What if a poly goes REALLY south?
Hi everyone-- I've been lurking for a bit and a lot of the discussions about other's relationships has helped me, however I feel like my "problems" have enough drama and uniqueness that I'd love your advice.
First of all, my spouse has been rather interested in poly for awhile, but entered into a mono relationship with me about 8 years ago. The IDEA of a poly relationship is something we had discussed before. I am attracted to both men and women and he is fairly pansexual. It makes for some pretty interesting possibilities. Then, this past year, he reconnected with an old friend who he felt intense feelings for. They slept together (without my permission, which still urks me a bit), he informed me, and then suggested that she enter into our relationship. (Okay, yeah, that was probably my first mistake...)
After talking about it first together and also with her for about a month, we agreed to proceed. The "plan" was a typical, well, unicorn idea... she would be in a relationship with both of us, since she is also attracted to both men and women, and though her relationship with my spouse was more developed, she and I would date and try not to prize one relationship over another.
This went south FAST. Several things soon became clear:
- She did not want a romantic relationship with me at ALL.
- She did not want a poly relationship really. She wanted a mono relationship with my spouse and thought this was the best she could have.
- She was emotionally pretty unstable, going through extreme bouts of rage and depression
Soon, our attempt at polyamory shifted to a dysfunctional polymono. I was the mono, as I still loved and had a relationship with my spouse, but wanted nothing to do with the bag of drama that I saw his girlfriend as. And she CLEARLY wanted nothing to do with me and had very little respect for our (his and my) relationship. This was very difficult for me. I love the idea of a polyamorous relationship, but one with people who love and respect the relationship my spouse and I already had (and who are truly comfortable with the idea and not just pretending). I became very depressed and hurt myself. As her emotions became more unstable, he spent more and more time trying to be a stabilizing force for her (she mentioned being suicidal to him) and I felt myself more and more alone. Finally, after it became clear that the relationship between her and my spouse was borderline emotionally abusing and hurting him, I gave an ultimatum. I'm sorry, but this is too much-- I either need to leave this situation, or you need to end the romantic relationship with her.
He chose the latter. We celebrated the holidays as a mono relationship. I felt calmer. Great right? Well, my partner still feels very strongly that the young lady in question is still in his life. She has been a friend for awhile and he does care for her quite a lot (love even). She has no support in this city and has very few other friends and no family. He feels responsible (logically or otherwise) for her current state of emotional instability and just "wants everyone to be happy."
She now is trying to get her life in line and says she realizes the mistakes she has made and is trying to change the things in her that made the relationship so bad.
He is sympathetic to her emotional vulnerability and wants to support her life changes. I am supportive to a point... personally, I want nothing to do with her, but I try to support my spouse's desire to help/support her and spend some time around her here and there.
Now, here's the rub. She thinks the current situation is hurtful and unfair-- she can tell he still cares for her and she has "learned so much" and is "changing" so she wants there to be a new relationship between them. He just wants everyone to be happy, and right now no one is.
And I am so amazingly against it. As in, my reaction is "never in a million years am I inviting that back into my life." Lately, as she has felt more hurt by the situation, and he seems more and more not AGAINST a new relationship with her, I have become more upset, angry, possesive, and depressed. I'm having trust issues and no matter how much he says he'll defer to me on the romantic nature of the relationship, he is feeling like my "possesiveness" and anger with his "former" girlfriend's desire for a new relationship is not healthy or mature (or "advanced"... I don't know, insert your own semi-condecending adjective there).
I'm sitting down with the girlfriend tomorrow evening to try and talk about our feelings, but one thing I want to know is: from an outside perspective, how can/should things be fixed or made "better," in your opinions? Is there a best-case-senario that you see? I'm too in the thick of it, I think. ANY suggestions or ideas would be appreciated.
Thanks all, you rock.
I think you're not crazy, you're totally entitled to your feelings. I was hearing Dr. Laura in my head while reading, 'some things cannot be fixed.'
I read in here often, that (if you are in a marriage) you need your marriage on stable solid ground before seeing other people. Sounds to me like you've got a big ol' slippery mudpuddle, rather than solid ground.
I'm sure some more experienced folks will chime in. I haven't any specific advice. I just wanted to say I'm so sorry you're all hurting.
I think that's what makes this all so weird for me. I don't FEEL solid, when I "should." He's made it clear he's not going anywhere, that he loves me, that I was right to step in when I did, etc. I should have marble or granite, not a puddle of anything. But yet I'm emoting like things could fall apart at any second, especially if she sticks around. I think the chaos of the months we were all in a V just freaked me the f*** out.
I agree that somethings can't or shouldn't be fixed... but if 2 of the 3 people want it to be, what kind of wicked witch of the west does that make me, you know?
Thanks again. I appreciate it.
It really strikes me that he is still riding the fence and applying pressure to you. If he had wanted to let you walk and be with the other girl, then he should have put on his big boy pants and done it when you put your foot down. Not placate you, then placate her, then placate you... You see this is just going to keep hurting everyone. It may be time for him to come to the understanding that while he can have other partners, he can't have THAT partner and have you too. My husband and I both have a list of THOSE partners that we can't have. Usually because they are crazy-making for us to be in a relationship with. This ranges from those who actively try to get the hinge partner to themselves to those who are just too emotionally draining for us to have anything left for ourselves or others.
Anyway, I don't think it makes you wicked at all. I think it makes you smart. You know how bad it made you feel. You know how bad it was for the people involved. Sure, people CAN change, but usually takes a really long time and too often they fall into old patterns when they are put into old situations.
If she has no friends or support in this city, then he should be helping her find some instead of always stepping in when she needs something. I think that's part of the whole "if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, if you teach a man to fish you feed him for life" kind of thing. He isn't helping her in the long run at all. Maybe suggest that he help her take steps to form other connections/friendships/relationships so that he can gradually step back? Then you're not asking him to abandon her in her time of need, but you are still sticking up for your feelings too.
Maybe you are freaking the fuck out because you sense an actual threat to your marriage? From your description (which I realize is entirely from your viewpoint), she appears to be a classic cowgirl (someone who gets involved in a poly relationship for the purpose of splitting off one of the other partners into a mono relationship with said cowgirl/boy).
It seems wise to me when you put the kibosh on your husband's sexual/romantic relationship with her. Did you explicitly tell him it wasn't solely because of her instability and drama but because she wanted him for herself and was thus threatening the marriage? That she doesn't respect his marriage or his spouse? Does he understand that? It wasn't clear in your posts, at least to me. If you haven't had that explicit conversation about this with your husband - do it now.
You don't appear to be against the idea of your husband having other partners, or yourself having other partners (I've interpreted your 'polymono relationship' comment as you do not currently have another partner - not necessarily that you don't want one and are so mono - but I could have misunderstood this). You do appear to be against partners who want to at a minimum, induce drama, cause you to doubt your husband, make your husband ride to the rescue over and over, and possibly end your marriage. This seems like a very reasonable restriction. Lots of poly folk have some version of 'Don't date crazy' in their explicit or implicit guidelines.
That said, people can change. But generally not very fast. I too would be profoundly skeptical of 'I'm hurting!', 'But I've changed and everything is ok!' Usually change like that - resolving major behavioral and emotional triggers - takes a while and doesn't happen quickly while one is unstable, emotionally or otherwise. There are exceptions of course but it's been my experience that this holds true. If Ms. Cowgirl can walk the walk - maybe be friends only with your husband, show some real respect for you and your marriage, not put her needs and emotions first all the time - then maybe you can reconsider. But, if I was in your shoes, I would have to see some real concrete, long term actions on her part before I would consider any changes in my stance towards her and a sexual/romantic relationship with hubby.
Can your husband truly be only a supportive friend to her? I also would be skeptical here - mainly because he slept with her before talking to you about that possibility, even when he knew that you would likely be open to a poly relationship. He also sounds like a white knight, rescuer type of person. Which is great generally but white knights are often easily manipulated by real or imagined emotional or other vulnerability. Yes, she is in a difficult situation. Everyone would like support in such a situation - it's no fun being alone with few friends. But your husband didn't cause that situation, your and his relationship with her didn't cause her loneliness or lack of friends, and ending the relationship didn't cause her emotional instability. (Perhaps she lacks friends because she is a toxic personality? Given, this is a reach with the very limited information available but perhaps it should be considered.)
If he can be just friends with her, then perhaps cautiously support that. But if he doesn't see the cowgirl thing going on here, or sees it but discounts it, or is too into NRE/White Knight mode to care, then just friends may not be possible for him and for your marriage to survive.
Whew! Your responses have really helped me feel less crazy and like my concerns are much more reasonable. Talked with the SO a bit more about it too-- he personally says he's trying the "teach to fish" method. However, she is awfully clingy to him and he can only do so much. He also wanted me to mention something I left out of my story and that is that he has been trying, in his view, to set boundaries with her and make the nature of the new (friendship/support, not romantic) relationship clear to her and also make it clear(er) that a new romantic relationship is unlikely at best, but she doesn't want to hear it and says she needs the hope to stay stable.
I do think he's got a bit too much white knight in him and may be being manipulated, though. Consciously on her part or not.
I'm talking with her over coffee tomorrow and hopefully me laying out my view, boundaries, and the situation will help. Who freaking knows... Wish me luck and thanks all!
I would personally say if she is that bad off, he needs to remove the hope and replace it with a call to the police and or social services that she has made threats of being a danger to herself. Sadly, I am speaking from experience. He can't save her. I had to have someone do that for me actually. I was in the other girl's position and as mad as it made me for them to do it, I did finally get some real help. When I was in college, I was not being treated for my clinical depression. I was trying to use relationships as crutches. However, no one can save you, and they couldn't save me either. Finally, my lover left under no uncertain terms. I had to have them back... I just had to... And in my depressed and untreated state, I made a few threats to my health. I just knew they would come running. Well, someone did... The police showed up and I did a 72 hour hold. It got me the help I really needed though. Sometimes, even white knights have to realize that they cannot wear the armor and save a drowning maiden.... Everyone will drown.
Let her stand on her own two feet. Tough love is still love and sometimes the best love you can give someone. If she threatens to hurt herself, do not go running. Report it to the police. They can get her the help she needs. If she decides to not get help after that, at least she knows that she needs to stand on her own feet.
Wow...good luck with your meeting with her!!
Has he exhibited any of the "white night" behavior before in the 8 years you've been together? Sounds like "rescuer" behavior.
In your explantion of the situation, I can see that the most common triangle pattern is:
the reason you have to become the perpetrator is because that's how the triangle works.
Then- when you put your foot down it shifted to:
Now- with you going to talk to her, there is a possible inevitable shift of:
Anyone caught in this type of triangle might want to do some reading about it. There is a pretty good simple book called The Power of Ted and it takes a new spin on the Victim,Rescuer,Perpetrator triangle phenomenon.....transorming them into Creator,Coach,Challenger respectively.
Again- good luck!
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