Absolutely STRUGGLING in new relationship - changes in appearance

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balthyes

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I have posted about a new relationship partner that has said he ultimately wants to "gain muscle and lose fat". This has caused me quite a bit of distress! Doesn't help that he has been away recently so it's longer than usual between our meets.

Anyway...

While he was away, he got a new (second) tattoo. I DON'T LIKE TATTOOS!

Uggghhh, this guy has beautiful forearms. I can't help but see this tattoo as a "flaw" in the landscape.

But... a tattoo is very much a "second-order" preference for me. I can deal with a tattoo much better than I can deal with a(n intentional) change of body type.

But with what I was already worried about, this dumb tattoo is just exacerbating things.

...Or do I just hate ANY physical changes?

I feel torn here in how I should proceed.
I've been seeing this guy about 2 months.

To be clear, I won't ever think someone's physical presentation is something I should have a say in. But at the same time, it can affect me (and us), so what should I do??

Options:

1. Despite the short duration of our connection, I go honest and vulnerable. Maybe I will get some acknowledgement of my experience, maybe even some comfort (while not expecting any capitulation to my preferences).

2. Given the short duration of our relationship, I keep my suffering to myself. It is, after all, my decision to make whether I am happy/fulfilled in a relationship or not. If things get to a point where I'm not happy, I bow out. (I do fear, though, that this will require me to "close off" a part of myself in the meantime, to steel myself for certain changes).

For context:
  • I am 40F.
  • I am polyamorous, with a partner of 12.5 years and another of 4.5 years.
  • I really like this guy...
 
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agouderia

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Reading your relationship discussion posts for some days now, I've been debating whether to chime in or not. And I continuously caught myself mentally slipping into the role of your BHM relationship interest.

Does he have any idea what is going on in your head?
Because if I were in his position and knew you are "suffering" from my change in appearance because of a new tattoo (personally I'm also an anti-tatto-person, so that's not my point) and were investing so much anxiety into as of now only hypothetical body changes, I would call off any relationship instantly.

Being with someone who sets such extreme store on labels, on compartmentalizing people, and where a major relationship element is ticking boxes on a long list of externial criteria is bound to end in frustration sooner or later.

Physical compatability is important - but it isn't everything. A big guy who is +/- 40 won't turn into a skeletal broomstick overnight but is more likely to move from big & fat to big & meaty. Life is compromise - and that might be one of these that can be made to maintain an otherwise good relationship.
 

loopytheone

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I would say that being together for 2 months feels like a long time, but it really isn't in the long term. If you both have different goals/want different things from his body, I would just call it all off, to be honest. It doesn't sound like you have compatibility long term unless one/both of you can compromise on that. Maybe if you are both in a different place/head space in a year or so you can revisit things and see if the chemistry is still there then?

I feel you on struggling with changes in appearance though. When my partner mentions wanting to lose weight it gets my anxiety right up, no matter how illogical that is. Do you have trouble coping with change in general? That might be part of it.
 

balthyes

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I would say that being together for 2 months feels like a long time, but it really isn't in the long term. If you both have different goals/want different things from his body, I would just call it all off, to be honest. It doesn't sound like you have compatibility long term unless one/both of you can compromise on that. Maybe if you are both in a different place/head space in a year or so you can revisit things and see if the chemistry is still there then?

I feel you on struggling with changes in appearance though. When my partner mentions wanting to lose weight it gets my anxiety right up, no matter how illogical that is. Do you have trouble coping with change in general? That might be part of it.
I think I have trouble coping with change in general. Uggghh, being 40 but probably neurodivergent...
 

balthyes

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Reading your relationship discussion posts for some days now, I've been debating whether to chime in or not. And I continuously caught myself mentally slipping into the role of your BHM relationship interest.

Does he have any idea what is going on in your head?
Because if I were in his position and knew you are "suffering" from my change in appearance because of a new tattoo (personally I'm also an anti-tatto-person, so that's not my point) and were investing so much anxiety into as of now only hypothetical body changes, I would call off any relationship instantly.

Being with someone who sets such extreme store on labels, on compartmentalizing people, and where a major relationship element is ticking boxes on a long list of externial criteria is bound to end in frustration sooner or later.

Physical compatability is important - but it isn't everything. A big guy who is +/- 40 won't turn into a skeletal broomstick overnight but is more likely to move from big & fat to big & meaty. Life is compromise - and that might be one of these that can be made to maintain an otherwise good relationship.
Thank you for your insight.

I HATE that this all affects me so much. If I had a thin partner (which I have had), none of this is a problem.

I think the tattoo is symptomatic of other things...
 

loopytheone

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I think I have trouble coping with change in general. Uggghh, being 40 but probably neurodivergent...

To be honest, I was wondering if that might be the case for you. I'm neurodivergent and I identify an awful lot with the things you are saying. I know neurotypical people often don't understand/misinterpret the difficultly people like me have in adapting to change. In particular, the fact that you would be perfectly happy if you originally met him thinner, but the idea of him changing gives you a lot of anxiety, that sounds exactly like me and my partner. He's a BHM and the idea of him trying to lose weight sends me into a spiral every time he brings it up. The funny thing is, he was 40 lbs lighter when we first met, and I loved his body back then too, so the appearance itself clearly isn't the issue.

I wish I had advice here, but all I can really say is that it sucks. You're not alone though, if that helps.

For what its worth, I feel like if a partner isn't understanding towards your anxieties and struggles, as suggested by other people, then they aren't a very good person or worth hanging on to. Hopefully your partner isn't like that. It might be a good idea to get yourself tested/diagnosed, if possible. It makes it easier to explain your issues to people and they tend to be more understanding. Regardless, I hope things work out well for you!
 

Donna

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For those of us who aren't neurodivergent and aren't familiar interacting with anyone who is, is there a tell-tale sign or behavior that distinguishes it from someone who is not neurodivergent and only using it as an excuse for their need to compartmentalize (and possibly control) their relationships?
 

balthyes

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For those of us who aren't neurodivergent and aren't familiar interacting with anyone who is, is there a tell-tale sign or behavior that distinguishes it from someone who is not neurodivergent and only using it as an excuse for their need to compartmentalize (and possibly control) their relationships?
I would say it's in how, or if, they bring it up.

One thing I'm struggling with is that I don't think it would be fair for me to bring my discomfort up, like I just need to deal with it on my own (or by posting here!). Someone who wants to control or manipulate would bring it up and expect you to do whatever is necessary.
 

balthyes

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To be honest, I was wondering if that might be the case for you. I'm neurodivergent and I identify an awful lot with the things you are saying. I know neurotypical people often don't understand/misinterpret the difficultly people like me have in adapting to change. In particular, the fact that you would be perfectly happy if you originally met him thinner, but the idea of him changing gives you a lot of anxiety, that sounds exactly like me and my partner. He's a BHM and the idea of him trying to lose weight sends me into a spiral every time he brings it up. The funny thing is, he was 40 lbs lighter when we first met, and I loved his body back then too, so the appearance itself clearly isn't the issue.

I wish I had advice here, but all I can really say is that it sucks. You're not alone though, if that helps.

For what its worth, I feel like if a partner isn't understanding towards your anxieties and struggles, as suggested by other people, then they aren't a very good person or worth hanging on to. Hopefully your partner isn't like that. It might be a good idea to get yourself tested/diagnosed, if possible. It makes it easier to explain your issues to people and they tend to be more understanding. Regardless, I hope things work out well for you!
Thank you.

You have affirmed for me that this is probably a resistance-to-change thing moreso than a "fetish" thing or anything else.

I've been really hormonal this week with heightened anxiety and not seen him as frequently as usual, so I think I've been jumping the gun and catastrophising. This stupid tattoo has not helped 😅

What you say about him not understanding my struggles is where I'm stuck. Should I tell him my struggles? If so, why? I don't want to even accidentally guilt-trip anyone, let alone say negative things about their appearance (or hypothetical future appearance), so shouldn't I just deal with this myself?

I would dearly like to seek diagnosis. Unfortunately, to get NHS (read: free) services you pretty much need a referral from a GP, and GPs in my area are pretty resistant to the idea of adult ND diagnoses.
 

loopytheone

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For those of us who aren't neurodivergent and aren't familiar interacting with anyone who is, is there a tell-tale sign or behavior that distinguishes it from someone who is not neurodivergent and only using it as an excuse for their need to compartmentalize (and possibly control) their relationships?

I mean, for me, I can't imagine being a relationship with somebody that I don't completely trust, so it's hard for me to answer. I can't identify with how a manipulative/controlling person would think/act, so I can't tell you how it would differ from a ND person's reaction.

That said, I feel like the genuine distress, internal conflict, shame and frustration ND people tend to go through in these situations would be something that is hard to fake? But everybody is different, I don't think there is ever one sign that you can use to tell things about multiple people, you know?

Thank you.

You have affirmed for me that this is probably a resistance-to-change thing moreso than a "fetish" thing or anything else.

I've been really hormonal this week with heightened anxiety and not seen him as frequently as usual, so I think I've been jumping the gun and catastrophising. This stupid tattoo has not helped 😅

What you say about him not understanding my struggles is where I'm stuck. Should I tell him my struggles? If so, why? I don't want to even accidentally guilt-trip anyone, let alone say negative things about their appearance (or hypothetical future appearance), so shouldn't I just deal with this myself?

I would dearly like to seek diagnosis. Unfortunately, to get NHS (read: free) services you pretty much need a referral from a GP, and GPs in my area are pretty resistant to the idea of adult ND diagnoses.

Catastrophising is unfortunately something I do a lot as well, hah.

Well, it is up to you what you do. I tend to be a very honest and open person with my thoughts and feelings. Keeping things to myself only makes them worse for me. But everybody is different and you have to handle things in a way that works for you personally. I guess it rubbed me up the wrong way with agouderia suggesting that she'd leave somebody who told them they had these anxieties. An understanding partner will be there for you if you want to share. You don't have to share, but you shouldn't feel afraid they will leave you if you do.

I'm sorry your GPs are like that. I was in your shoes a few years back, as I was diagnosed as autistic as an adult. That was on the NHS though, so it can happen, though I know the attitude of doctors can vary a lot between areas in the UK. For me, I was able to get a psychiatrist on the NHS and although I didn't get along with her, she did agree to refer me for an autism assessment. If you are able to get your GP to refer you to a mental health specialist for a related issue (anxiety? depression?) then talking to that mental health specialist might get you better results.

I hope things improve for you, at least!
 

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So it sounds like you are already involved with two other guys? If this third guy is causing you so much grief just dump him. It’s not like you’d be completely alone if you split up.
 

balthyes

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So it sounds like you are already involved with two other guys? If this third guy is causing you so much grief just dump him. It’s not like you’d be completely alone if you split up.
That is a very disrespectful response. Would you suggest someone wouldn't miss their child if they already had two others?

You clearly don't understand polyamory, and you don't have to, but you could try not dismissing others' feelings and experiences.
 

balthyes

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I mean, for me, I can't imagine being a relationship with somebody that I don't completely trust, so it's hard for me to answer. I can't identify with how a manipulative/controlling person would think/act, so I can't tell you how it would differ from a ND person's reaction.

That said, I feel like the genuine distress, internal conflict, shame and frustration ND people tend to go through in these situations would be something that is hard to fake? But everybody is different, I don't think there is ever one sign that you can use to tell things about multiple people, you know?



Catastrophising is unfortunately something I do a lot as well, hah.

Well, it is up to you what you do. I tend to be a very honest and open person with my thoughts and feelings. Keeping things to myself only makes them worse for me. But everybody is different and you have to handle things in a way that works for you personally. I guess it rubbed me up the wrong way with agouderia suggesting that she'd leave somebody who told them they had these anxieties. An understanding partner will be there for you if you want to share. You don't have to share, but you shouldn't feel afraid they will leave you if you do.

I'm sorry your GPs are like that. I was in your shoes a few years back, as I was diagnosed as autistic as an adult. That was on the NHS though, so it can happen, though I know the attitude of doctors can vary a lot between areas in the UK. For me, I was able to get a psychiatrist on the NHS and although I didn't get along with her, she did agree to refer me for an autism assessment. If you are able to get your GP to refer you to a mental health specialist for a related issue (anxiety? depression?) then talking to that mental health specialist might get you better results.

I hope things improve for you, at least!
Hmm, I think I am someone who needs to keep things to myself while still processing - unless things come to a head for me and just need to be said. As I've mentioned, I'm very wary of not guilt-tripping, even accidentally, so I'm still mulling over different courses of action and their repercussions.

I'm so glad to hear that you were able to access a psychiatrist and get diagnosed on the NHS.

I've been through two lots of CBT and one lot of talk therapy on the NHS, for depression and anxiety, but none of it helped me in any way. I kept bringing up that I thought I was neurodivergent, but unfortunately none of those therapists could do anything about that.

I think I will try and broach to GPs that I need to see a psychiatrist. About 15 years ago I had struggled with panic disorder for a year and it only took *one session* with a psychiatrist to achieve a dramatic change. I will just need to come up with a good enough "reason" for needing a psychiatrist - "I'm polyamorous with a problematic fat fetish" probably won't cut it!

Funnily enough, it was a sex therapist (first consult free) who first suggested I might be autistic. She was fantastic and exactly who I would like to see about this issue.

Anyway, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate knowing someone understands and has had success with the NHS!
 

balthyes

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Update:

I don't think anyone can answer for me what I should do, but I hope no one minds if I just update here, sort of like a journal for me to sort out my thoughts.

I saw him this weekend for over 24 hours.The tattoo was literally a non-issue! Like, I'm kind of indifferent to it, but it wasn't as big as I thought and certainly didn't mar the beauty of his arm 😂

I'm still confused about everything else. The night before we met I asked a few questions over chat. He does want to lose fat and still didn't seem worried about if that might change things. Again, I know it's not my place to have a say in someone else's appearance - I just know if it were me doing the changing, I would worry to some extent how that would affect my partner and, in turn, me! He's just so nonchalant about it. *Yet*, he brought up that he will probably be doing more weekends at work soon, like *that* might upset me, despite it obviously being his choice and something he would do regardless.

But also... Today we had late lunch/early dinner out and he ordered a large and very high-calorie meal... Then afterwards asked if it was bad that he wanted dessert. (Ugh, of course not!). We got one each and he ate like 1.5 of them total. So... I don't get it. His belly was so taut, and *how* does he not get/care how much this excites me?

And because some people think there could be no issue me dumping him because I already have other partners...

This is its own connection. I've never had one like it (though of course I've had and currently have others just as meaningful). He is like the male version of me... We mesh so well and, though it's too early for "love", I like him tremendously.

None of that will change with his body type changing, but other feelings can change, and those feelings can be powerful.
 
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loopytheone

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I've been through two lots of CBT and one lot of talk therapy on the NHS, for depression and anxiety, but none of it helped me in any way. I kept bringing up that I thought I was neurodivergent, but unfortunately none of those therapists could do anything about that.

Yeah, CBT doesn't work for neurodivergent people a lot of the time. I've had some fairly traumatic experiences with therapists trying to do CBT on me (funnily enough, private ones rather than NHS!).

Anyway, I'm glad things weren't as bad as you worried they might be. Hopefully things keep on being well for you! =)
 

Angelette

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I'm sure there are many, many women who go their whole lives suspecting they are but never knowing for sure. Fortunately diagnostic investigation of girls is much more common now, but adult women still fall through the gaps.
Thank you for the useful info. Unfortunately, my mom assumed I was autistic behind my back and think I won't do well alone. She told this information to my sister.

I guess she thought of this because I used to be in special ed classes and was misdiagnosed as partially autistic as a toddler. But that was the early 2000's in America where every parent was freaking out over autism.

Anyhow, happy to hear about your relationship status!
 

balthyes

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Thank you for the useful info. Unfortunately, my mom assumed I was autistic behind my back and think I won't do well alone. She told this information to my sister.

I guess she thought of this because I used to be in special ed classes and was misdiagnosed as partially autistic as a toddler. But that was the early 2000's in America where every parent was freaking out over autism.

Anyhow, happy to hear about your relationship status!
I hope you can seek diagnosis! It might do you a world of good.
 

balthyes

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Yeah, CBT doesn't work for neurodivergent people a lot of the time. I've had some fairly traumatic experiences with therapists trying to do CBT on me (funnily enough, private ones rather than NHS!).

Anyway, I'm glad things weren't as bad as you worried they might be. Hopefully things keep on being well for you! =)
Iiinteresting. I hadn't heard that before. Do you have any sources on CBT efficacy in ND people? Because I'd love to know more (and it might help me get the kind of help I actually think I need).

Weirdly though, I successfully, yet unknowingly, CBT'd myself as a kid with OCD. I once thereafter had a (mostly useless) counsellor suggest I was frustrated that I couldn't similarly overcome panic disorder by myself. I think that sort of frustration keeps emerging. Unfortunately everything is more complicated when you're an adult!
 

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