Whoops... How'd I get here?
Hello, I'm Wendy. I am newish to polyamory. In fact, monogamish is probably a more apt description of how I identify, however, that is not where I find myself at this moment.
I had been married for more than a decade. During that time, my husband and I enjoyed a few threesomes that much more closely resembled swinging than polyamory. And that worked for me.
My husband walked out about a year ago for reasons mostly unrelated to whom we were sharing our bed with. I was feeling pretty bruised and in the process of nursing my wounds, reconnected with a woman, Lia, whom has been a friend for many many years. Lia has a boyfriend, Mac. Lia and Mac have been together for a several years, but only just started living together around the same time my husband walked out.
Lia and Mac were both incredibly nurturing. On the nights that none of us had our kids, we were always out doing fun stuff - movies, dinner, dancing. It was a time when I very easily could have slipped into sitting around feeling sorry for myself, but they kept me busy having fun.
Lia had been telling me for sometime about what great sex they had. And that they were interested in having another woman in bed with them. Well, its not hard to guess where that led. About a month of hanging out and more than a few cocktails I suggested that I might like to be that woman.
Wow! What an incredible roll in the hay. And it led to more romps. And then to me spending weekends with them. And joint family outings. And it was so relaxed and so comfortable and then... Oh shit. I'm in love with Mac. i am CRAZY in love with Mac. How the hell did that happen? He was this big, quiet, sort of sullen and sarcastic boyfriend of my friend that I'd been too self-involved to ever really get to know. But he was sweet and attentive and smart and funny and interesting. And really sexy. Really, really sexy. Wow!
I told Lia first and asked permission to tell him. She said "well, i don't know. I guess tell him and I'll see how it makes me feel." He felt the same. It didn't make her feel so good.
But we worked. And communicated. And worked and communicated and yelled and cried and worked and communicated. We all read "The Ethical Slut" and worked and communicated some more. Sometimes I feel communicated out.
We've tried different boundaries and accommodations and discussed everyone's needs and how to meet them. So much so that I feel like we spend more time discussing all the relationships involved rather than just enjoying them. Sometimes it's so emotionally exhausting that I'm tempted to scream "I can't do this anymore!" But I can. And I'm willing to. And it is worth it to me.
So, here's the main crux of the problem. We are all in this polyamorous relationship(s) but none of us really identifies as polyamorous. We all agree that Mac and I share an incredibly wonderful love and have naively fallen into a relationship that can't be cast aside. But in the future, none of us would pursue polyamory. It's just really hard and although we all like the idea of being sexually open to outside partners, managing the pain, jealousy, competition and finite resource of time that goes along with outside loving relationships is just too hard for us.
We have been through a number of versions of our relationship(s). At the beginning, it was always the three of us or just the two of them as they live together. Then sometimes just me and Mac or all three of us, but mostly the two of them. As our relationship grew, she struggled with being present when Mac and I were sexual. She struggles with our romantic relationship. As of the last couple of months, by her request, she and I have not had any sexual contact. That's ok with me. Although we had some fun, I'd say she and I are both more hetero-flexible than bi-sexual. My relationship with Lia has always been almost exclusively platonic until this past year.
But since the threesomes have stopped, Mac and i have been spending a lot more private time together and that has made me more... protective... of that relationship. So much so, that I don't really enjoy the time we spend together as a group.
Primaries, as I have read, often complain about being the minivan to the porche of the secondary, but I am desperate to be the minivan. To share the day to day mundanity of "You make dinner and I'll pick up the kids from practice." When all three of us are together and one of them mentions what they need to pick up at the grocery store, I'm crushed. And then I feel overwhelmingly stupid for being crushed over grocery shopping. They are not insensitive. If I said please never talk about grocery shopping in front of me again, they wouldn't. But how stupid would it be to say "please don't have a life outside of me."
And I struggle with guilt. I'm terribly afraid that Lia is only "allowing" my relationship with Mac because she is afraid that he will leave her if she says he has to give me up. I know that's not the case. I know that if she issued a ultimatum, I would lose. I am simultaneously insecure that she might do that at any moment and horrified that because she doesn't think she is able to do that.
Also, I miss the physical affection with Lia. During the threesomes, it was mostly the two of us giving him attention. But that was very comfortable for me. I totally understand and respect why she needed some space from me sexually, but I feel a little... rejected. It's drastically changed our relationship. All of the relationships.
I like, and am comfortable, expressing myself physically. I'm a cuddly person and physical contact, even if its mostly platonic, makes me feel secure in relationships. She's not as touchy as I am and I want to respect that. But I really liked it when I was able to spend the night with both of them and feel welcome. I don't feel so welcome now.
She and I are so off kilter now I don't know how to get back to pre-Mac times. It doesn't help that we have drastically different communication styles. She's more likely to say exactly what is on her mind at the moment that she is thinking it. I'm more measured and like to have "package" of thoughts and conclusions before I'm ready to present them. Her blasts of emotions erupt upon me and then she seems to be done with them while I'm hurt and recovering for days.
At the moment, she and I are having virtually no communication and I find that incredibly sad. I'm pretty sure she does too. On the other hand, the less she and I talk, the better each of our relationships with Mac seem to have been. So I don't know what to do.
Sounds like an interesting situation you've fallen into. You've read the Ethical Slut, so the concept of scripts shouldn't be news. It sounds like your response to get protective about your relationship with Mac, and desire to compete for the minivan role are part of those scripts...the same ones probably from spending a lot of time being married.
Could it be that running these scripts is part of what's causing the friction between you and Lia? Perhaps you could give some thought to breaking away from the scripts, and find your connection with her. You may not have planned on or chosen poly, but since you're here, might as well see what you can do. But part of that will be doing what you can to avoid turning your relationship with Mac into a zero sum game between you and Lia.
Welcome to the Forum.
ImaginaryIllusion - I think your right about me running some scripts. Actually writing that post was incredibly helpful in terms of sorting out what was bothering me. After I hit post and reread it a few times I had some insights.
Old script: Having a romantic and sexual relationship with your friend's boyfriend is an evil thing to do.
New Script: Just because we are no longer having a triad-ish type relationship, doesn't mean I am doing anything behind Lia's back. All I can do is operate within her boundaries. If I am acting in good faith, I don't need to take responsibility for her every instance of being hurt, insecure or sad.
Second Insight: I've got my nose bent out of shape cause I got dumped! After I realized that, I laughed at myself. Well duh! No wonder I'm a little pissy.
I didn't really have a word for the type of relationship I had with Lia. More than friends, less than lovers... friends with a different kinda benefit...? I think because I didn't have a definition for the relationship, it was hard to define the part that I lost. And I'm really OK with the relationship morphing into something else. But it is a loss. And I believe that it will continue to morph. And that's OK too.
Lastly with the grocery shopping minivan parts of life.... ::sigh:: this is going to be an ongoing struggle. I truly like sharing a home and family life with someone. Beyond scripts and cultural expectations, I really want to live with a partner. If Mac were available on that level, I would want it to be him. But he's not and I don't expect him to be in the future. I think that my feelings when they are engaged in that type of daily life conversation is more akin to envy that jealousy. I don't begrudge them that, just really really wish I had it too.
I am free to pursue other relationships, but being basically a monogamous person, I'm not really that interested. I guess I also would feel... idk... disingenuous?... looking for a monogamous relationship while I was in a poly one. I think I'd have to be pretty much ready to walk down the aisle with someone before I were willing to give up Mac. And I'm not sure even then.
I think I feel trapped in the land of almost perfection. Does that make sense?
I'd suggest, lunch, coffee, even movie or shopping dates with Lia. Nothing romantic, but just normal friend activities with just the two of you. Part of the issue may be that you both are missing the friendship you once had. Not only is she now sharing her husband, but she is sharing you. I'd think this friendship is worth working on and re-building.
So, you're not the sort of person who can easily enjoy casual affairs? Having a lover or two on the side can be a wonderful distraction when the secondary relationship in your life isn't filling up all the spaces you have that you want to share. If you're really committed to Mac and don't see the opportunity to be co-primary to him along with Lisa any time soon, having someone else you can share a piece of yourself with may be a strategy to not go insane.
I totally empathize with your minivan thing -- I've frequently felt that sort of difficult envy too with my girlfriend and her husband. It's gotten better as they' ve felt more comfortable with me being a helpmate to them after the birth of their baby. And, as it happens, I fell into a monogamous relationship on the side that might turn into something primary but that doesn't prevent me from being with my gf.
Good luck!!! Being a secondary is tough and blogging has definitely helped me. There are good resources on the subject of secondary relationships at www.morethantwo.com. I hope that you and Lia can repair your friendship, it seems like that would help a whole lot.
Why does it have to be monogamous? I think I'm just built that way. The situation I'm in now was far from design. And although its mostly working, I wouldn't choose poly again. (However, earlier today, I was joking that we just need to find another boyfriend to add to the mix that both she and I will fall madly in love with AND who will turn out to be his best friend. I think that makes us Pegasus hunters ;) )
And absolutely, my friendship with Lia is worth working on. We've been friends for 20 years. I love her. And I think having some just girl time is probably the way to go. I keep thinking that I need to get to (back to) all three of us hanging out. I feel like that would be easiest for Mac and let's face it, our relationship with Mac may not be a zero sum game, but time with him certainly is. But, he's not pushing for that. i don't know why I feel like I need to get there on his behalf if he hasn't even asked me to.
Do you guys think its unreasonable... unwise... to want to take a break from talking about everything all the time? I don't mean forever... and I would never refuse to address anything that anyone needed to talk about immediately. But I feel like the constant analysis is overkill. I'd really like to just go lose myself in something fun without the pressure of feeling like we need to resolve something.
OK, I think that's what I'm gonna do. Figure out a really fun activity and see if she'll be up for it.
I've been enjoying following the changes in your life with the new baby. I laughed when you made sure everyone knew that just because you were getting a "date night" with the baby that did not make you a Unicorn. I will definitely take a look at the website.
You know... I absolutely am the kind of person who can enjoy casual affairs... when I am single. My husband and I separated for a year during our marriage and I had a bunch of fun flings. But right now, i don't really feel single. I haven't entirely ruled it out as a possibility. It may be that I am still so in the midst of NRE that nothing else seems like it could possible be as fun or worth the effort.
As for co-primaries... I don't know when someone stops being a secondary and becomes a co-primary. Seems a little arbitrary to me. She has referred to me as her SO's OSO and I started wondering if the communicative property applied making her my SO's OSO or if in her head it was "other" as in "other woman." In actuality, I think she just adopted the convention of the group of people she was speaking with.
If by co-primaries you mean us all co-habitating, I don't see that happening. But she has been very generous with me. I have a regular weekly date night with Mac and we usually fit in another evening or afternoon during the week as well, but overnights are off limits. But, as i have told her, she could keep giving and giving until the point that he's living with me and I'll say "Fine, I guess you can spend a couple of hours with Mac this month" ;) So, at what point between here and there I become a co-primary is sort of irrelevant cause I'm basically just a monogamish girl who wants her own damn boyfriend but unfortunately has fallen in love with someone with whom that ain't gonna happen.
Speaking of NRE. As much fun as it is, I can't help but wonder, if we were beyond it, if some of this wouldn't be easier. If I weren't so busy scrambling to grab every minute with him i can, if she would have less of a need to stake her claim as well. I just had this amusing thought about saying "OMG, Lia, I can't stand to do XYZ with Mac one more freaking time. You're gonna have to go with him this weekend" But as it is, he and I joke about the fact that we'd be happy to watch paint dry as long as we were together. (Despite the fact that that is absolutely true, how freaking corny. No wonder she finds our gaga-ness annoying.)
I'm guessing that NRE probably last longer in poly relationships in general. If you have less time to spend with someone, its probably easier to stretch out your good behavior and overlook the other persons annoying habits. I'm pretty sure that if i were spending every day and night with Mac that all of those sweet adorable funny little things he does might cease being adorable.
I'm sorry I am so wordy. Annabel, I totally agree with you. Writing about stuff really does help me to get a handle on where my brain is at.
Ha! Wordiness is a-ok. :)
I interpret "secondary relationship" to mean "we care for and trust each other and we are intimate and we consider each other carefully when decisions are being made, but in the end we are not each other's mutual top priorities in life" and "primary relationship" to mean "we have all that other good stuff plus we are actively building a life together and putting our partnership before all others (barring any co-primaries)". In theory that doesn't have to mean living under the same roof, though it certainly would make it easier.
If you know you are monogamous(ish) and want Mac to be your forever-love with no other main squeeze to support you, then unless you're the sort of person who can happily get by with relatively limited involvement (which it doesn't sound like) then I think figuring out how a co-primary relationship with Lia could look is the only way this can work in the long-term.
Now of course getting to that level with someone doesn't happen overnight... I'm not saying you and Mac need to be primary now. But you can build a strong base for it to be possible in the future, ya dig? A big part of that will *have* to be learning to share with Lia... really share, and value her happiness and her relationship with Mac and support it. How can she ever be comfortable with sharing more of him with you when she knows you're not really on "Team Mac/Lia" and that you would gladly take him almost completely away from her if given the chance?
It's going to take a major shift in thinking and I'm sure it won't happen all at once by any means. But love can lead you to things you never would have imagined yourself being happy to do (if you'd told me three years ago that by now I'd be all "changing the diapers of a child that's not mine, YES, my favorite thing!" I would have looked at you reeeally funny) and, with time and genuine empathy for their love (they call it "compersion"), maybe sharing Mac can become one of those things for you. Otherwise I truly don't see how this can work. Re-building your friendship with her and spending more trio time are great places to start. Slow and easy.
Also, good point about how poly can lengthen NRE, I hadn't quite thought of it like that but it makes total sense.
So I just had one of those moments of sudden clarity reading what you wrote. I AM on team Mac/Lia! I had gotten so wrapped up in stupid stuff that I was feeling slighted about and worrying about how things were going to work and over thinking and feeling blue that I'd sort of forgotten that.
She had sent me an email and I was in the process of writing her a book back when I read your post. And all the sudden it was the mental redirection I needed. Thank you.
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