The previous post shed light on my partner’s compulsion with dating apps. It is here, at this point in the story, we get to the heart of things. From the start of the pandemic, sexual health ranked secondary to covid safety. Though there were risks to be mindful of when adding new partners on either side of the relationship, Covid was considered far more dangerous. Social distancing orders at the local and national levels warned us against leaving our homes for anything other than essential needs. Last time I checked, sexual variety wasn’t on the essential needs list. Neither was going on dates or sleeping with people to soothe deep-seated insecurities. Social distancing restrictions to the wind, that was the path we both chose.
I started meeting people for socially distanced hangouts in June of 2020. This was after lockdown restrictions in our city fell away. Admittedly, we shouldn’t have added ANY partners during a global pandemic. My parents and I had what the CDC defined as underlying conditions. Our conditions placed us amongst a population of global citizens that could be impacted more severely if we contracted Coronavirus. It was primarily for that reason that my partner and I agreed to disclose intimate encounters with others during the pandemic. Being the hypercautious individual I am, I told him about potential interests as soon as we’d exchanged numbers. Given how often and how quickly people ghost nowadays, I know I got ahead of myself.
I knew my partner saw me and two others at the time Covid hit. He saw all three of us for the first six months of the pandemic intermittently. The potential risks in those existing dynamics raised flags BEFORE the pandemic. Imagine my shock when I learned of the handful of women he slept with without my knowledge or consent as Covid raged. One he saw for a number of weeks to a couple of months without telling me. A second, he eventually slept with weeks after I’d asked him to pause his search so I could heal from that first breach. At least three others, he delayed telling me about for a year. I won’t get into the details of his rationale for behaving so selfishly at that time. We’ll chalk it up to ignorance, lack of maturity, and fear.
My partner made questionable choices for sure. Each choice led to his intentionally breaking agreements, risking my safety, and breaching my trust for his own gratification. His silence robbed me of my agency. My ability to make informed decisions regarding my personal well-being. My ability to decide whether to see him less or remove myself entirely as his compulsion and recklessness drove him toward the path of endangerment. Outcomes he selfishly controlled because he feared “losing” me. I was thrown for a loop not only because he’d let me down personally. He had literally risked our lives (and the lives of anyone we individually already had contact with) to get his dick wet.
December of 2020 was the deadliest month of that first pandemic year. I learned about *Crystal that month, and the downward trajectory of my mental health began. He’d slept with her on two or more occasions by the time I found out. Ironically, he’d made a marriage proposition less than 6 weeks prior. This was after I’d asked him to disclose information about others he was seeing for several months. I’d made requests verbally, via text message; emails and snail mail. The push came from an internal response. It stemmed from his having a number of partners that made me feel unsafe. I didn’t want to go into a marriage not knowing basic information about who and what he was exposing me to. It was a leap from the limit I’d set of not wanting to know anything at all the year before. A leap he later used to justify his actions; claiming he was ‘confused’ by the shift in my boundaries, though Covid safety should have outweighed those fears.
The trauma from that initial discovery carried me through therapy for a year. It manifested in massive (sometimes daily) arguments and a depleted sense of self-worth. It surfaced in the form of random crying episodes and disassociation. It took firm hold of my dignity, spurring a loss of self-respect. It simmered and then boiled inside me. For a time, it answered only to hard liquor and THC. Occasionally, it was sated by a sleeping pill. I turned to substances on nights he might be with her. I pounded shots and IPA’s on nights we spent together to keep her off my mind. In the two months between my finding out about Crystal and my trying to end our relationship, there were more of those nights than I could handle.
In an effort to uphold the agreements my partner broke, he started disclosing every attempt to make plans. Each week, an “I might see Crystal” text unexpectedly came through. Each time, the knife in my heart plunged further inward. There was one night when I hadn’t spoken to him for days. He broke his silence by announcing his plans to see Crystal that evening. He hadn’t bothered to check in and ask how I was. If he had, he’d know my police sergeant brother had been in a shoot-out the night before. There was no mention of anyone else for months. Just this person I now associated with his betrayal. This person who had known about me, though I was unfairly kept in the dark. This person who was unknowingly complicit in my partner’s unethical behavior.
You’re likely wondering why I stayed in the relationship. Why I stayed with someone who showed such blatant disregard for my emotional and physical well-being. Someone whose selfishness exacerbated my mental health issues while navigating a parents’ near-fatal illness. The simple answer is I assumed being in a non-monogamous relationship structure meant he wasn’t doing anything I hadn’t fundamentally agreed to. We each entered the relationship with a mutual understanding we’d both see others casually. No harm, no foul. I learned after joining a support group that his breaking agreements was, in fact, foul. I didn’t know cheating in non-monogamous relationships was possible until then.