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-   -   What are we doing to our marriage? We really need advice! (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=19944)

awakeandready 01-11-2012 06:11 PM

What are we doing to our marriage? We really need advice!
I so need some outside perspective and advice. This is my first post on this forum and I'm really sorry to be introducing myself like this, but I don't know where else to go. I'll try to be as brief as I can, but some background is necessary to really understand my situation. This is going to be long no matter what...just writing makes me feel somewhat better so don't feel you have to read it all. But if you actually have the patience and have any thoughts for me, I will appreciate them.

I'm not even sure this question belongs on a forum about polyamory. Technically, what we are doing probably falls under the swinger banner, but there are strong aspects of poly in there too. I could ask these questions and look for advice on a swingers forum, but I don't really think most swingers would understand the relationship dynamics and the fact that we've found ourselves unintentionally emotionally involved with another couple.

My husband and I have been together since we were literally kids. We are in our mid 40s but have been together almost 30 years and married for almost 25. We love each other deeply and passionately, are best friends, and have always been proud of our very strong marriage. Friends and family often comment on what a "perfect" couple we are. Our one child is now grown so we are very young empty nesters.

It started out simply as a dare to each other to go to a nudist beach on vacation about 8 years ago. It turned out we loved it and over the next few years our vacations evolved to totally nude vacations and we started seeking out nudist places at home. I had never even considered non-monogamy. I guess I knew swinging existed but I had never given it even a thought as something I would like to do. There was nothing even remotely sexual about our nudism. We just enjoyed it and enjoyed the new friendships we were making.

Then about three years ago my husband told me about some voyeur/exhibitionist fantasies he had and that he had been looking online and was really curious about all the other couples out there looking for the same thing. That is when he told me more about swinging and explained the differences to me about the different types of swinging (soft swinging vs full swapping).

At the time I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. On our next vacation, as it turned out, we actually had invitations from other couples to just be in the same room with them which would have fulfilled my husband's voyeuristic fantasies. Still, even the thought of doing that was really upsetting to me. There was some emotional, physical and sexual abuse in my early childood, and though I had overcome the issues in my relationship with my husband, I still had a lot of sexual hang ups.

But he had planted the seed. Despite my hang ups, I am and always have been kind of a rebel--very adventurous and very unconventional. He had piqued my interest, then some close friends of ours started swinging and telling us their wild stories, and the next thing you know I'm online researching and started to get really curious and interested.

Now, briefly, my husband (I'll call him R). R is very conventional and somewhat conservative. We've always balanced each other well. Without him to reign in my more adventurous, rebellious side I could maybe get myself in trouble. He would be satisfied with a very simple, conventional life. I need adventure. But once I bring the adventure into our lives he is always glad I did and enjoys it (e.g., travel to offbeat places, political activism, nudism, etc.) R would have been all talk and no action when it came to the swinging if I hadn't become interested myself and taken the initiative. He is also a very emotional person and when he gets upset over something, really upset, it is like he loses control briefly. It isn't uncommon for him to break things and hit walls. There have been a few times in the past 30 years when he's been physical with me. Never hitting me or anything, but shoving me or raising a hand to me and scaring me, and I've been in the path of items that were thrown a couple of times. Probably because of my background I get very distressed over this behavior. His temper scares the hell out of me. On the other hand, the vast majority of the time he is a very sweet, sentimental, and loving man who constantly tells me how much he loves me, both in words and action. (continued...)

awakeandready 01-11-2012 08:56 PM

(Continued) Fast forward to about a year ago and we make the decision to venture very slowly and step-by-step into soft swinging. So we go to a swingers resort and to a few local clubs and sign up for one of the websites. Right from the start we were both turned off by the idea of anonymous sex and one-night stands, so without realizing we were doing it we start looking for friends with benefits. We had very mild soft swinging experiences with several couples and though we haven't continued swinging with them, the friendships we developed did continue.

Right from the start R had issues over the swinging--insecurity and some jealousy. On the other hand, I took to it really well. Any self-image and self-confidence problems I had virtually disappeared almost overnight. And any sexual hang ups I had left over from the abuse--gone. Completely gone. The best that I can explain it is that I had been repressing this sexual side of myself for all of these years, thinking that sex was bad and dirty. But when I finally gave myself permission to embrace my sexuality and just recognize it for what it was--wow! Strange as it sounds, thanks to those swinging experiences I am a happier, healthier, more whole person than I have ever been.

But, as I said, my husband had issues with insecurity. Right from the very beginning, within a few hours of an experience I would start to see that temper that I hate so much. Then once that had burned itself out he would go through this whole range of emotions--jealousy, sadness, guilt. Sometimes an agonizing day or two would go by when he wouldn't interact with me, didn't want to touch me, didn't want to talk about it. Then the next thing you know he's enthusiastic about it again, apologizing for his behavior, and looking forward to the next experience. It was a very emotionally charged roller coaster for us both. Because of that, by last spring we had taken a step backwards and were reassessing if and where we fit in the lifestyle.

Then we meet this couple online and start corresponding with them. They were completely brand new to swinging and were just looking for advice regarding a local hotel party we had gone to, but the emails started going back and forth and before you knew it we had decided to meet them for drinks one night just to talk and give them advice--remember, we had taken a step back and weren't really looking for anything more at that point.

I'll call them T (him) and S (her). That's where it started. T&S are an attractive couple, the same age group as us, and right from the start we really liked them both a lot and them us. We were the first people they had met in the lifestyle and when we started soft swinging we were their first experience...and still are the only people they've been with. We have incredible fun with them. The sexual chemistry is intense but we also, right from the start began making very strong connections with them as friends. At first it was mostly T & I connecting that way. We have similar personalities and approaches to life and lots in common. But I was also very friendly with S, and then my husband and S started to become good friends and though it took him a little longer to really warm up to T, now my husband and T are good friends as well.

The emotional roller coaster continued for R, but kept getting less and less, so all was good. They live quite a ways from us and still have a young child at home, and we all have busy careers, so it isn't always as often as we might like, but we started seeing a lot of T&S. At first every three weeks or so, but now that has increased to every week or two. Both socially and for swinging "dates" -- and we've each started to integrate the other couple into our every day lives with family and other friends. Over the past 7 months not even a single day has gone by that we haven't talked to them, mostly by email and text.

By the end of summer we had started full swapping with them and while we often get so focused on each other once a swap starts that we end up as two 2-somes, we've also had some really hot 3-somes and 4-somes. No interaction between the guys, but S and I each have some bi tendencies, so we sometimes interact. Anyway, it's been incredible with them. We have absolutely no interest in venturing out to other couples and so far they haven't either. Since we were each completely clean of any STIs and monogamous for many years previously (except for our mild soft swinging) it has also been cool because we haven't had to use condoms--a definite benefit of the exclusivity.

As I said, we also have this friendship going on with T&S beyond the swinging and recently R&I have had many, many talks about how much we've come to care for T&S, what that means for us and our marriage, what that means for them and their marriage, what it means for the 4 of us as a quad, etc. It is all VERY confusing. What is this that we feel for them? Yes it is swinging, but it is also something more than that, but we don't know what it is. They are in our thoughts all the time and we find ourselves wanting to spend as much of our free time together as we can. I know I've become emotionally attached to T&S and I worry a lot about getting hurt when 1 of the 4 decides to end it (that is inevitable isn't it?), but I'm trying to just live in the moment and enjoy this relationship for what it is while we have it. We've never known anyone with a relationship like this so we have no model to go on. And R&I were so young when we met that we have very little experience dating others--especially me. All of this is just so new, so unusual to us. Even to me who is so unconventional and adventurous.

Even though T & I are probably the more impulsive 2 between the 4 of us, and things get REALLY hot between us when we are together, we've been really good at following the "rules" we each have as couples and never crossing any boundaries. I wouldn't even dream of doing anything to hurt R (I love him so completely and when he hurts, I hurt for him) and I know disrespecting our boundaries (which keep getting less and less as time goes on) would hurt him. He and his well being are always primary in my mind. On the other hand, R & S have broken the rules and crossed boundary lines several times. This is a side of R that I have never seen before as all of these instances have been the result of him initiating it. It is like in the heat of the moment he just forgets about me and does what he wants without any concern for my feelings. As a result, for the first time in our marriage I have some trust issues with him. But I'm working through them and I've told him that as long as he always remembers his priorities and keeps me primary, I'm okay with most anything. I'm not a jealous person and I'm secure in R's love for me so that helps. (continued...)

awakeandready 01-11-2012 09:00 PM

(Continued part 3) Over the past 7 months with T&S, I've really tried to protect myself against getting hurt. I don't know why I'm so afraid of it, but I am. And when R has had his emotional outbursts he has threatened to just suddenly end the relationship with T & S, telling me that he just can't handle it anymore (T&S don't know any of this--we've so far kept our drama to ourselves). I want to respect my husband's feelings, I really do. And when he has said this before I have tried so hard not to get angry and just accept it, but I find myself really grieving over what I am sure is going to be the end of a relationship with people that I have come to care about so much. R has let me go on like this for as much as two days before telling me that he's feeling better and sorry and he didn't mean it. But in the meantime I've gotten a taste of just how much it could really hurt.

For the past few weeks now R has been telling me that he has become completely comfortable and as long as I continue to be open and honest with him and never to hide anything, there is nothing I could do with T that would upset him--basically that his insecurities and emotional roller coaster were a thing of the past. I really believed him and started to let my guard down and really feel this friendship with them--just kind of settle in it and quit worrying. What a relief!

New Years Eve T&S came to our place and we had an awesome night as usual. R told me after that he had "performance problems" that night, but I know he "finished" with S and it looked like they were having fun, so I'm not sure what he was talking about except maybe endurance. In the morning T had to work and left early but S stayed at our house. That's when one of the big boundary violations happened. We (the 4 of us) had talked briefly about maybe seeing each other separately but had agreed not to go ahead with that until we all had a chance to talk more about it. We hadn't had that talk yet but R proceeded to have sex with S without asking me if it was ok, without asking me to join them if I wanted, and alone in one of the bedrooms. Absolutely no concern for my feelings at all. No concern that I was alone and excluded. Then a few days ago he fessed up and told me he had cum inside of her on NYE even though one of our rules was that he would pull out for that--and I know he has the control to do that because he's been pulling out with me every time for years now (even when I told him I liked it inside and wished he wouldn't). So I was very hurt and upset over both of those things, but I tried not to get angry and not to blow things out of proportion, and I was doing my best to try and understand and forgive him.

All week as I was working through this R kept up telling me how awesome things were now, and how he wasn't insecure at all anymore, and he even used the words "I'm taking your reigns off to make your own decisions with T" because he trusted us both. S also felt bad for what had happened, said she was sorry, and said that they owed T & I some alone time.

So this weekend we went and spent two nights at their house. Before anything, we had a great talk about what was going on between the 4 of us and boundaries and where they stood now, and R told both T & S what he had told me...that his boundaries for me and T had evaporated and I was free to make my own decisions and that he would be okay with them. I talked about how I was okay with doing things as separate 2-somes as long as all 4 of us were together (i.e., separate rooms) but that I wasn't okay with someone being excluded without their consent, like R & S had excluded me the weekend before.

Then we got started, all 4 of us in the same room. T & I were having a great time together, but R later told me he was having "performance problems" (I think this time he meant he wasn't staying hard) and S was really tired and had to work the next morning, so at some point she left the room and went to bed. R came over and joined T & I for a while, but then he laid back and closed his eyes, pretty much indicating that he was done for the night. But T & I were not done, so when T left the room briefly to check on S, I asked R if it would be okay if T & I had a little time alone to finish up. It wasn't necessarily that I wanted to be alone with T, but I was uncomfortable continuing with R just lying there and not participating. R looked taken aback by my question and didn't answer, but when T came back he did get up and go upstairs, leaving us alone. So we proceeded. I think we were alone for maybe 45 minutes or so, then T left to go to bed and R came down to go to bed with me. But when R came down he made some comment about having been upstairs listening to us the whole time and he was acting angry and like he didn't want to touch me.

I laid awake almost all night worrying about R, and every time I looked over R was awake too, but by morning it seemed like it had pretty much blown over except that R was still being a little distant with me. S had to work so R & I spent the day with T and we had a really fun "vanilla" day just being friends. R even told me at several points during the day how much fun he was having and how he was enjoying hanging out with T. But we were all still really tired from the night before and agreed to just hang out and have a vanilla night when S came home, since we all had to work the next day.

But as the night went on there was some cuddling and then some kissing and things started to heat up. A few times I could see R making eyes at me over S's shoulder, basically telling me that he didn't want anything to happen. So I kept expecting him to call a stop at any time, which would have been okay with me, but he didn't and things started to heat up more and before you knew it clothes were coming off, so I figured he had changed his mind and decided he was into it too. T & S went to grab a blanket and candles from the other room at that point, so I had a few minutes alone with R, and that's when I realized he had been expecting ME to figure out his signals from across the room and for ME to stop things. Worse, he was not happy with me at all since I had "let" things progress to that point.

Not knowing what else to do, at that point I stopped it since it was clear that was what R expected of me, and I told T & S I was sorry, but we really were tired and were going to go to bed after all.

When we got downstairs, I was really annoyed and probably expressed that more than I should have knowing R's anger management problems like I do. But I was upset and I wanted him to know it. Not upset that he didn't want to continue the night. But upset at his expectations of me. We started arguing (thankfully quietly, I don't think T or S overheard) and before I knew it R was at that point of no return. He acually called me a slut, physically pushed me out of the bed, and got up and started to dress and said he was going home and leaving me to "fuck" T. I was beside myself...horribly embarrassed to have this happening in someone else's home and so afraid that if T & S overheard that would be the end of our relationship. They wouldn't put up with behavior like that and I wouldn't blame them.

As soon as R blew like that my reaction was to try and calm him down and eventually I did that enough that we laid down and went to sleep. We had to get up very early and drive home (a silent ride). That was yesterday. And things have been horrible since. The roller coaster is totally back and worse than ever. He has apologized for his behavior and the name he called me, but he keeps expressing silly insecurities that aren't true ("you don't make noises like that with me" and "you kept sitting closer to him than to me" and "I could tell you wanted to be with him more than me"). He actually asked me last night if I wanted to leave him. And he has threatened a couple of times to "call T right now and end it." Some of the insecurity might have something to do with him too, not just me, because he's talked a few times about "performance problems" and he didn't want to have them again on that second night and have S think that it was her. This morning he was acting sad and remorseful but told me that he didn't think he could "go where I wanted him to go," meaning the ongoing relationship with T & S, and that if I didn't want him to come home from work tonight I should just call and tell him.

So I'm back to grieving over what again seems like it will be a sure end to a relationship with a couple that I've grown to really care for. Maybe R will get over it again, but even if he does, is this drama going to keep happening over and over again? What are we doing to our marriage? Before when R got like this I just hurt for him and tried my best to understand and help him get past it. But this time given his recent boundary violations that I've tried so hard to be understanding of and forgive, I find myself angry at him and his unpredictable mood swings that seem so irrational since I haven't even done anything wrong. If we continue are we damaging our marriage in a way that we won't be able to fix? If we don't continue how will each of us deal with the loss of our friends? R keeps "accusing" me saying that I'll be "resentful" of him if he ends it. I want to say that isn't true. I love him. Our marriage is my priority. He's my best friend and my soulmate. I know that with all my heart and I've proved it to him over and over. But this "friendship" with T&S has really snuck up on me and I really do care about them and don't want it to end. How can I help but be angry and resentful if it ends this way? Would that be wrong of me? R seems to think it would. I'm so confused right now, so hurt, so scared.

If anyone actually read through all of this and has any thoughts or advice, I'm listening. Thanks and I'm so sorry for the novel.

AnnabelMore 01-12-2012 03:32 AM

Hey there. I'm so sorry to hear about the heartache you're going through.

The absolute number one issue here, no doubt about it, is R's anger management issues. I thought that at the end of post 1, before the swinging even started, so I see this as having nothing to do with non-monogamy. Even if you closed your relationship back up tomorrow this would still be something you'd HAVE to deal with to be healthy together.

Throwing things at his partner and shoving, especially when he's (presumably) the physically stronger one, is menacing, scary behavior, and it's emotionally abusive even if he's not leaving bruises. How would you react if you saw T treating S that way?

I'm not saying he's doing it on purpose, but he's an adult and he has a responsibility to get control of himself, for your sake, for his own sake. Has he ever been to therapy? Would he consider it? I'm not a fan of ultimatums, and you clearly don't want to leave him so I'm not going to tell you to walk out the door and not look back... but you may well have to threaten to leave, and maybe even follow through for a time, in order to challenge him to wake up and get healthy.

Healthy adults don't hurt their spouses, they're not incapable of maintaining a stable opinion about something important in their life, they don't break boundaries and then turn around and belittle their partner when she hasn't done the same, they don't use other people as emotional leverage to threaten and bully their partner (which is what I see him doing by continually declaring that he might just cut things off with T&S).

This is not a healthy man. There's a reason you'd be mortified to let T&S see this side of your relationship -- because you know it's wrong wrong wrong. Victims of abuse are at great risk for ending up in abusive relationships as adults and this is an abusive relationship, despite all the times he's loving and sweet. It's up to you to decide for yourself... are you willing to fight to break the pattern? Are you willing to believe you deserve a life where you're not treated in ways that would make your friend recoil in shock and sadness?

I haven't talked about swinging/poly yet because It seems beside the point, but since advice on that is what you came here for, I feel I should at least touch on it.

There is no reason for it to be inevitable for one member of a quad to eventually end it. Why should it be, if all are happy? Great article about a live-in Utah quad: http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/artic...current_page=1

Right now I don't want to encourage you to pursue poly, because your base isn't nearly stable enough for it and you'd just end up with broken hearts all around when R exploded and couldn't handle it. :( But, for the record, it's not so uncommon for people to move from swinging to poly. It takes a lot of communication and respect and trust and patience and more communication to make it work. If you want to learn more about the fundamentals of how to have successful relationships in this sort of situation, I highly recommend the essays at www.morethantwo.com.

Please seek help, Awake. Best wishes.

BlackUnicorn 01-12-2012 03:42 AM

Hullo there and welcome to the forum!

I am sorry that you are going through some tough times. And in my opinion, you shouldn't just pull the plug with this other couple. It wouldn't be fair to you and it wouldn't be fair to them.

However, your husband is having conflicted emotions. Intellectually, when the situation is not actually on, he thinks he's okay and no boundaries are needed. Then when it happens, in front of him or close by, all of his negative emotions come over like a wave.

It's not right that he is punishing you or blackmailing you with threatening to end things. If I were in your situation, I would start with communicating to my hubs that it's okay to progress slow. No one is giving him extra brownie points for progressing fast. He also needs to start communicating more directly about his needs. It is not your responsibility to end interactions if he is the one having problems, no matter how many meaningful looks he gives you. He needs to start owning up to his emotions and behaviours, including the violent and abusive ones. Has he ever been to therapy with his anger management problems?

Like you said, you still have fun vanilla times. Maybe you could focus on that, and focus on building a stronger foundation with your hubs, with the focus on learning to communicate and manage emotions. If he is having 'performance problems' and is worried S might think it's her, then HE needs to talk about that to S. Spend some non-stressful, non-physical date time as a quad and in both individual couples. Of course it's important to gauge S and T's feelings as well. Are they interested in putting in the work to turn this from swinging into poly?

BlackUnicorn 01-12-2012 03:44 AM

Annabel beat me to it! But I agree with her whole-heartedly: this is not the time to pursue further sexual interactions with T and S.

Jade 01-12-2012 04:03 AM

I'm curious what he says when you point out his hypocrisy.

redpepper 01-12-2012 06:34 AM


Originally Posted by awakeandready (Post 119844)
one of our rules was that he would pull out for that--and I know he has the control to do that because he's been pulling out with me every time for years now (even when I told him I liked it inside and wished he wouldn't).

WHAAA?! I read to here and was like, what? unprotected sex?! Really? Sorry, not in my vocabulary and totally not the norm these days... how did this come about? Very interested to know how this is justified.

On to the concern at hand. I don't think that having further contact with them is a good idea for now. Your husband has MAJOR issues and needs help. They won't get better by dumping anyone. The foundation of your relationship is going to crumble if you don't address this and get some help. He needs help. If you stick around to walk with him in that great, but its his task.

While you're at it check into the facts about safe sex. Pulling out is not safe. Do a tag search here for "STI" "STD" "safe sex" you are in a world of denial or lack of education. I don't know which, but that is a BIG thing for both of you to work on... this couple you have been with, did you talk about testing before hand? Do you know for sure you have been the only ones? Get tested and get on the safe sex thing...

The other thing I thought I would mention is that the NRE looks to be over. Under a year usually means fun sexy times for most people to be followed by a rough patch where it becomes difficult and rather uncomfortable to adjust to a new level of relationship. It could be that the honeymoon is over and now the real life crap kicks in.

awakeandready 01-12-2012 12:59 PM

Redpepper - I need to address this first. I know I wrote a novel and you probably missed it. But please, give us a little credit. We're all educated, intelligent adults.

Prior to our quad R & I have been monogamous for 25+ years, T & S for 15+ years, plus we ALL were thoroughly tested for STIs, plus pregnancy isn't an issue for either couple although just for that off chance both women are using backup. Yes, we had the responsible discussion with them.

Of course pulling out isn't safe sex!!!! That was simply a request that I had made to him because I was uncomfortable with the idea. He pulls out with me because he LIKES to. That's the only reason. For now I had asked that he do so with S as well. That's all.

awakeandready 01-12-2012 01:09 PM


Originally Posted by Jade (Post 119907)
I'm curious what he says when you point out his hypocrisy.

Of course it depends on when you ask. There are times when he would try to defend himself and point out that he has had a lot of trouble with all of this from the very start, that he has been trying very hard to work through it, and that the hypocrisy is just a result of this roller coaster of emotions he's been on.

There's a lot of truth in that.

The majority of the time he simply acknowledges it, acknowledges that he is wrong, and tells me he feels like a shithead for what he's putting me through.

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