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joiedevivre 11-16-2011 03:21 PM

well, i just impetuously replied to a post, so i figure i'd better introduce myself. i've been poking around and reading some of the archives over the past few weeks, but i'm sure i've barely scratched the surface.

i'm married with 2 young children (4 and 7 at the moment), an american ex-pat. my husband and i have been together for about 10 years, in what was officially a monogamous relationship.

but unofficially it was non-monogamous for at least a few years and i didn't know about it... until about 6 months ago when i discovered 2 affairs that had gone on over the previous 3 years.

and i freaked out. seriously. like, physically.

and at the same time tried really hard to keep an open mind. found a good, unconventional relationship counselor that we both like and still see. agreed to read a few books about and discuss polyamory and open relationships (sex at dawn, the ethical slut, opening up). agreed to email conversations with and visits with a long-ago and potential-future girlfriend of my husband's. agreed to him communicating with and then going out for drinks with one of the women he cheated on me with (and she and i might talk at some point). it has been A LOT to deal with in the past 6 months!

october was when all those visits happened and felt like the climax of all these intense conversations. my husband was feeling all warm and fuzzy and excited about the possibilities, but i kindof crashed and asked for a pause. i feel like i've had all this adrenalin rushing around for months, with lots of physical and emotional highs and lows and now i need to settle for a while.

it was really a crisis for me to learn that he had been sleeping with other people, lying to me, compartmentalizing. it has really tested our conflict-resolution skills (or lack thereof) and resiliency. i really don't like some of the ways in which i've reacted. so it's been a reality check on many levels. and now i feel like i'm on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. and if we're staying together i want to (re)connect with him deeply--to have the relationship i've always wanted to have with him.

and he's frustrated because he really wants to have sex... lots of sex. with me, in a threesome, and out there on his own. he wants to be concretely working towards the goal of us having a threesome with another woman. and he wants to talk about it being ok for him to be intimate (in whatever way the situation permits) with willing women he encounters on his work travels. oh, and maybe trying out hiring a sex worker or going to sex clubs too. AND at the same time he wants to be developing, intensifying, our own sex life--more often, more playful, fantasizing, etc.

so i'm having a hard time feeling connected, resilient, self-sufficient, giving, sexy, over the course of weeks and months. i feel like i'm still recovering. and because he's feeling frustrated he's having a hard time being patient, understanding. i guess he feels rejected in his own way, and it's hard for me to be sympathetic!

well. that's all the intro i've got time for right now. i'd be pleased as punch to hear from people, especially any advice on healing from cheating and divining if polyamory is "right" for me. and i'd be happy to share more too.

AnnabelMore 11-18-2011 03:03 AM

Wow. He fairly recently revealed to you that he's been deceiving you for years and opening you up to risk you didn't know about (everyone should have the right to choose if they're comfortable with sleeping with someone who has other partners, safety-wise), and he expects you to be "concretely working" towards the "goal" of a threesome and to be chill about him sexing up any random lady he meets on the road. I'm sorry, but he sounds from this angle like an entitled ass.

You have every right in the world to take this at your own pace and 6 months is NOT a long time in the course of a 10 year relationship, especially when I imagine that your time and energy are a little eaten up by your two young kids!! Geez.

Poly does *not* mean you get whatever you want whenever you want it, and it really sounds like that's what he thinks he deserves. To my mind, it's supposed to be about love grounded in the context of balance, negotiation, compassion, honesty, and empathy. He has a lot to make up for in terms of his lies to you, and is in no position to be making demands.

Don't let yourself be rushed or pressured into anything. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. His choices are his own, but you have the right to be clear about what you're ok with and what you're not, and it's ok to not be ok with some things. I imagine banging random chicks is a want for him not a need, whereas you may *need* to feel safe right now which that may not be conducive to.

You've done a tremendous amount of growing and learning over the last 6 months, from the sound of it. Does he appreciate that?

Is he open to the idea that you might choose to be with another man, if you decide to embrace poly for yourself?

Is he open to the idea that it's enough -- more than enough -- for you to open yourself up to the idea of him wanting to be with other women and that you are not required to participate if you decide poly is *not* for you?

Though, really, I'm not sure where the poly"amory" part comes in here... is loving emotion a factor whatsoever in his desire to be with other women?

joiedevivre 11-18-2011 02:44 PM

hi annabel, thanks for your thoughts. your comments on some other posts have jumped out at me as insightful and incisive, so i'm especially glad to hear from you. (looking forward to other feedback as well though!)

just want to make something (hopefully) obvious even more so--i'm definitely only sharing my own thoughts and feelings here, can't (and try not to) speak for my husband. he has also signed up here and i hope at some point he will introduce himself as well, so i especially don't want to villainize him. (not that i thought you were.)

that said, yes, i think in many ways he's acted like an egotistical, narcissistic asshole with a sense of entitlement. he didn't disclose, i discovered. so that's another point against him. and he's still having difficulties being open and honest with me about certain things--like impromptu late-night drinks and flirtatious emails with someone he met at a work-related dinner lately, which again i discovered rather than was told about.

he leaves his email open on our shared computer so every so often i open up and there's his inbox. i try not to snoop but sometimes it's really obvious when he's emailing about personal stuff with a woman i don't know. it's a kind of passive disclosure, i guess. but not cool.

so on the one hand he really liked what he read in the ethical slut about all sorts of emotional, sexual relationships. he likes the idea of openness and sharing sex and possibly emotional connection with many people. his libido is what's driving him at the moment, it seems, but he likes the idea of us having a special shared girlfriend too.

he's much less comfortable about my dating other people on my own (even more so if it were a guy) but he's aware that he'd have to work on that (and in fact has been trying to fantasize about it to practice) to be fair.

he has recognized and appreciated all the work i've done in the past 6 months. he was incredibly appreciative of my openness to his re-kindled relationship with the long-ago girlfriend (and ironically she and he have had a little falling out and she and i and her husband are still talking a fair amount--long distance), and also that i tried to be supportive of ("allowed" though i HATE that word) his meeting with his former lover. but now that neither of those relationships are sexual for him he's really antsy to move on... my asking for a pause seems to worry him that things will be delayed indefinitely (or maybe that i'll think about things too much and decide it's not what i want at all?). my take is that we've been together for ten years and plan to stay together indefinitely (that could be decades still) and his take is that he's getting older and his window of opportunity is closing on having his sexual adventures. mid-life crisis anyone?

in many ways i love the idea of polyamory, though i do worry that it's just too (potentially) messy for my life right now. though i'm pretty happy being mono right now, i don't subscribe to it as the only "natural" or ethical relationship type. i also like the idea that i could share emotional/sexual connections with someone other than my husband (though i get lots of emotional support from friends and family already) and that i could open up my own sexuality to sleeping with women.

there's a large part of me that thinks maybe i should just acknowledge and try to come to terms with his desires and not try to limit them for my own sake. but then, as you say, i feel like i need to feel safe right now and him making the moves on lots of ladies on the road does not feel very safe to me, even with all his reassurances. and i feel like he and i have so many improvements to make on our relationship as a couple, i don't think we're on solid enough ground right now to bring someone else in, even casually. and we struggle already with balancing work-home life and prioritizing time together, i'm also skeptical of his ability to be involved with other people and not take things for granted at home (even more).

i'm reading and listening to a lot of conscientious-spiritualist and buddhist things lately--i really love these ideas of being fully present and non-attachment--both for myself personally, for my parenting, and for being a good partner. it seems sympatico with poly ideas about non-possessiveness over partners as well.

AnnabelMore 11-19-2011 01:17 PM

Aw, thank you!

It may make sense to ask the mods to move this to the New to Poly section, since you're actively after advice, not just saying hi. People tend to read and post more there.

What is his explanation for why he lied, and why he seems to be passively letting you know now? Is there any remorse for the deception?

(and in fact has been trying to fantasize about it to practice)" <-- This made me lol... it's good that he's trying, and this may well be an effective method, but talk about being libido-driven. Things can be ok even if they don't turn you on!

AnnabelMore 11-19-2011 01:33 PM

One more thought real quick. You're right "allowing" or "denying" your partner various freedoms feels icky, like you're a parent not a partner. Thus the idea of operating under boundaries not rules.

Rule: No sleeping with people I've never met.
Boundary: I would not be comfortable knowing you were sleeping with people before I got the chance to meet them personally and get a feeling for them, because I wouldn't have any idea if I thought they were safe, cool, or trustworthy.

Rules have punishments ("no sex for a month!), breaking boundaries have consequences ("if you did that, I think I would probably feel disconnected from you and unsafe and would almost certainly need to pull away physically for a time, maybe emotionally as well").

Setting rules is a means of control, explaining your boundaries is a means of self-care and communication. It's largely a semantic difference, yes, but it does matter and can lead you to different places. You can flip that around easily and see how "you have permission to see her" becomes "it would be ok with me if you saw her".

Of course, this all depends on if you trust your husband to respect your needs if they're expressed as boundaries rather than rules...

SchrodingersCat 11-20-2011 07:22 AM

I really like that post about boundaries vs rules. What it made me think of is accountability.

In other words, it forces them to shift their focus from "I'm mad because my wife won't let me ____." to "I don't want my wife to be sad so I will choose not to do ____."

Another thing for you to ponder: do have even the slightest desire to ever have a threesome? His libido aside, you have to do what's right for you. It may be his fantasy and that's fine. But if you know right now that you will never want a threesome, it's worthwhile telling him sooner than later, rather than letting you both think it's something you even can "work towards." Personally, it's not something I could ever work towards any more than I can work towards being turned on by being whipped: I'm just not wired that way, and all the talking and thinking and fantasizing in the world will never make me wired that way.

SchrodingersCat 11-20-2011 07:25 AM

I would like to point something else out. He doesn't actually sound "polyamorous" to me. All this talk is about sex, threesomes, fantasies... as soon as sex dried up in his affairs, he quit them. I wouldn't be surprised if at that point, the other women started getting more attached and wanting more than just sex, so either he bailed or they lost interest in sex that wasn't going anywhere. So in that context, it may be helpful to talk with some people from the swinger lifestyle also. They might have a completely different take on this, as well as coping strategies for "my husband wants to sleep with everyone" type stuff (many polys can't relate to that). Not that I'm trying to shuffle you off on someone else, only saying that the advice you'll get here will typically carry an assumption that you or your husband want "love and romance" and not "just sex" and that definitely changes the conversation.

But that being said, polyamory could be something you yourself are interested in exploring. In my marriage, I'm the polyamorous one and my husband is the ethical slut. Before he met me, he had never had a relationship last longer than 6 months. As soon as it started getting too emotional, he bailed. I describe him as "barely monoamorous." But he loves the thrill of meaningless sex with someone he won't have to romance later, or even call the next day. But I don't do that, I prefer my sex to be intimate and romantically shared with a loved partner. It took a while for us to both figure that out and accept it, but now I'm comfortable with him being a man-whore and me being polyamorous. We have an ongoing discussion about safety, comfort levels, etc. We also have rules (not boundaries) regarding safe sex.

If that's something you decide you want, you'll have to explain to him that if he expects you to support him having random sex with strangers, then he has to support you having loving romantic relationships with non-strangers.

Minxxa 11-23-2011 01:43 AM

Just my two cents but it seems you have been dealing with a LOT of emotional stuff for the past six months-- asking for a little time to just pause and let it settle and just BE for a bit is not asking too much.

I can understand that he may fear this will put things on pause, or you'll change your mind-- maybe it will. Maybe you'll decide you can't do this, that IS your right after all. But maybe you just need time to reset a little and let it all settle before you can move forward. I think sometimes people in their hurry to get what they want, don't understand how completely exhausting it can be to actually do all of this emotional work. You need time in between too. And he needs to understand that trying to push you to go at HIS speed will not only not make it happen faster, but could end up keeping you from being able to get okay with things. He'd just be hurting himself in that regard...

And on that... what emotional work is HE doing? Is he pondering why he wants all of this sex with random people? What is he hoping to get out of it? What does he see his future being? Or is he running of of libido and is the big brain shut off? :) I don't think it's too much to ask him to do a little work as well.

And lastly... he needs to see that if he is not open and honest this whole thing will fall apart at some point and he will lose everything. You already know, so what's the deal with keeping things above board? I know some people have issues with that, but again-- this is the time to figure out WHY it's a problem and make some changes.

Honestly, without the honesty none of this will work out in a positive way. Well, in my ever so humble opinion anyway! :)

joiedevivre 11-23-2011 11:07 AM

@annabel: yeah, i was wondering if i shouldn't have posted a shorter intro and then launched into the bigger picture elsewhere. partly i hadn't explored the whole forum enough to realize that new to poly would be a good spot, and partly i have a tendency to blurt everything out once i've started. so perhaps i will ask to move this, or maybe post again over there.

his explanations for lying have been: because in a way it seems simpler at the time; to protect me from something potentially painful (patronizing BULLSHIT, ahem); and at some times because he has felt like it was private to his life and only of peripheral impact to mine (ie because he didn't feel it was taking anything away from me or our relationship, only adding to his experience).

why does he want to passively let me know? we talked about this the other night, but i'm not sure i can relay what he said very well. i guess he doesn't feel like he's doing anything unethical these days, feels he's following the rules of not sleeping with anyone w/out my consent, so he doesn't have any real need to volunteer info on "acceptable" activities. but at the same time, he knew that at least that one event (impulsive late-night drink with another woman the night before he was to see his former lover for the first time in months) i would be upset about... so he didn't tell me, didn't plan to tell me... but then because he's not lying either he didn't try to hide it.

it also came out in that conversation that he had been angry with me for making such a big deal over his meeting with lover. and i had asked for him to call me mid-evening to give me an update--not a 30 second "everything's fine" update but a longer, perhaps 5-10 minute conversation. more background: what originally had been planned as a couple of drinks with lover and then home to me for recap and reassurance morphed into drinks + work-related cocktail party party they had both been invited to + possibility of them having another drink or taking a walk alone after (=later night, lots of free drinks, more time spent together, and no recap/reconnection before morning). so i had gotten upset that the evening seemed to have changed from a straightforward and limited evening to something multi-phased and with very few limits. so i asked for the courtesy of a 10 minute phone call and a text to let me know when he was on his way back. this led to him feeling controlled and angry/resentful and me in return feeling like he didn't care enough to give me ANYTHING to help me feel safe except his word--and how much does that mean to me these days? he got over the phone call thing pretty quickly and then provisionally, reluctantly, agreed to it. but the week before their evening was still very tense and the script/itinerary for it undecided. so it turns out that his taking up that impulsive drink offer wasn't just innocent, opportunistic escape but also angry acting out.

rules/boundaries: thanks for those thoughts, i agree with you completely. and i've been trying very hard to talk about MY feelings and limits and boundaries rather than rules (except rules, for example, about safer sex). and even his not sleeping with other people right now is more his respecting a boundary rather than following a rule (though he may be thinking of it as a temporary rule). he knows that the potential damage of me finding out he's slept around again w/out consulting me first is far worse than the potential pleasure of it (i hope!) and he knows i'm not ready for it. but he still wants the pleasure and energy of flirting or cultivating friendships that may have "benefits" at some point, and he feels like there's no harm done in using (or minimally extending) time he's already away from me to do such. but yeah, i'm having a hard time trusting that he'll respect my boundaries when he seems to 1) disagree with them, 2) is openly frustrated with them and 3) he's not setting up such a great track record.

joiedevivre 11-23-2011 11:41 AM

@schrodingerscat: nice to hear from you too!


In other words, it forces them to shift their focus from "I'm mad because my wife won't let me ____." to "I don't want my wife to be sad so I will choose not to do ____."
i was just trying to explain this to him! that his going out for that drink led to me being about 10 times LESS interested in having sex with him! and i wasn't trying to control him (or lay a guilt trip on him after the fact) but let him know how i might be (was) impacted.


Another thing for you to ponder: do have even the slightest desire to ever have a threesome?
well, this is one big reason why i've asked for a pause, so that i'm not just rushing into pleasure-seeking, appeasing behaviors that i might not be doing equally for myself. and to be honest, i'm just not sure! i'm not inclined to label myself, but i'm at least hetero-flexible if not fully bi, so the prospect of exploring my sexual desires for women is pretty enticing. and i like the idea of being GGG (a la dan savage) and helping my husband to fulfill his biggest fantasy in a way that could be a real turn-on for me to.

on the other hand i feel inhibited--which could be good to work through, but not necessarily easy, and i've got other not easy things i'm prioritizing. and i feel like it could be complicated, and i don't want to complicate our relationship even more right now.

it's really too bad he didn't have the guts to TALK to me honestly, openly, about his desires--more than just a little joking hint here and there--before all this. because even if i would have been a little freaked out, if he had let me know that he felt like his only alternative was to cheat i would have taken him seriously. i always said that i hoped we could talk about things before problems built up or one of us went behind the other's back...

another thing is that i've never fantasized about threesomes or group sex on my own (even though i've long known of the possibilities). i've always been more one-to-one. and even if it does end up being something that i can get worked up about (in a good way) i don't think it's something that i'd ask for, for myself, in this phase of my life.

and then again if the circumstances were right and i had a glass of wine i might let loose and really enjoy myself...

i don't know. i feel myself using some circular logic, which isn't really helpful.

his focus on threesome and opening up the relationship in general feels in many ways like a distraction to dealing with whatever issues led to the cheating. also, his cheating was never about fulfilling his threesome fantasy--meaning, if i was unwilling to fulfill that fantasy so he felt that the only way for him to get it was to look elsewhere, then it would be somehow more relevant to focusing on having a threesome together now as a way of not cheating in the future.

his cheating was clearly about something else--just opportunistically fucking around, or perhaps some other unacknowledged relationship issues.

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