A very rocky start but determined, Part 1
I am so happy this group exists!
Here is my rather long story to share.
My husband and I have been together for more than 18 years now. We have, many times, discussed having an open relationship and even tried a few times. These turned out to be false starts. Mainly because my husband was not able to respect the boundaries we had set up, and it left me feeling unsafe and terrified. So, we would go back to monogamy, not something either of us believed in.
Admittedly, even though I do believe that open relationships are far healthier than closed, monogamous ones, I did not grow up thinking an open relationship was ok. So, having to wrestle with jealousy demons, as well as, the complexity of an open relationship was a tad bit daunting for me. But, deep down I knew it was more right for me.
My husband and I lived together for 4 years before getting married. He had “cheated” on our relationship several times prior to our marriage and after we were married. We would have discussions about how to behave in our open relationship, and lay out boundaries, and courtesy rules and make agreements that my husband did agree to, but then when someone would come along he would disregard any of these agreements which caused me much hurt and anger.
We had agreed, especially in the beginning, to give each other a heads up, and discuss any issues either of us might have when we thought we were going to engage in romantic or sexual activity with another, prior to anything happening with that other person. Unfortunately, these agreements were blatantly disregarded by my husband and often times I would find out about his “affairs” through a late confession, by accident, or because I had an awful feeling I could not explain, went in search of what it was, and discovered the deception. Of course, this left me feeling like I couldn’t trust him and that our relationship, our marriage, was an unsafe place to be. Usually, he would get defensive, and act like I was threatening to call off the “open” part of our relationship instead of listening to what I was really saying to him, then basically offer me an “I don’t care what you feel” f**** you, and kick me in the heart as he went out the door to do whatever he wanted, regardless of my feelings.
He would then feel bad and, inevitably, we would go back to agreeing to be monogamous, or periods of monogamy, because being “open” didn’t seem like something he could do and still offer me some security, respect, and validation for my feelings. Those agreements for monogamy didn’t seem to matter either though. He just kept cheating whether we had an agreement to be open or not.
Despite all the hurt, I stayed with him because the good times for us were fantastic. And, I know this may not sound very well thought out, but I still consider him my best friend in the world, and we have had lots of amazing adventures together. There is a part of me that is passionately, deeply in-love with him, still, and wants so much for our relationship to, not only work out, but be a safe, joyous, compassionate, loving place for both of us to be. I wasn’t sure what to do, and felt I was running out of options. I didn’t have many people to talk to, and we even went to a therapist for a while - a marriage counselor. The counselor shut down the idea of something “open” right away. Needless to say, the counselor didn’t work out.
Quite a few years ago, I found the book Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt. I read it with great enthusiasm and shared some of what I was reading with my husband. I felt the book spoke volumes about, not only open relationships, but behavior in loving relationships in general. But, he never really paid attention to it and his behavior continued the same as before and we ended up in a sort of monogamous limbo.
So, in the last couple of years we started to drift apart, because I just felt like I was not ever going to be able to have that nice open relationship I so longed for complete with honesty, caring, and consideration. I didn’t feel he was ever going to act trustworthy and considerate. We both became busy with projects, work, and life. We settled into a kind of humdrum partnership where neither of us was seeing anyone else. We were in a stasis…sort of. Then something happened recently that woke us both up. My husband is a Merchant Mariner and goes to sea for a living. So, part of the year he is on a ship, away from home. This means he has large blocks of time away, but also, large blocks of time at home. This last time home, we were hum drumming along and I got that familiar icky feeling again. I haven’t had that feeling in a very long time. I used some underhanded investigative methods to discover some emails that were being passed back and forth between my husband and another person. The bad thing was not so much the discovery, but what he was telling her. He had been telling her over the course of 5 weeks that he was, in all honesty- swearing up and down- being truthful, magnanimous, and working on things with me to make everything better with me and that her involvement with him was giving him the courage to do so, and that she could be reassured. She had asked him, rather point blank, if he could honestly tell her that she wasn’t taking away from his relationship with me, and wanted to make sure that I knew everything that was going on between them. She wanted to be reassured that he did, in fact, have an open relationship. He was giving her an emphatic “yes” to answer that question along with a series of carefully constructed, blatant, bald faced lies about being honest! …heavy sigh…
I was beside myself with anger. I could not believe the lengths he went to to get this young woman in bed with him. It was sneaky, manipulative, and entirely self-centered. It was clear to me that he had, not only, blatant, premeditated disregard for me, but for her as well. In my anger I wrote to her the truth. I did not call anyone names, or write ragingly blind, or drunk, and hit send. I did let her know I was writing from a place of anger with him though, and apologized to her for it having to be this way. I felt for her. I am glad I made that decision. And, oddly, enough, my husband is glad I made that decision, as well. She made the wise decision to not have any more involvement with either him or me.
He lost her. He almost lost me. He may still lose me. I was in so much pain from this. So many things occurred to me in the following 3 tear filled days, and the weeks that followed. I was starting to think of him as just a rotten person, period. This incident seemed to prove that he just didn’t care about anyone but himself at all. And may never care. It’s difficult with him because he comes across as a great guy- a caring, fun, loving individual. But, he’s…not. Not when it comes to this area of his life. Not yet anyway.
At that point in time, we only had 1 ½ weeks left before he had to go back to sea. He did seem to feel really bad this time, and even said, as though in disbelief, that he could not believe he had stooped so low. Of course, I may have a hard time believing that for a while. In a rare moment of calm, in the midst of my turmoil, I picked up Ethical Slut again. I was determined that this was the last straw. I was appalled at his behavior. I decided that, not only did I not want to go through that pain with him anymore, but I could not watch him manipulate others with lies either. Also, as I was reading Ethical Slut, I realized I did really want a true open relationship, but one that involved the compassionate principles written by these authors. The main one being that involvement must be consensual for all parties involved and cheating is not ok. Open has to mean exactly that, open.
My husband and I had many talks over this week and a half period, and one of the things we decided to do was read this book out loud together. We paused and had discussions throughout the time we were reading. It was a mutually agreed upon intensive “therapy” week. He seemed really appalled at his previous behavior as well. We decided to try one more time, this time breaking old patterns and habits, with compassionate caring for one another so we can heal.
(Yikes, this is too long. I have to split this in 2 parts.)
All this happened in mid-February. He has been out at sea since then. In the meantime I went to Africa for a couple of months to help a friend with some research and then back to our home in Mexico. This is an added complication for us- locations. We are US citizens originally from WA state and maintain a connection to WA through my husbands’ work and our grown children live there. Also, we have built a cabin there. But, we call home Mexico, as ex-pats, where I run a non-profit. So, neither of us stays in one place all year long. We communicate through email, and have been trying our best to work on things over email these past months. It is difficult to get a good sense of how he says he is changing through cyberspace though. I am flying to WA this week to see him again. We are still working on our cabin so we were going to spend time there together building our relationship as well as, our little house.
As of now, we are focusing on us and no one else. My husband has been assuring me that he really does still want to be with me, and he loves me. He has been reassuring me that he has been working on searching his soul as to the reasons he has treated me so poorly, as well as changing his habit of defensive thinking, becoming trustworthy, and learning empathy. The hope is to end up with the open relationship that we both wanted in the first place.
My job, at the moment, is to let go and forgive in order to build trust. For good reason I am finding this very difficult. I am very skittish about going back to see him. But, because we haven’t been together since this whole phase of our relationship started, I feel I need to give him some face to face time to show me the changes he says he has made in himself. I have made it clear that if I sense anything amiss I will be out of there so fast he won’t know what sort of wind that was that blew the door open. I don’t want to always be in this frame of mind because I have decided that with or without him I want a polyamorous lifestyle and I know I need to be practicing compassion in order to have success. Also, I am beginning to use yoga as a spiritual practice. So, all this proving, these ultimatums, and this fear is too much drama for me.
Even though I am a bit skeptical, I am trying to hold out some hope that he can change, we can heal, and move on with our lives.
Also, even though we have been at this for 18 years, I feel like we are really just starting to open up our relationship for the first time. I am sure I will have many questions for everyone with more experience.
If you read this far you must be very patient. This is a bit wordy. Thanks for being here.:)
How did the reunion go ?
I wonder how you are doing? Dossie Easton is a great resource and always helps me feel like i am not crazy after I read her stuff. Your situation sure sounds Like a monumental effort and you must love your husband very much. I hope things are going well for you.
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