Clear on poly, but still possessive secondary
My husband and I have been poly for almost a year, but this pots isn't about him (right now no new challenges there). It's my boyfriend. We've been dating for almost nine months, and have become quite emotionally attached. He has, in particular, though I have deep feelings for him as well.
Fundamentally, I think, the problem has been that we have had very different relationship experiences. I've been a serial monogamist, married for thirteen years, and now poly. He has had a string of very short relationshops and one-night stands. He's single (aside from me). I am his longest (and from what I can tell most successful) relationship.
So, the bottom line is this - he is respectful of my husband and family (to a fault), but has a near melt down when it comes to me even going out on a date with someone else. He has been dealing, but not quite as well as I would hope and expect. We've talked about it, but it boils down to a difference in nature - I am poly at core, his preference seems to be towards monogamy (well, near monogamy with me).
I'm not quite sure how to manage all these pieces. It's hard enough to manage my husband's feelings and my feelings without having to do serious management on his. I understand that when you care for someone, you need to care for them - all parts of them. I just wasn't expecting this to be an issue and it has sort of blind sided me.
Hi there, I love your username -
I am just beginning (barely over a week now) a new relationship with Burnsy, who is married and lives about two hours from me. He and I were talking about rules and boundaries yesterday, and he let me know that he and his wife do have the freedom to pursue casual liaisons outside of any committed relationships they have. He said to me, "I would assume, and hope, that you would too." I responded, "Oh, sure, sure," but when I thought about him pursuing other women in his hometown, I noticed a little jealousy rise up in me, even though a.) it makes sense since we're long-distance, b.) I am pursuing other relationships, too, and c.) I'm not jealous of his wife.
My theory is -- and I think this might apply even after I would be seeing him for a while -- that I'm not jealous of his wife because she is established and a part of who he is, so to speak. You know, she's part of the package at this point in time when I have met him, so all I have to worry about is my contribution to establishing a good relationship between him and me. However, until I am completely secure with my place in his life (and being NEW, I am not secure), anyone who comes after me is seen somewhat as competition who could replace me.
But I look at the feeling when it comes up and try to see it more objectively. It's about fear of loss for me. Therefore, it is not Burnsy's responsibility to reassure me or try and make me feel better. My jealousy sits on top of other, deeper feelings that are part of my baggage, as I explained here: jealousy over an ex. And I alone am responsible for my baggage.
So, as I see it, your guy needs to so some more self-examination to see what's at the bottom of his jealousy, and to find the best way to deal with it himself, without putting burden on you. It would be different if you had a "no other guys" agreement -- then you would have to re-negotiate. But right now, aside from your having compassion, of course, for what he's going through, it's all on him to handle his own shit.
I do find it interesting that, in your first paragraph, you state that the two of you have become quite "attached." The notion of attachment is related to possessiveness, wanting things to stay the same, and the idea that change is a threat, because it could erode or take away that connection. Just some food for thought.
I hope this is helpful in some way.
Yes. Very helpful. And you reiterated some of the things he has been saying as well, primarily the fear of being replaced by a shiny new penny. I couldn't understand why he would be not jealous of my husband but be jealous of any one else, but you've given me some pretty compelling explanations. Thank you.
I wanted to leave a brief post, just about what my experience was when in a similar situation.
When the guy I'd been seeing as a secondary partner (and considering having move in with my husband and me) kept telling me that poly was fine, and that he was OK with what I did, and of course he would date other people, but showed no signs of doing so and seemed to want to spend all free time with me...
I just went out on a couple of dates. His reaction, and my observation of how hard he was struggling was enough for me to end things with him. We were good friends so managed to keep our friendship.
Though I know it is bad form to make decisions FOR people, I needed to see he could cope with my dating, and find other relationships so I knew he was getting his needs met - I ended things. This was after a lot of attempts at communicating, and efforts to ensure he knew how important he was to me. 5 years later he admits that he just wasn't cut out for poly, though he may have been open to a mono-poly relationship. That it just would've been stressful for me, and him. Is your boyfriend interested in dating others now himself?
Nycindie has great points, I also was not jealous so much of my husband dating others, but when my secondary partner started dating new people, I found that much harder, especially as it was somewhat of a LDR and I wasn't seeing things firsthand, and I didn't feel like my bf's and my relationship was well enough established to feel secure that it was an IMPORTANT relationship to him, that wouldn't just end the moment he found somebody closer/more in common with him/better than me.
NYCindie and Anneintherain bring up some great valid points that offer insight into the minds and struggles of people involved with a married/partnered person.
If you would like to take a look inside a man who is possibly similar in nature to your boyfriend, I'm going to suggest reading Redpepper's blog and some of the links off my profile. We've been doing this for 2.5 years and from what you are describing, I think there could be some strong congruences. The fact that you are invested seriously or attached, however you want to put it, tells me you value a retentivity with this partner. Things to talk about specifically:
Boundaries - what is he ok with, what do you want
Compromise - we don't usually get everything we want...what is a healthy balance for both of you.
Bottom Line - do you or him have a breaking point that you can identify
Here is a link to some specific mono/poly discussion:
Survival guide for dating a mono
If he is truly mono then he has got to ask himself some very big questions depending on his back ground and you could ask yourself some big ones too. Here is a link that might shed some light on things: The gender is reversed but it might still apply.
More than one person on here has experienced this situation. I can think of two (including myself) where a partner is not happy with an open approach to poly and the struggle ensues. We still struggle with this issue after more than two years. If you both really care about each other and want this to work, you are not only in for a potentially rough ride...but also a long one.
Also....More than one guy exhibits this non-jealousy trait towards a married womans' husband. I have in the past as have other friends of mine who were having affairs with married women. The sex with their husband doesn't even register for the guys I talked with about this (non of which even heard of the concept of poly, hence the affairs) but the sex with people or sometimes just men other than their husbands was a complete turnoff or trigger for jealousy. For me personally, the marriage status of Redpepper and Polynerdist over rides a lot of my own fundamental responses to the idea of "sharing" a women as a monogamous man (internally mono by nature...not socially conditioned mono)
At some point, it might just come down to cutting your losses and both of you moving on. Better to have a healthy short term relationship then a toxic long term one. You have to live the way you need to and so does he. Both are valid and both have to be elevated above the idea of "your shit" and "My shit". If you use words like that, even just in your head, you likely won't be able to overcome this. Sometimes, the root of this stuff isn't jealousy at all or any insecurity. Sometimes people are just different and not compatible.
This of course is all based on my own experiences and may not reflect the reality of any other human being. Soooooo..none of it could apply. He could just be very insecure and seeing how it has only been 9 months, that is likely.
I my opinion, you need to be able to handle all that having a mono partner entails in terms of the emotional support they need if you find yourself in a relationship with someone that is mono. Partners, and ESPECIALLY monogamous ones are not anything less than your husband. They are equal and deserve the respect of their concerns being addressed as much your husband.
I say ESPECIALLY monogamous ones for two reasons; firstly because they rely entirely on you for their needs to be met, they often don't have another person that they share with the way they do with you... you are it. That needs to be understood and respected... cherished and accepted. This means making sure that you can accomplish this without their feeling abandoned and left out.
The other reason is because they are the ones that us poly people have to compromise with most... at least most of the time... we don't get to have a nice cosy little boundary that determines what is okay and what isn't. Most of the time, sex and intimacy with another is not.
Most monogamous partners don't get and don't have to get, that we love more than one. They love us and that is that....that is enough for them and they don't get why we would need more. Why should they put up with what we insist on. They don't have to and we have to decide if we are willing to stay in it with them or not.
Their idea of relationships is entirely different in terms of what is okay and what isn't in mono/poly relationships. Sometimes that means huge sacrifices in what you want to do and who you want to be with because the boundary just doesn't exist for them. The answer is often just, no, as I said. No you will not be able to have other loves and that is that,,,, no discussion will likely change that. Sometimes that changes or a boundary is created, but I don't know any mono's who's love is not affected deeply in terms of connection and bond.
Sure, you could be less bonded. Do whatever and hope for the best. Keep fighting him on this and pushing... perhaps you will get somewhere. I haven't. But you might... or you might lose him... what are you willing to deal with? How much are you willing to let go of? Are you willing to commit to them and see what happens when you do? What do you expect him to bring to your life? Is it worth letting go of the possibility of having other loves or not? It's a really hard choice and I can empathize greatly...
Sorry that you are surprised... believe me, I totally get your frustration, but now that you know what you are working with, I would think that you have some really hard to decisions to make and actions to take as a result... the emotional rollercoaster on this one could be a long and difficult one. Good luck! I hope my experience in this can be helpful to you. :)
Thank you, Redpepper, I appreciate your thoughts, but have to consider the big picture here. My bf knew fully well going into our relationship that I am open to and interested in having relationships with others, aside from him and my husband. I think the depth of his feelings for me caught him off guard. He's actually processing well, for the most part, though I can see that it's a challenge for him. I do think that communicating boundaries and expectations early and consistently is important, and that's what I have been trying to do here. I respect his lack of security in our relationship - we don't have a house, a child, and a lot of history behind us that might help cushion those. I am willing to compromise and take things slow, but in the end we're either compatible in this or we're not. He doesn't have to date if he doesn't want to - I can't make him, just let him know the possibilities are there if he wants them. I hope we can move forward on these terms, but I guess only time will tell.
Yes, I understand he knew. Sounds like he found he can't handle it and even though he thought he could at the time, he didn't love you now and finds he does now and can't do it. I guess it changed.
I totally get it. I feel your frustration and concern. It sounds like you are doing all you can do and being patient, communicating and just waiting to see what the future holds... Also very familiar ;)
It sounds like he has had very little relationship experience beyond short-term casual liaisons and he is overwhelmed by his feelings for you. Being overwhelmed just means having a hard time breaking down a problem or situation into manageable parts. We see all of it all at once and it looks like too much to handle. I think perhaps he has ideas about love and relationship that conflict with yours. Maybe he thinks it should go a certain way and it's not.
Imagine that your BF started going out with someone else. Would there be any jealousy on your part? If so, what would you want or expect from him? From yourself? See, I think the important thing to remember is that we are all responsible for our own feelings and reactions to things in life. We can only be supportive as someone processes what they're going through, but we can't do it for them (I know, grrr). Even if someone is mean to me, I can choose how to respond to that. I might have certain feelings arise, but it's up to me to deal with them, and no amount of apologizing or making it up to me will change anything until I choose to let it go or transform it.
So, ultimately, besides having compassion and patience for him, I don't really think there is anything you can do for him other than two things: First, be true to yourself. If you bend and twist yourself into something you're not for him, and make too many compromises that erode your happiness and make you "shrink to fit" his ideal, he might be superficially happy or feel that he's gained something, BUT -- and this is a big one -- in some way he can lose respect for you for giving in because that would not be the strong person he was initially attracted to and started having these intense emotions for. Not saying that's what you're doing, but just felt it worth mentioning. That's why I said that it is "on him" to deal with his own shit. It wasn't said glibly. It is hugely important, especially for women, to learn how not to acquiesce. Yes, the risk is losing him, but again, it's on him. He entered into this with his eyes open.
The other thing you can do, perhaps, is to prompt or engage him in asking himself very specific questions about his jealousy, such as what was written by AutumnalTone in the other thread I referenced earlier:
I do have the sense that you are very compassionate and understanding toward him, and that he is making an effort to handle his jealousy but it still has him by the short hairs because he hasn't looked deeply enough at what is underneath it. It certainly doesn't seem like you need to fight him on anything, although I think it's important to stand strong about what's important to you.
Redpepper is spot on...but she should be, she's had to deal with me for a long time!
Why was it easier for your boyfriend to deal with you being poly at first and not anymore? In my experience….true emotional connection. A mono dating a poly is easy...after all it's just dating and that comes with much different expectations than actually committing to a person on a deeper level....for most monogamous people. When a mono person actually falls in love with a poly person, that is where the difficulty starts. He basically has to break through how things normally work in the world around him; dating to commitment, commitment to exclusivity. The thing is...he has to want this. If he doesn't want to change this...and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that...then he has to decide if this will work for him.
Anyone can make predictions about how they think they will feel given a certain situation but no one can be expected to really know what they will do. I said the same things at first; "I'm ok with open poly, blah, blah, blah". But when we fell in love and both of us wanted a higher level of commitment, although RP's expectations didn't change, mine did. In order to achieve a greater level of commitment (not just go through the motions but actually feel it) my criteria was different than if I was simply dating or a FWB. Did this cause a problem?…Ongoing LOL!!
Is your boyfriend jealous? That's debatable; his girlfriend does have a husband that he is ok with that. By the bulk of society's standards I would say no. Does he have different criteria than you to commit to a deeper or more lasting relationship..sounds like it. So what does he value more: your relationship or meeting the criteria he currently has to be in a relationship? On the flip side, if he can't or doesn't want to change his feelings around what you need/want, you need to ask yourself is the relationship is worth trying to reach a compromise.
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