The unicorn in the room
Hi folks! I've been lurking and reading here a lot and learning all sorts of useful things, but now I'm in a bit of a crisis and I was hoping for some advice or perhaps some perspective. (With apologies for the long post!)
About eight months ago I got involved with a woman with a boyfriend. The woman, we can call her Q, and I were friends through a mutual hobby. We had become close since we first met two years previously and there was a lot of flirting and lead-up to the eventual decision to try a relationship. Her boyfriend, we'll call him Z, and I were friendly acquaintances through Q, but nothing more. As far as I'm aware he signed off completely on our relationship; they had been monogamous for nearly six years but he was okay with us doing as we pleased. We never laid any ground rules or established much of a line of communication, partially I think because all three of us expected it to be a casual thing that would fizzle out quickly.
About two months in, Z and I began to get physically involved, and that specifically was intended to be a casual thing. Mostly it was just convenient to the relationship; neither of us were looking to add another romantic involvement to our lives. Q mentioned once, early on, that it made her a little uncomfortable and she was still adjusting to it, but never brought it up again, so I assumed she had done her soul searching on her own and moved on from whatever issues she'd had.
In the meantime, Q and I fell in love. We made long-term plans as a couple and discussed, multiple times, how it would be great if we could move in and spend even more of our time with each other, although for various reasons that's not been possible. I made it clear to her that I was serious about our relationship; I thought she reciprocated. She got me to open up to her and work through a lot of emotional issues and problems with communicating that I had been unaware I was even dealing with. I invested a huge amount of time and energy into learning to be a functional part of the relationship.
Then a little over a month ago Z and I had a date, with Q's permission, to discuss our relationship and maybe try to find a definition for it. I had been noticing that I was feeling more attracted to him, and upon sharing that, found that he felt the same about me. We agreed, again with Q's explicit permission, to pursue a full-fledged relationship and let things develop between us. And they have; both of us are experiencing some fairly strong NRE. We've done our best not to neglect Q, though, spending the majority of our time together with her as well, scheduling our alone time only for times when she has already made other plans without either of us. I know I, at least, have tried also to make it clear that I love her and have gone out of my way to make sure she's happy and doing well with everything.
Except she obviously wasn't okay with everything, since she started becoming passive aggressive, snippy, and short with both Z and I, usually when we spent time alone together, but also at occasional random mentions of our relationship. I began censoring what I did or said around her because I worried about upsetting her; this led to me feeling frustrated and guilty. I tried---multiple times---to get her to talk to me, or tell me what she wanted, without success. Each time we'd have a discussion about needing to be honest, we would agree to work on it, and then she'd spend the next week being passive aggressive again. I think the first time she got upset I explicitly told her that, while I was unsure if I could ignore my feelings for Z, I would certainly try to make it work without being involved with him if that's what she wanted. She didn't respond and didn't ask me to do so at any point after that, so I figured that, while she was struggling with her feelings, she wanted to be okay with us dating, and wanted to make the triad work.
The other afternoon we had yet another conversation about how I wanted her to talk to me and be honest about how she feels and try to ask for what she wants, which she agreed to. Then later that evening, I asked if I could go out to dinner with Z one night this week. She looked unsure and said "I suppose," which is usually a response I take at face value, but because of our talk earlier I pushed her for more. She admitted it made her uncomfortable, and said she didn't know why, but when I asked a few questions and tried to get her to maybe explore it a bit, she got upset, shouted at me, and then told me flat out that she didn't want me to have "a thing" with Z. I told her that I don't know if I could drop my relationship with him and continue the one with her, which made her even more upset. I got Z to drive me home (we were at her and Z's house), explaining my side of things to him, and getting his reassurance that he would try to get her to talk to him.
I haven't talked to either of them in the 24ish hours since, so I am unsure where they stand on everything. I have done a good amount of my own thinking about what I want and need from this relationship. My conclusions are thus:
1. I absolutely cannot let my feelings for Z go and continue a romantic relationship of any level with Q; I will end up bitter, and jealous, and resentful of her, and she does not deserve that.
2. Even if I could give her what she wants and end things with him, it doesn't fix the fact that she is apparently unable to be emotionally honest with me.
At this point I'm not sure what I should do, or even if I can do anything. I feel that I've done everything I can to make her happy, sometimes at my own expense, and that is still not good enough for her. I'm pretty sure I will drive myself crazy continuing to be the only one to put any kind of work or effort into the relationship. I am a good person and I deserve better than that. On the other hand, I think that it's total crap that my options are to continue fighting for a potentially one-sided relationship, or lose both Q and Z entirely. It feels like a lose-lose.
And if you've gotten through that bit of teal deer... any thoughts? Is this a hopeless situation that I need to just give up on and walk away from? Has anyone been here before, trying to turn a V into a triad when the hinge is reluctant?
It sounds like she is going through a stuggle with all of this. I think I would patiently tell her what you have said here (as highlighted) and stop trying to create situations and conversations that you assume will be hard for her. Poly seems to work best when there are no assumptions and no expectations. Be yourself and be honest with yourself and them. Be open to talk about boundaries and open to asking that you have your needs met as much as them. Keep at it... it can take awhile...
firstly I would drop the triad thing though. There is no need to end everything, but just change the goal. Let it morph into what it is going to be naturally without agenda.
So he and I should just let our emotional connection go because she wants both of us to want only her? I'm really not sure I could handle that without, as I said above, becoming jealous and resentful of her. I want him in my life just as much as I want her.
And I still don't think it would fix our communication problem.
*edit* I mean, I do realize I can't force her to be comfortable with us dating. But she won't talk to me about it at all, or tell me what she wants me to do, which is very frustrating!
I wouldn't judge Q too harshly. It might be a bit unfair to say she is "unable to be emotionally honest." She probably had no idea your relationship with Z would affect her as it did, until it just hit her and she had trouble managing what she was going through. Often times our emotions take us by surprise. We think, "Oh sure, I can handle that" until we find ourselves wrestling with inner conflict and we're knocked over by waves of feeling.
I don't think the issue is really about whether it will be a vee or a triad. Q would prefer you not be involved with Z at all, so you trying to make it a vee or a triad is a moot point. It's either continuing both relationships, dropping Z to be with Q, or losing both of them. The fact is you love Q and have strong feelings for Z, and don't want either of those relationships to end. For you to continue with either one of them, Q needs to deal with her jealousy.
Right now, I don't really think there's anything you can do, other than decide whether you'd be happy seeing Q only. The problem with that, however, might be that Z would still be a presence and probably very difficult to not be involved with him. Unfortunately, the two of them are probably going to make some decision amongst themselves, in which you'll likely have no say.
If Q comes back to you and says she wants to continue her relationship with you, but only if you won't be with Z, you might want to ask for some ground rules in order to accept that. Maybe you could say that you would agree not to be with him for a specified time frame, with the goal of eventually resuming with Z, and that during that time Q actively works on getting to the bottom of her possessiveness, improving communication, and you all deal with what's going on.
You're right, I probably am being a little too harsh on her. She did mention during one of the discussions I prompted that while she was unsure about it in the beginning she thought she could handle it and work through it, which is why she didn't bring it up. Unfortunately now I am hurting and questioning a lot of the things she's told me. I also feel like a bit of a jerk for not understanding sooner how much she was struggling and continuing on with this relationship with Z that I could've just stopped and not pursued at all if I'd seen it.
Ground rules and boundaries are probably in order no matter what happens; because of our social groups and work situations we're all going to have to see each other at various points, and regardless of whatever else happens I'd like to at least continue to be friends with both of them.
This does sound like a bit of a pickle. If I read you correctly, you're emotionally bonded with both Q and Z (if they weren't together, you'd be the pivot in their V). I think RP might have underplayed your feelings for Z in crafting her response.
The first thing I'd suggest is simple: no ultimatums.
It sounds like things were simple and got complex. It is a natural response to try and simplify things again, and the fastest way to do that is with an ultimatum. It's also emotionally unfair. Sorting out feelings takes time, and the quick fix doesn't always work.
Next, I'd wonder about the origins of Q's discomfort.
I may be off the mark, but it could ne related to her self-image as a woman and her perception or her two men. In blunt terms, the idea.of her man with another man may cause her discomfort. She may feel her ability to satisfy is questionable if you need a man. She may see each if you as less manly for having feelings for another man.
I'd look into separating things out to see where the issue is. For example:
Does Q want you two only for her? (No other partners?)
What would Q think of you with another woman?
What would Q think of you with a man other than Z?
Of Z with another woman?
Of Z with a man other than you?
Other areas of concern would be the emotional and temporal questions of poly relationships:
Is it the physical activities that bother Q?
Or is it the time spent together?
Or the emotional closeness?
You made a good call by scheduling your Z time when Q was busy, but you're right in thinking you shouldn't have to always do that. I suspect though that some or the NRE that you have with Z may have made Q feel put out. In those cases, I find it's especially important to rearticulate from existing partners that they are valuable, how they are valuable, and that they will continue to be cherished.
I believe that if you have it can get answers to the questions above, you will be well on your way to finding a path. Just be aware that this is new ground for all involved, so sorting out those answers may be difficult or perhaps uncomfortable.
Best of luck.
I absolutely agree with you, sagency, re: no ultimatums. I don't like them and honestly I feel like we can work through nearly anything if we all try.
I'm female :) but I do think that plays a part, maybe more so than if I were a man. I mean, I think she understands my desire for a male partner (although in reality I don't want a male partner, I just want Z), but she may not be comfortable enough with the idea that Z wants another woman.
We had an issue around the same time that Z and I established our actual relationship in which a (female---Z is straight) poly friend of ours asked for permission to ask Z out. Q gave her permission, as did I, for them to go on a date, but after some thinking I realized I wasn't too thrilled about it, and asked them to hold off on pursuing it further until things with Z and I were more established and comfortable. Q told me then that she was happy to have it just remain the three of us. She did say at another point that she would be fine with me dating other people, but again, she has a track record of thinking she would be fine with something and then not actually being okay with it. And I'm not interested in dating other people, honestly, casually or otherwise.
I'm not entirely sure what, exactly, it is that bothers her, because see also: she won't talk to me. I'm sure she doesn't like feeling left out when he and I spend time alone together---I don't like feeling left out when they spend time alone together either! But she's also made it clear that she doesn't want us having sex, and she doesn't like that he and I often do end up snuggled in bed together when we're alone. I wonder if she also feels a little like she was lied to, since both of us made it clear that we weren't interested in having another emotional relationship, and yet here we are in one.
Actually, I think what I need to do at this particular moment is stop trying to suss out her feelings and motivations and get some sleep! Heh. I might try to reach out later in the week when this is less raw and hope that she's willing to try to find some answers with me. We'll see.
Heh. Sometimes I wonder if a gender indicator (gendercator?) would be good on these posts. *sigh* Looks like I need to recalibrate my poly-decoder ring. *click*clicky*click*
The questions remain essentially the same. In some ways, the details you added remind me of any early poly relationship. She and I (I am a dude--in case my charming faux pas didn't make that obvious) are both poly. I have never have jealousy issues--I may not have had that feature installed at the factory. However, she had fits of jealousy. She'd say things would be fine before the fact, but after she would withdraw or get angry. Generally she didn't process how her reactions were sending mixed messages.
Thinking about your situation, it may be more up to Z (N? L? Decoder on the fritz! *whack!* *click*) it may be more up to Z to bridge the divide with Q. She may feel that you are taking away something that's hers. Z might be able to get the message through more easily than you can.
All in all, it sounds like there are three people who care deeply for each other. I hope you find a solution that *clicks*. :)
In Alcoholics Anonymous "fine" is an acronym for "Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional." Okay, I've heard other variations.. but you get the idea.
I have a hard time talking about feelings. My girlfriend will ask a question three times. Usually the first answer is facade, the second is politically correct and the third answer is emotionally honest. I get rather snippy by the third answer.. but it is honest.
Wait, see what happens. This seems like a situation that may be needed for growth...
And let us know what happens. Handknit... I like your name... I'm working on an Elizabeth Zimmerman style circular lace shawl.. The only down side to poly in my mind is that I don't have as much time to knit.
I think maybe we do have a different approach to things; I'm finding it useful to talk about how I feel with her, and share it, and process and dissect it until I understand from a rational point of view what I'm feeling and why. I thought it would help her to do the same, but she now feels like I want her to defend her feelings to me. Which was not my aim. Maybe I pushed too hard; I was just tired of seeing her miserable all the time and feeling so guilty for it.
We're going to have a chat tonight on neutral ground. With tissues. My plan is to try to explain how I feel to her, and not to have any expectations for her to understand or be able to reciprocate right away.
Thanks for your thoughts, folks. :) I'll keep you updated.
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