I’m a mostly straight, young but not too young, sexually active adult woman. I don’t intend to get married, but I very much value emotional connections and intimacy. I can have sex for the sake of sex without needing it to mean more, but I appreciate more when it’s there. Well, about two years ago I met a much older man who claimed his was an open marriage; we didn’t actually have sex for a couple of months, and I was intrigued by the idea of a close but not fully committed lover who would not be seeking a wife. Eventually I found out that while his wife didn’t much mind his having no-strings extramarital sex, she would not at all have accepted his being emotionally involved with a mistress. I was pissed because I had expressed early on that I didn’t want to get involved in keeping secrets, but he talked me back into his arms and thus ensued another year of amazing sex, moments of transcendent friendship, and also plenty of moments of being ignored or even fully disregarded despite his expectation that I would be responsive to him and his texts and his emails. He could have gotten the sex without having to make false promises of emotional attachment, but that’s not what he did. So I ended it because being told I am amazing while simultaneously being ignored might be as damaging as anything I have experienced. Still, I have a lot of self-doubt over this; is something wonderful about him that I am overlooking? Did my desires and wants cross the line into immature self-centered behavior? Am I overlooking a point of view, or am I just overlooking an asshole’s asshole nature?
It’s hard for people who are sexually experienced, savvy, wise in the ways of the world and generally free of belief in romantic bullshit to recognize that we, too, can be deceived in relationships. No matter how much we may like to think that we’re “immune to the stuff”, as Robert Palmer put it, the fact of the matter is that the right dose in the right combination delivered in the right medium will still intoxicate us just as if we were starry-eyed ingenues. And unfortunately, there is no way to be sure that the mixologist isn’t up to pure no good when he or she slips you that mickey; every time you imbibe you run the risk that the cocktail will be stronger than you bargained for, especially when it’s so delicious you just keep knocking ‘em down without keeping a very close count. From what you’ve told me here, your lover was quite the skillful alchemist; he read what you wanted, told you what you wanted to hear and expertly smoothed over your valid concerns. This doesn’t mean you’re gullible; it means you’re a real and complex person with needs of your own, and you fell in with someone who both knew how to manipulate that and had no moral scruples against doing it. Lest you think I’m being unnecessarily harsh in my judgment of him, consider your own statement that “he could have gotten the sex without having to make false promises of emotional attachment”; he wanted the advantages of a regular sex worker without having to pay for one. You didn’t say what he does for a living, but he’d have made a great politician; the combination of charm, promise making-and-breaking and casual dishonesty is typical in that career. Politicians are usually very popular, too, which is how they keep getting elected no matter what they do; that doesn’t make them good people, it makes them good manipulators. So I think you made the right decision: treasure the good memories, let go of as much of the pain as you can, and walk away before he talks you into wasting another year on someone who seems unable to play by the rules of ethical polyamory.