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-   -   Hard to Explain... (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10879)

Sikau 06-12-2011 06:51 PM

Hard to Explain...
I put up a post in the Introductions section, in case anyone wants a little background about me before reading this. Any advice, words of encouragement or even a good slap in the face should I need it (metaphorically speaking) would be welcome. And I apologize because it looks like this is going to be a long post, I'm hoping that plenty of backstory will help to explain where I'm at and help anyone else to personalize their advice...and of course I'm happy to answer any questions as they come...

My husband and I have been married for 3 years, together for five and a half. He is my best friend and we get along beautifully in so many ways...but we've encountered a serious roadblock. About a year and a half ago, we had been discussing things we may be interested in to spice up our already great sex life...with the idea of bringing in other people being at the forefront (yes, I know this is swinging, please bear with me as it's been a journey through the gamut of variations of non-monogamy). We'd been monogamous until that point, though I always figured adventures/exploring would be an option, because of our openness with each other and previous generalized discussions on the topic. So, at my husband's suggestion and with discussion and agreement from all involved we had a same-room swap with a couple we are friends with. From my perspective, things went great! And that night afterwards, everyone was doing well with the whole situation...we'd all had a good time. However, the next morning, my husband went into a funk and had a hard time processing his feelings. Together, we took some time to process and eventually things were really good again.

About 6 months later, my husband decided he'd like to give the swapping another shot...we chose the same couple, but went into separate rooms. Again, I had a good time, no difficulty/guilt on my end regarding emotions, jealousy, etc. The sex itself wasn't actually all that spectacular, but this did not lead to any negative emotion on my part. My husband also had a mediocre experience in terms of the act itself, but again had a bit of difficulty processing the emotions. Again, we took some time to allow the feelings to dissipate and I assured him that I loved him, supported his right to his feelings, etc. Things were good again.

In the meantime, my husband went into therapy for other issues and was making amazing progress, and feeling better about himself than he ever had. He had been taking various steps to bring closure to various aspects of his life that had been troubling him (talking to family members about the past, etc). One night, he came home and announced to me that any addition of other people to our sex life ever again was absolutely out of the question. My reaction was one that neither of us expected...I freaked.

We fought, we went into couple's counseling, I tried some individual therapy...and went through a whole host of reasons the idea of absolute, nonnegotiable monogamy was a problem for me. At first I thought it was the ultimatum presentation of the concept, then an urge to not limit my experiences, and on and on.

Over the next year, we decided to try a few more things...my husband said he wanted to try to find ways he might be ok with some form of non-monogamy. In that time, we swapped twice with a different couple we were friends with (both times were separate rooms and at my husband's suggestion) and I again had a great time, no difficulty with jealousy, guilt, etc. And again, my husband had an ok time, but ultimately hated the feelings that would crop up. We also gave entirely separate openness a try, in which I slept once with a friend of mine (again, a positive experience for me) and my husband positively freaked out...despite having agreed to it, and even suggesting it. We almost separated that day. He talked about wanting to have his own separate encounter (which I have had a non-wavering policy that he has my blessing to do as he'd like as long as "he is safe, has fun and let's me know"...I have not taken this statement back at any point). But his motivation was so that things would feel "even" or "equal" though he admits he'd really rather not go through with it.

So that all brings us to now...my husband has finally been able to understand and convey the reasons he has such difficulty, personally, with practicing non-monogamy. They are incredibly valid reasons and I don't hold any of it against him. I can't go into detail on it, but it boils down to a very understandable position that although he sees nothing wrong with non-monogamy in general, it is not something he wants or needs for himself. It is also not something he wants or is able to tolerate in his marriage (though under the right circumstances, he suggests me may be able to continue swapping with couples, which I worry will still present a ton of struggle).

I, however, through all of this have realized that this is huge to me. I've realized that it isn't just a rebellion against an ultimatum, or a purely sexual urge for variety. I've been reading threads on this forum for months, and so many things that people have said ring so true to me. I've realized that I'm absolutely capable of loving more than one person at a time (I'll admit I've developed feelings for the friend I slept with individually, though neither of us has an interest in creating our own monogamous relationship together) and that I, in fact, long for and welcome this concept. In fact, I can look back at many points in my life and recognize early signs that monogamy may have never been the right road for me, but that I didn't know at the time that there was another option. The feelings I've experienced anytime my situation with my husband suggested that I would be able to feel true to myself were of contentment and peace. The only negativity I've experienced at any time was the pain of knowing my husband was in pain....but I've not experienced any jealousy or guilt for the actions themselves (only guilt in that my husband has experienced pain in trying to adjust to this lifestyle).

I find myself with another ultimatum though, find a way to live without this aspect of my life...or live it without my husband. He wasn't mean or harsh either, and in fact, has told me that sometimes we just are the way we are...and, like oil and vinegar, sometimes you just can't mix. It wouldn't be a matter of anger or resentment. But it is up to me to take that step to say whether this is something I absolutely cannot live without. And therein lies my problem. How can I choose between my husband and myself? I don't feel like I would be choosing sex or other people over him...but that I'm choosing the joy of an authenticity to myself or the joy I have sharing my life with him. He's also asked me to try to figure out the big "why" of this part of me. In some of our harder moments, it was angrily suggested I was addicted to the behavior, which I feel is wholly inaccurate and he now agrees. But is this a result of issues from my own past? Or a cure for them? Regardless, it feels healthy and wholesome and right for me to share myself romantically and sexually with others, to let relationships and friendships develop organically and be expressed in whatever form feels right. To follow my own heart and beliefs rather than shove them aside to appease those around me (which I have done pretty much my entire life).

I guess my question is, is how can I be 100% sure of my decision either way? And what if I'm wrong? How do you choose one joy over another? And how can I possibly gather the strength and courage to leave a relationship and a man that I want to spend my life with if it turns out that's the only way I can feel authentic and prevent resentment? Or to sum it up...what should I do? I am so terrified of leaving but I'm also afraid to stay.

Thank you to anyone who read this entire novel and for any words you can send my way. Please feel free to throw any questions my way as well.

redpepper 06-12-2011 10:53 PM

Really I think you just keep working, process and wait. It sounds like something is forming out of your experiences thus far for both of you. Maybe you and he should go and work out some stuff together in therapy? This might help if its a matter of issues rather than differences of being.

I have a Mono boyfriend, it can be a constant battle to understand one another. We have taken breaks now and then to reassess where we are at and see if we are still good for one another, so far we are.

We live one day at a time and one experience at a time. Someone offered that wisdom to us and although it drives me crazy sometimes because I want to get going to an answer, I always come back to the same thing; one day at a time and life is about the journey not the end result.

nycindie 06-12-2011 11:12 PM


Originally Posted by Sikau (Post 85867)
He's also asked me to try to figure out the big "why" of this part of me.

. . . it feels healthy and wholesome and right for me to share myself romantically and sexually with others, to let relationships and friendships develop organically and be expressed in whatever form feels right. To follow my own heart and beliefs rather than shove them aside to appease those around me (which I have done pretty much my entire life).

Well, there's your "why" in a nutshell. Is there any need for more? I don't think so.

In reading your story, though, I think there are more choices than either of you can see right now, and I think it would behoove you both to go and talk further about it in therapy together. It isn't fair that your husband put it to you as an ultimatum that leaves you alone to decide the fate of your marriage. I wonder if someone (his therapist?) put that idea into his head.

This is something that I believe can still be worked out by the both of you in some kind of agreement, perhaps taking little baby steps at a time. By that I mean, maybe don't have full-on sex with someone right away, but cultivate a flirty friendship with someone and then your both check in to see how comfortable he is with that before moving forward to kissing and more sexual contact/activity.

Right now I think you both need to keep talking but don't give him an answer - an agreement requires BOTH sides to be okay with whatever the agreement's about. And acquiescing to a demand is not an agreement, nor is walking away because your choice would be punished. In talking, I would also address this gun he's put to your head. I find that very interesting. Why did he feel he had to put it to you that way? Is there some insecurity or anger that is manifesting itself as wanting to be the man in charge, so to speak? Did someone give him crap about the swinging and now he's feeling all judgmental and wrong about everything you guys have done? Yes, therapy, together as a couple, with someone open-minded and whom you trust, seems it would be very beneficial to you right now.

Sikau 06-13-2011 12:24 AM

Grrr, I typed out a whole reply to both of the above posts and then lost it! Anyway, to recap...we have done the couple's counseling, but found (and had confirmed by 2 counselors) that we already have excellent communication skills and it's not a matter of misunderstandings or difficulties expressing our needs.

In terms of having a "gun to my head", in the past, yes, that's exactly how it felt. But at this point, I think it's more a combination of he has done the work on his own and in therapy to fully explore himself and his motivations. He has come to the conclusion that he is truly mono and really wants (needs even?) a mono marriage. Mix that with the exhaustion of struggling with this constantly for the last year, and you get the idea that perhaps we aren't cut out to stay with each other for life. However, he supports and encourages that idea that I should be able to have that same understanding and confidence in myself before we make any definite moves, which is why the ball is currently in my court.

I plan to absolutely see a therapist in the coming weeks to help me work out and understand myself fully, and to gain the courage and strength to stick to whatever convictions/conclusions I reach. I have a lifelong history of relinquishing my own wants and needs in favor of pleasing the people I care about (I have done this with parents, friends, classmates, and of course romantic partners). I have improved significantly in this area, but only when the answer was obvious or the situation became toxic, neither of which feels to be the case now, hence my fear and indecision.

Finally, I didn't write about all of the steps we've taken in my original post, but we've done many things from just flirting online to the full individual sex thing. Of course, some were tolerated better than others, but all ultimately had the same negative feelings in varying degrees on his part. Again, there is a jealousy component, but I whole-heartedly feel that his reasons for feeling the way about being mono, for him personally, are justified and understandable...I would just rather not get into those reasons here. Suffice to say that based on his life up to this point, sex, intimacy and romantic involvements have taken on significant meanings for him that we simply don't share. We can each see the other's view, and even support the right for each to feel the way we do...we just can't seem to find a way to make it work together. If there are other exercises/steps/etc that anyone here can suggest, I'd be very happy to hear about it. Some may not be viable, but I want to know that I have literally done everything in my power to make this marriage work, while ensuring that everyone ultimately has their needs met. Perhaps separation would be a next step, to facilitate a break (we've taken breaks from discussion, activites, etc quite a few times throughout this process but never physical separation), but I don't know that it would be viable to reconnect if I allowed myself to explore/participate in any outside relationships during that time.

But yes, therapy is definitely on the table, and depending on how individual sessions go, we may even give the couple's thing another go. Thank you both for your comments and advice, I look forward to hearing more ideas and reflections on my situation.

nycindie 06-13-2011 12:45 AM

Ah, thanks for the additional details. BTW, I think when you login, if you select that little check box that says "Stay logged in" or something like that, you won't lose your posts due to timing out while you're writing.

Anyway, what occurs to me is that perhaps you can commit to a time frame of six months or a year, whatever, within which you agree to monogamy and see how it sits with you to live that way. Maybe he will be amenable to a condition like that, rather than saying it's now or never. And then put your whole heart and self into investing in the relationship with a mono dynamic (no giving in to wistful hoping for poly) and see if you can be happy while monogamous. There will be adjustments and probably some good opportunities to observe and learn about your inner nature, thoughts, and emotional responses to things. I think that might be one way to know you gave it every chance you could to work on the marriage. You can agree to revisit the commitment at the end of that time and then determine if you absolutely must have a polyamorous life to be happy. Do you think that would work for you?

Sikau 06-13-2011 01:40 AM

I've considered the limited-time mono thing...and I guess you could say I have unofficially been trying it since this whole thing began...especially the last few months. I've devoted quite a bit of time to just living in the moment, pushing poly thoughts out of my head. But they crop up again and again. We lived mono together for 4 years before this, though I hadn't yet realized the significance of my poly feelings at the time...I didn't even know there was a word for it. However, I know I could be happy living mono...I just don't know how happy. Just like I know I could move on and be happy in my life, even if my marriage ends...but again, how happy? I worry that I'll just end up hurting us both more, if I stay and develop resentment...or if he can tell that there's a part of me missing. I guess I figure if I regret leaving, at least that gave him the chance to move on and be truly happy...and I can live with the pain (what a saint huh?). And there's the lingering thought that I can't unshoot the gun...I can't unknow what I've learned, unfeel the feelings I've experienced. I can't just go back, but I am afraid to move forward. In any case, your suggestion, as well as what I've mentioned above is definitely something I want to go over in therapy. Oh, and thanks for the tip so I don't lose my posts!

polyexplorer 06-13-2011 02:17 AM

Hi Sikau,

I can totally relate to your story. I am 20 years married in a monogamous relationship and we have been dealing with the poly side of things for the last 6 years while still remaining monogamous. I know that I have entered the rabbit hole and you can't turn back. My wife is mono and doesn't want to be in a poly relationship.

I love my wife deeply. So where does it leave us now? Just like you, do I sacrifice the joy of being with her (and our 3 fantastic daughters) so I can be more authentic to myself? But then living an inauthentic life is also unbearable...

Like so many have said, it's taking one day at a time. Today do I want to be with her. Yes. Tomorrow? I don't know yet while we still feel like things have not reached some sort of resolution...

The other thing that I have found to be difficult but really important is to be honest about how I feel. As soon as my feelings about our whole situation or the way I feel she is treating me or dealing with it are getting between us, I talk to her about it. This is really hard... I also ask the same from her towards me too... I can sometimes keep pushing a little hard rather than just letting her be in the space that she needs to be.

I still hold hope that some sort of resolution happens. I'm not sure what that is, but something where we can still be together and live with contentment in our situation....

All the best!

Sikau 06-13-2011 02:28 AM

Hi polyexplorer! Thank you for commenting, while I'm sorry that you are also in a difficult position, it helps to know that what I'm facing is not entirely unique or unheard of. Nobody wants to feel alone right?

I hear what you are saying about the communication, and we try to do that and generally do pretty well. Though, I'm more the type that I'd rather mull over my feelings for a while before disclosing them, because things can change but especially because I am not always able to phrase things to sound exactly how I mean it right away. I like to be sure that what I'm saying will come across as I'd like it to. I think the important thing is to not shut down entirely. It can be a struggle, but what else can you do? I'll keep my fingers crossed for your situation, and I genuinely hope that you can reach some kind of resolution. Please keep me updated if things change, perhaps you will have stumbled across something that we haven't yet thought of.

polyexplorer 06-13-2011 08:01 AM

Hi Sikau,

You sound a little like my wife in that she also needs time to process feelings and doesn't want to talk about them until she has a clearer understanding of them. I, on the other hand, find this very frustrating because I want to talk out my feelings. When she withdraws to give herself time to process, the disconnections feels like agony and I want to tear down the wall between us! I'm just recently getting a little better at allowing that wall to be there for a time, and allowing her to be wherever she needs to be at. But I still find it difficult!

Relationships are quite the journey aren't they! They seem to bring to the forefront all of our "stuff". And alot of us on this forum want more than one of them at a time! We must be crazy!!

GroundedSpirit 06-13-2011 01:11 PM

Hi Sikau,

I feel for the place you are at.
This is typical of why the whole "happily ever after" fantasy is such a cruel delusion.

As we live & mature, we start to discover more of who we REALLY are. If we were going to advise our kids - what would we tell them about making (supposed) lifetime commitments to someone when you are 18-30 and have only know them for a few years (if that).
I suspect in most cases we'd tell them "Don't do it !!!".
So why do WE do it ?
Because nobody told (warned) us not to ! (and explained why)

Why do we STILL do it !
Because we still haven't learned the lesson.

I'm going to venture that your hubby has opened some cans of worms in therapy that don't have covers (closure) on them yet. The process has really fed his insecurities in a big way. He's in a much more fearful position now that he was prior to therapy. Work is unfinished.
Clinging to monogamy as a lifeline is trying to take a simplified approach to a complex challenge. That being relationships & sexuality. Like most shortcuts - it usually doesn't work and it all comes crashing down on us.

How long/if you want to ride with him and see if he CAN finally get some closure and confidence back is a tough call. Nobody can make it for you - or advise you. You'll know if there's forward progress - or back sliding.

It's a hard choice to have to make. {{{{hugs}}}


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