Secondary break ups
Hi everyone. I have been a somewhat long time reader of these forums, but this is my first post. I apologize if it's in the wrong section, but this seemed about as good as any. Sorry this is long, but a little back story is needed, plus it's nice to vent.
So a few years ago, I was involved with a woman who had serious issues being faithful. And because of this, she told me about 6 months into our relationship that she had to be polyamorous, and that I needed to accept that she was going to be with other men, or she would break up with me. Well, it turns out that she was just unable to be faithful and wanted to use polyamory as an excuse to cheat and not feel bad, but that's not important. What is important is that during this time, I did my research. I learned what polyamory is, what it means, the practices, the relationships, etc... I went to some kink/poly friendly councilors, I read book after book after book, I went to local Poly meetups. I was dedicated. And along the way, I found out that this was the lifestyle I wanted to live. Over time, and with a lot of study and introspection, I got it.
Anyways, I had a friend of mine that I had known for about 4 years or so. She is an amazing woman. I have honestly had feelings for her for about that long, however she lived a far distance away, and I was in a job that only afforded me the chance to visit her town once a year or so. Eventually, she became married. I still had a crush on her, but I respected it and never did anything about it. I just pretty much never even considered her a romantic option, and that was that.
Fast forward to about 5 months ago. I got a job on the other side of the country from where I used to live, as well as the side of the country she lives in. However, we started talking quite a bit, and really enjoyed each others company. She knew I was single, but she was happily married to me. Then she dropped the news on me that she and her husband had opened up their relationship, and she wanted to know if I was interested in starting one with her. I of course was shocked and amazed, but I happily told her I would love to do so. And, so it started.
After a couple months of the whole long distance thing, I made plans to go visit her. And the longer we talked and chatted online, the more of this incredible bond we formed. It was very, very intense. Add in the fact that we lived on opposite sides of the country, it made it that much more impressive. I eventually told her that I was in love with her, which I was.
However, I knew that she was also married, and deeply in love with her husband, and that wasn't going to change. And to be honest, I didn't want it to. I was happy for her. I finally was able to live and understand the meaning of the term compersion. It was impressive. I mean, we didn't talk about the intimate details of their relationship, but I was happy when he made her happy, and when she was sad about things like not getting to see her husband for a while, I was sad as well. I understood and respected my place in their life, and I was content. When things got closer to her and I finally seeing each other, and he had some reservations, I happily accepted them and did what needed to be done to make sure he was alright. I wanted this to work, and I knew all parties had to be happy for that to happen. There had to be a solid foundation. I didn't resent anything.
So finally, the time came for us to see each other for the first time as a couple, and I was so nervous, and so was she. However, the moment we met up with each other, that all went away. Things were so natural that it was mind boggling. It was like we had been together for years. I was stunned, and so was she. That first night was the first time she told me she loved me. It was magical.
However, I also knew that she had a husband, and I wasn't that worried about it. I mean, I made sure she did things like checked in with him, and we had some boundaries that we made sure to follow. Again, I wanted to build a solid relationship with her, and with him as well.
Eventually, like all good things, it had to end, and I had to go home. I'm not going to lie, it was hard, and I had tears in my eyes as I did. But I made my way home, and eventually I was just eager and excited to the next time I would get to visit her, as was she. It was a wonderful vacation, and I was on Cloud Nine.
Then two days later, she informed me that her husband needed to talk to me. She wouldn't say what, only that she was sorry, and then she had to go to an appointment, so I didn't get a chance to discuss it any further. I was nervous, but she had done things like used pet names and things like that, so I dismissed any negative thoughts and went about my day.
Eventually, she and her husband returned, and he pinged me over IM. To make an already long story a tad shorter, he told me that he was no longer comfortable with an open marriage, and that they were closing it and she and I could no longer see each other. He told me it had nothing to do with me, that I had been wonderful and completely supportive and respectful, but he just couldn't deal with it. To make matters worse, he was having her send back a necklace I got her for her birthday, because it was too hard for him to deal with. Again, being the kind of man I am, I told him I was sorry to hear that, that if I could have done more to make him more comfortable with things and didn't that I was sorry, and accepted their decision.
After this, she messaged me to see if I was O.K. and that she was sorry. She then told me that she felt sorry for doing this while I was already upset, but that while she still cared about me deeply and hoped we could still be friends, she needed some time and space while she got her feelings and head sorted out, which again I went the selfless route and told her that I understood and was fine with it, even though I wasn't.
Anyways, the point of this all was to find out how people in that are secondaries, especially if they are not seeing anyone else, handle dealing with the pain of a break up, especially with someone that they care about so deeply? I am trying to be good about it, but I find myself getting angry and almost resentful at times, because while she may or may not be hurting over this, she has her husband to fall back on and be with, while I don't have anyone, ever her as a friend. I always remind myself that I knew my role in all this when it first started, and that this was the risk of such a relationship, but it's still tough. And because I haven't told almost anyone about my views on relationships and whatnot, it's hard to even talk to anyone about it.
So, a quick TL;DR recap:
How do people that are the secondary deal with the breakup of a partner, especially if they were the only one you're seeing?
Thanks everyone, and sorry for the super long post.
Hello and welcome out of the lurker's closet.
That is the personal dimension I am missing in your post. You are allowed to grieve the loss of this relationship and you should do so to be able to deal with it. Just trying to instantly be good about it will not help you (at least in my book).
But what I find quite disturbing is the strong veto power her husband had over your and her relationship. This would hurt me the most. Having my feelings been disregarded, and as you described it, even degraded by choosing and obeying to go with the wish of an outsider to your relationship would be really hard for me. The relationship wouldn't be valued by them and especially her in my opinion.
Well, that much about my (purely predicted) feelings on the matter. I know that there are valid reasons to behave like that and that there are some points that make her decision understandable. But even with those reasons in mind, I think that they are treating your relationship with her too lightly. She entered into a relationship with you, even if they couldn't predict how the real deal (you and her meeting in person) would feel like (and believe me, I really do understand how difficult this special kind of relationship is out of personal experience), they should have considered that dimension as well. That's why I don't understand why there is no resistance from her side.
So, how to handle it … well, I would suggest you do just like you would have done with the loss of an 'normal' (meaning mono) relationship. Some need to be alone to process things and stomach them, some need distraction of any kind to get over the first days and weeks. If you have trouble talking to your friends and don't want to tell them all the details, you could go with something like “there was another man in the picture” and leave it at that. It doesn't change the outcome, you can tell them that you knew that there was another right from the start and that she was unsure how to decide or whatever. You don't have to tell the whole truth if you need someone to talk about your hurt feelings. The hurt stays the same, even if you alter the story.
I told some of my friends that I am poly after I carefully discussed a purely theoretical polyamorous setting with them first. If I wouldn't know anyone to talk to about the real deal, the above suggestion would be my way to go.
Again: I am sorry you are hurting, I hope things get better soon.
I'm so sorry you are hurting. That really sucks. There isn't much you can do except look for someone that won't treat you as a secondary or at least the way this woman did. Someone that sees you as equal to whomever else they are with in life. of course if this was not meant to be then it wasn't meant to be, but as they said that it had nothing to do with you, then I suspect it was because you are a secondary.
In my opinion hierarchies suck and should not be sought out. They can be destructive and painful as they assume that secondaries are not worth as much love, are only there when the people involved want them to be, are disposable at the whim of the "couple" or other two involved and their life choices and evolve-ment in the relationship is not worthy of discussion or respect.
There are some great threads here that you could read that will give you some idea of what other have gone through and might give you a sense of belonging in terms of your emotional pain. Here are a few threads I found by doing a tag search for "secondary" and "secondaries"
secondaries bill of rights
The only time I have seen secondaries work is if the secondary has their own thing going on and doesn't want to be that involved. Usually its a partner that is in it for the sex or just because they want the company occasionally and they are free to pursue whatever avenue in life they see opening to them. If this is a known right from the beginning because everyone is communicating openly and honestly about what they are hoping to achieve in their life in terms of needs then it can work. It sounds like you didn't fit this and there wasn't an awareness on their behalf... of course it could of been that all of you didn't know or something changed. Communication is so important.
The other way I have seen it work is when the secondary likes to be involved with a family or couple and help them out and become involved with everything they do, knowing that they either don't want a family or primary of their own right now or ever and they are quite happy being "aunty" "uncle" to the kids and being the partner of one or both of the people involved. Very rare and very particular to certain people I think. Its not a common way of being and I would actually argue if they really are "secondaries" at that point.
*hugs* to you.... hopefully you find some solace in the fact that you are not alone and can move on.
The situation sucks. You gave it your all and did everything right. And it's okay to be hurt and mad.
They rejected the situation - not you - because they just couldn't handle it. People come with limitations. It sounds like they dealt with you as respectfully and honestly as they could.
As a secondary dealing with a long-term break-up (insert morbid laughter here), I can tell you that it does no good to try and fix your feelings one way or another. They will ebb and flow. You'll go from anger to peace to love to neutrality to renewed anger, etc. I guess it's a grieving process. But maybe focusing on the fact that it wasn't you will help you move through it more quickly. I'm so sorry. But know there is more joy in relationships ahead for you.
First and foremost, thank you for the warm welcome and the sympathy. It's actually rather touching. I apologize that it has taken me this long to respond, but work as been very consuming.
I can see and understand your point. I have been taking it to heart, and allowing myself to be upset and angry about everything. I have been thinking a lot about your points, and you are right, I think what hurts the most is how little my feelings mattered in all of this. However, part of me both knew that they were in a married relationship, and that if it came down to things, I would be the one to go, so then I feel almost stupid for being upset about it. It's definitely a roller coaster. But yes, I have been focusing more on being upset and angry, and it's helping.
I really enjoyed the blog and threads, thank you. They had some very good information in them. Certainly work the time to read. I see your point in how hierarchies can suck. I suppose part of it was my mistake for thinking that I would be treated like an equal partner, when in reality, I was not. It was foolish of me, and that really is my fault. I suppose I got caught up in the intense and amazing connection we established at first over long distance, and even more so in person. Thank you though, and while I don't exactly find solace in the idea of others being in the same pain I am, it is nice to know that there are people here that can at least empathize with me and not think I'm being silly or whatnot. So thank you again. *hugs*
Yeah, it most certainly did suck, that I can say. However, it was nice to at least be treated respectfully and honestly. I guess that's about all anyone can really ask for at the end of the day. I can totally see what you mean by feelings ebbing and flowing. There are good days and there are bad ones. It's gotten easier, I suppose. It's still painful, but it's a duller pain, if that makes any sense. I have been taking your advice though as well, and remembering that it wasn't anything I did. While it's not much, it does help. It would be easier if she would speak to me and, as horrible and sadistic as it might sound, just know if she is at least somewhat as upset as I am. If for no other reason that to know if I was someone she really cared about, or if I was just a fun life experience that she will be able to laugh at later with her friends. But until then, I'll just focus on your last statement as well. Thank you very much, and I'm sorry you are dealing with the same. I wish you the same joy in your future as well.
Again, thank you all so much for the kind words and support. I was really floored by it, especially coming from such complete strangers. It's funny how that actually helps. :-)
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