Too Sensitive

A situationship is leading to anxiety and stress -- but is this normal for even the most secure.

I met a man last August at a time in which we were both new to a small college town, and we clicked instantly. We both agreed that we were not interested in a serious relationship at the time, but things started moving very fast and intensely, and looking back we both struggled with boundaries, and he especially struggled with communicating his needs and expectations.
I think the love bombing I received early on left me especially confused by how things were developing in relation to what was being vaguely communicated. After a few months he started hooking up with another couple from his department, and I really struggled with this new dynamic because of the bad and inconsistent communication, which triggered all my old cheating traumas and abandonment issues from my past. He also admitted that he enjoys having sex with them because they drink and smoke weed before they hookup.
I am sober, and I noticed that after he started hooking up with these guys, we started having less sex. I feel like I was having to compete with these guys for his attention, and I feel like I am losing. My feelings are hurt because I feel like I am being used. He uses them for sex, and he uses me for emotional intimacy. The problem is that this couple doesn't mind being used for sex since they are essentially using him as well, but I am not getting what I need out of this friendship. My friends keep telling me to cut him loose, but I am really struggling for some reason to do this.
I feel like when I talk to him about these issues, he tells me what I want to hear but nothing really changes. I've been working on my boundaries and old traumas in therapy, but I also think even when working on these things that it's too hard and confusing for me to be in this situation with someone who doesn't know what they want and is so inconsistent with me.
Can you give me your thoughts about what I should do? I am definitely a highly sensitive person, so maybe I am taking things too personally? How do I get better at just accepting this friendship for what it is so my feelings are not so hurt? Or is it just time to walk away?

Ultimately this isn't really about your acceptance of the other relationship. It's easy to be distracted by that in this situation because there are so many direct comparisons involved. But really, from the beginning there have been issues within this relationship. It was moving too fast for you and your communication wasn't great – and that would be true regardless of whether or not he ended up hooking up with another couple or not.

You said it yourself -- "I am not getting what I need out of this friendship" -- so why are you continuing within it? I think part of you is thinking that you can turn him into a person that will respect your needs but you can't. It's possible you're struggling to cut him loose because there is some aspect of this situation in terms of getting some needs met that keeps you coming back. It's possible you've been in situations growing up where you've felt like you could actually change someone else's behaviour by your actions but really, what it comes down to is what I've discussed in the past -- the three Cs.

The first is confronting the situation -- which you've already done. Nothing changes and you're still unhappy. The next is consent to the situation and accept the fact that this is the relationship you're going to get. In a way, this is what he's doing with the couple because he doesn't have emotional needs from them and everyone there is happy -- and that's fine. But you're not happy so consenting to this situation is not sustainable for you. So your only option, unless he actually demonstrates some changed behaviour, is the final C -- cut. Walk away from a situation that doesn't serve you. It's difficult but it's sometimes the only power we have as an adult since we can't change others.

Also, consider the narrative you're telling yourself. Being in a relationship where you're not getting what you need will make even the most secure person "highly sensitive". You're telling yourself you're unhappy and ignoring it and discounting your own experience. Listen to yourself more and validate yourself. This isn't about you being "traumatised" and be careful about labelling yourself with that. You would be hard pressed to find an adult out there who hadn't dealt with some form of difficult life situation or trauma -- so it's really not that out of place for you to struggle with that too.

Sometimes we discover what we need in relationships by being part of ones that don't work. It's a learning experience, but consider re-reading through your letter to me and focusing on what you said. You are not getting what you need. You can't control this person but you can walk away from situations that do not serve you. I hope this helps and good luck!

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