him when I let Wes get away with everything. He saw he and Wes as equivalent mental cases. He was incorrect. When I would tell him that he was incorrect, he would explain to me that I have sacred spaces in my mind that I protect from attack. One of these spaces is dedicated to Wes. Another is dedicated to believing that I have worked very hard to shatter my emotional walls and grow as a person and that I have exceptional perspective on the world around me. He called them sacred. I called them ideals I was willing to fight for. When Shaun met me, I was unwilling to fight for anything, certainly nothing that would improve my life at the possible slight cost to others. In the end, winning the argument with the person I am today is not so easy.
But the most enlightening thing that came out of that conversation was our different views on trust. Shaun stated that he and I don’t look at trust the same way. He said that I based trust on what people do and that his concept of trust was about what he thought the other person was underneath it all. In short, trust for me was an evidence based belief and his was a faith-based belief. As a scientist, and a generally rational human being, I will continue to base my ability to trust people on the things that they do, thanks. Otherwise, I will just keep letting myself be open season for emotional abusers and that is not who I am. Not anymore.
I met Shaun a few months after I had been raped. He was kind and gentle with me and seemed to hold consent in very high regard. That is what I needed at the time from a new sexual partner. Because he gave me those things, I instantly trusted him. This was a mistake.
A couple of months into our relationship, he put me in a position to have sex without a condom. I did it because I knew it would make him happy. That was mostly why I had sex back then. Afterwards, I felt terrible about it because it was, like, the one rule Wes and I had about our other relationships. Obviously, I had to tell Wes and Jessie as soon as I got home because obviously. The rule was that we used condoms until we discussed it with our other partners and made sure they were comfortable with that. It wasn’t even a thing that was off the table. We just had to treat our other partners like autonomous beings with their own rights and boundaries and health.
Wes was upset, understandably. But we made it through and Shaun and went back to using condoms. I beat myself up a lot for having done that. I felt unworthy of being polyamorous. I felt unworthy of anything. But that was pretty much the person I was back then. I wouldn’t even call the rape a rape (or even an assault) at that point because I figured it was my fault and I deserved it for going up to his room in the first place. I was in denial about my trauma. I would both do whatever another person wanted and hate myself for it.
After a few months, Shaun was frustrated about having to use condoms and argued with me about it. I was terrified that having to use them would make Shaun not want to be with me anymore. I was also still feeling like a piece of trash for having given Wes a reason not to trust me. Wes was over it by then, but I wouldn’t forgive myself. Still, I couldn’t stand to have Shaun unhappy, so I talked to Wes about it and got the go ahead. But I asked that he not finish inside me because I had a lot of fear about that left over from my mom and her teenage pregnancy stories. It was a boundary and I thought it was a relatively reasonable one.
After a few more months, Shaun was unsatisfied with having to pull out. He was frustrated and wanted me to get rid of that particular boundary. Again, I was afraid that he would stop wanting me if I was unwilling to sacrifice my own comfort and boundaries for his pleasure. I thought that this was a reasonable line of thought. I didn’t want to but I felt that I had to get over it for his sake. So again, I talked to Wes about it and we agreed that it was something that was OK to do. I didn’t tell Wes that I was feeling pressured and anxious. I didn’t tell Wes a lot of things.
Admittedly, now I am glad that I was able to become comfortable with it. So I suppose I should be grateful for the kick in the ass, but what I have learned is that I am allowed to do things at my own pace and on my own terms. I don’t live for other people anymore.
There were a lot of things that happened after that which I added to my “Reasons to Maybe Not Trust Shaun Completely” list. But they aren’t all that important. Mostly it was that I couldn’t trust him to treat me as though I was important when there were other women around whom he wanted to flirt/have sex with. I often felt overlooked or in the way. After one particular incident where he got mad at me for not leaving him alone with a very good friend of mine (so that he could ask her if she was into him), I got into the habit of asking him before every social gathering whether I should stay away from him. I was constantly worried about being a problem. I was also constantly worried about being replaced. I didn’t feel this way about Wes. That is because he and I worked very hard to get to a place where we knew that neither of these things were things that were going to happen. I did not have enough evidence from Shaun to feel secure in that.
In addition, Shaun suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. I admit that I thought I could handle it, but ultimately I could not. When they moved in, I cleaned incessantly hoping that it would be clean enough for him (and that he wouldn’t complain to me about Wes and Jessie’s messiness). My anxiety about us all living together, compounded by work and family trouble, got to such an unmanageable degree that I sought out antidepressants. I knew that Wes, Shaun, and Ginny had issues with each other, but I thought it would work itself out. That was a mistake. Treatment helped but I was still always on edge about the cleanliness of the house. In addition, I was always on edge about the dynamic between Wes, Shaun, and Ginny. I was also always on edge about interrupting him when he was playing a computer game or writing something because sometimes it was OK to do so and sometimes he would snap at me. Basically, I was always on edge and didn’t feel like my home (with my name on the deed) was my own for the entire year that they lived with us. I tried very hard to make it comfortable, to let myself get used to it, to enjoy it, but I could not relax. I upped my Zoloft dose and started seeing a wonderful therapist.
That combination speeded up my development into the person I am today. After several sessions, I was starting to really feel a sense of my own self worth. I began to feel and know that I am worth the best treatment, appropriate salary for services rendered, and the right to live my life as I saw fit. This was pretty strange for me because instead of feeling guilt about people treating me like crap, I started to feel anger. “No, I didn’t deserve this and this is not my fault. You are just an asshole.” That kind of thing.
Sometime last year, Shaun started seeing someone new and he was head over heels very quickly. I liked her but had my usual anxieties. On the surface though, Shaun was doing everything right to make me feel comfortable and supportive. For the most part anyway. I didn’t really appreciate the loud sex at 2am, but I bought earplugs to try and not be an asshole about it. But yes, I trusted that Shaun had the health of my relationship with him linked into his new relationship.
One night, about 3 months after they had started dating, we were coming home from a burlesque show. He was acting kind of weird. I asked him what was up and he said he didn’t want to tell me. I pushed the issue because he clearly wasn’t ok. He then told me that he had been having sex with this new person without a condom for weeks and hadn’t discussed it with anyone. I was furious and heartbroken. I truly had believed that he would have learned at least a little something from the experience that he and I had gone through early in our relationship. I didn’t for a second think he would do something like that and do it for weeks without saying so much as a word. He told me that he had been afraid to tell me because he knew I would be upset and also he had been so happy with this other person that he didn’t want to do anything to mess it up. He was regretful seemingly that night and for a few days after that but in seeing some email exchanges he’s had with a dear friend, it would appear that he’s rewriting history now. Now he says that it wasn’t a thing he thought was important or that had been a rule that needed to be discussed. I trust my memory of events better, as they are burned into my mind. I still get upset thinking about that night sometimes.
After that, I didn’t know what to do. I was desperately trying to make it work but my trust in him was completely broken. It didn’t help that he became often callous about it all, insinuating that I shouldn’t be upset about stuff like that (and that I’m upset because society has the wrong values). I felt like I had to remind him every other day of the severity of this trespass and he would meet me back there but then forget later, it seemed. I started to feel insane, like I didn’t know up from down. We were in trouble and I had no idea how to fix it.
A week or so later, his new girlfriend told her boyfriend about the condomless sex and he was not happy about it. It seemed that Shaun’s relationship with her was in jeopardy because of it. Because I was there, he was getting emotional support from me about that, even though I was completely furious with him about the same thing. I tried, but ultimately I couldn’t take that he was calling the boyfriend unevolved for having such an issue with it. I called Shaun out on it and he got mad, snapped at me, and stormed off. Wes and Jessie got home to find me balled up on the couch sobbing. I went over to gauge whether he was in a place where we could have a non-abusive conversation. I believed him when he said we could. He then snapped at me that Wes is abusive and if I’m going to be upset with him then I should be upset with Wes too. This broke me and I went back over to Wes and told him what he had said. Wes went to Shaun and asked what makes him abusive and Shaun yelled at him to get the fuck away from him or he will break Wes’ nose. Wes came back and we decided to go upstairs because there was nothing left to say and Shaun started screaming at the top of his lungs and threw dining room chairs around. I was terrified. Jessie, the brave woman she is, went down and talked him down.
Things were bad. I didn’t know what to do anymore. We ended up having a housewide conversation about all of this and Shaun and Ginny told Wes that they thought he was abusive to them. This was in response to us being afraid of the violent rage attack of the night before and the fact that I had been generally afraid of emotional attacks from Shaun for months. Ginny said that Shaun hits her where she is strong and hits me where I am weak. I didn’t have the wherewithal to say that using the word ‘hits’ in that sentence speaks volumes about the truth of my feelings.
The next day, after a lot of deep thought and sadness, I knew that our living “experiment” had failed and that it could not continue. I wrote an email to the family saying as much and asked them to move out as soon as they could. The tensions between Wes, Shaun, and Ginny were insurmountable and I was simply afraid for my own safety and also questioned my ability to continually make healthy decisions for myself.
A mutual friend had found a house in Philly and Ginny and Shaun agreed to take a room in it. Tensions in the house were at an all time high and it was decided that they would move out in 2 weeks. I thought Shaun and I could make it and try to start over without the stress of sharing a house. I was desperately clinging to the relationship hoping that it could turn into something healthy. I wanted all of it to have been worth the time and effort and pain I had gone through. I couldn’t let it fail.
But within those two weeks, Shaun continued to pursue new relationships and bring them to the house for dates and loud, intrusive sex. The last week he was there, he made a date with a new friend of ours (who had not previously been poly). On the Monday that he had the date with this person, he informed me, on my way to therapy of all places, that he had made a date with yet another “hot off the presses sort of poly person who wasn’t poly a several months ago” friend. And I admit that this completely broke me. I showed up to therapy in tears knowing that it couldn’t be saved. I just couldn’t deal with being the welcoming wonderful metamour for these people knowing how he had hurt me (multiple times in multiple ways) and knowing how scary he can be. I already didn’t trust him with me. I didn’t trust him with others and I couldn’t be a part of it anymore. I came home that night and broke it off.
I cried myself to sleep that night knowing it was the right decision but letting myself believe that the failure was my burden to bear. For the next week I was utterly terrified to be in the house with them alone. I was scared to come home from work. I was scared to not leave the house on the weekend. I was convinced that he would lash out at me or at Wes. I was kept safe and secure by people who love me. I am very, very lucky.
There’s so much more to say, more characters to add, more evidence to share, but it’s not really important. I wanted to tell my story. I’m tired of being quiet. I’m tired of feeling crazy. I needed to get this out there. I need to move on from all of this. I silenced myself online to spare people this, but this is for me.
A couple of weeks after the breakup when they were living in their new home, Shaun started turning his sights again on Wes, writing passive aggressive blog posts aimed at him. It became clear quickly that the breakup no longer had anything to with me. I was a passing character in it, the regrettably lost prize in a war between good and evil (apparently). Wes is the villain and I am gone because of his villainy.
So here it is. These are the things that happened. I know that I am not crazy. I know what happened and how it all made me feel. I know that I am right. And most importantly, I know that I am worth so much more than all of this.
This is behind me now. I am cutting all ties that can be reasonably cut and am choosing to grow from this instead of shrivel.