Puzzling new developments
How do I start? My husband had an affair, and in the aftermath, asked me to consider polyamory. I agreed to open our relationship up to the possibility of polyfidelity. We tried for a bit to make it work (it was complicated!!) with his GF, but there was too much hurt there and none of us had any experience with polyamory. She decided to walk away, and even though there was so much hurt, I grieved to see her go, because I came to love her too.
It came as a complete surprise to me to find a second relationship before my HB did. I think I am still shocked. I wanted to be open to my HB having addional relationships, but I never suspected I would have one! I have been seeing my BF for nearly 3 months now, and my HB has been supportive of the relationship the whole time. He has recently developed a relationship with a woman that I think is lovely, and I want to be supportive of him seeing her too.
I really don't like the change process. I feel very vulnerable not knowing how much she will become a part of our lives. I am afraid of reacting poorly should I see them being very intimate, because I am afraid of being rejected by her. Rationally, I know my HB would not continue to see someone who wouldn't love me, but my emotions keep rising. I decided to reach out to her to help combat my fears, but it is difficult because she lives in another city.
HB and I had a long talk today. I asked him a lot of questions, trying to understand where he is coming from and what he wants both in the long and short term. I am still not sure I understand his needs at all, and I wonder if he understands mine.
I am an introvert, and I have been completely monoamory-oriented until this time last year. At first the very idea of polyamory was threatening, but I challenged my assumptions because it seemed so important to my HB that I understand him. I love him, and I want him to be happy, and I think that denying him lovers other than myself will eventually make him unhappy. And I have discovered that it's easy to love two people at the same time, and that I like a close bond between metamours. I like the casual way my BF can sit between us and give us each a hand to hold, and I like co-supporting him when he's had a rough day. It's also one of the things I missed most when my HB's first GF decided not to stay.
One of the things my HB and I touched on today was (going back to the topic of introversion!) how his relationships with others affect me. I tend to like to keep myself private. I am very choosy about who I will be intimate with. I want to have a deep sense of trust with anyone I am intimate with, be they friend, family, or lover. I want anyone who is my HB's family to be my family.
HB on the other hand is an extrovert, and will tell anyone pretty much anything they ask. He would also like to have casual relationships. This is a sticky point for me, and I'm still puzzling out why. It doesn't feel safe to me on an emotional level. Am I afraid that I will bond deeply with the metamour, only to be hurt when it doesn't turn out to be a long-term thing? Is it that I am afraid he will share intimate things about me with her, and that I will feel my privacy has been violated? Am I afraid just because it is new? Maybe I am remembering the pain of his affair, and putting it onto this new situation?
I want to get beyond these fears and insecurities. HB and I brainstormed today, things I could do when I am afraid & need some reassurance. I notice that my HB and my metamour both have this way of checking in every once in a while. Because I'm an introvert, I find it very challenging to go somewhere without being invited, even if "somewhere" is my husband's lap - I don't want to invade his privacy. He came up with the idea for the code phrase "Hey, I've been looking for you, we're supposed to go get hot chocolate." The idea is that if he's with his GF, then that gives him an opportunity to invite me to spend time with both of them together and develop our team/family relationship. While if he's with someone new, he thought it would be a good way for me to tell him I needed to check in with him for reassurance. He said he could excuse himself for a moment to go with me to get hot chocolate, and if I don't need privacy, I could invite the new woman to come with us.
In summation, I have a lot of puzzling to do, and I feel a bit confused, as I work through old values and reactions and experience new ones. I'd sure like any support you can offer.
Boy I wish I had answers for you. I'm actually just offering support. I also am an extreme introvert, and the inability to go somewhere that I don't feel wanted is causing a lot of problems for me, too. I'm currently working on my own solution and not feeling too hopeful.
I think it's great that you're allowing yourself to seek reassurance. It seems to me that polyfolk have a tendency to think that they shouldn't ever feel that way. You should also allow for the fact that, no matter how much you think ahead and analyze yourself, sometimes you just won't know how you feel until you are in the situation.
I don't know if it will help you, but I handle uncertainty by asking for rules. This drives some people crazy, but so far my loves have been very tolerant and it's reassuring to me because then I know that something won't change until they've talked to me about it. It's important that you make sure everyone knows the rules can be renegotiated if you go this route, and if you need them to be set for a certain amount of time, it's important that everyone know that too.
Hi Seasnail, everyone.
My wife and I are new to polyamoury, but we are thinking of connecting with a very nice couple. I have an active imagination and have been picturing everything that can go wrong, (and everything that can go right too). I've been looking over posts on this site to give me a bit of preparation.
What I am saying is don't trust what I say as vast wisdom. I know less of this than you! ;) However, I am pretty good at nurturing and taking care of relationships.
It sounds to me that you are petty level headed. I'm not so sure about your husband (because of the affair) but apart from that he seems to be working at these things as well.
I was a very shy person for many years, and I decided I had to force myself to be more outgoing. Nowadays, I am pretty good at being friendly with people. But it is very, very hard to change habits of many years and it does not happen by accident. I think that you will have to work hard at that. The upside is that it is very rewarding to be able to connect more easily to people. (And even small improvements give meaningful emotional rewards.)
The code phrase idea is a clever one. You might also work on some non-verbal signals for when you would like to cuddle up as these would likely be less obtrusive.
I do think that you may wish to ask you husband not to add anything more to the mix until everyone settles into the current relationships a bit more.
You might wish to describe more about your relationship with your husband's girl friend. You've said she is in another city. Have your meetings with her so far been cool but correct, being friendly but awkward or what? I would say it is not needed for you to be best buddies with her, but it will be very awkward and difficult if the two of you can't maintain courtesy and respect. (Courtesy you can do if you try. Respect depends a lot on if they are worthy of respect of course.)
(By the way, if more experienced people think I'm out to lunch on any of this, please don't be afraid to jump in. I've got a thick skin.)
So my advice is:
-- work on your shyness. This will help you in countless ways in your life and will give you more confidence (likely) in this new world of relationships. However, it won't be quick and easy so it will be your long term plan.
-- you likely will need a lot of emotional support from your husband. Let him know this and be clear you will need lots of cuddling. Signals to allow you to tell him you need some 'tender loving care' subtly are good.
-- even so, you are likely going to be on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for a while. It is not the end of the world if you feel terrible some times. Pamper yourself a bit and let it pass.
-- You might want to read the book "The Ethical Slut". It gives some good advice about relationships and the emotions of people new to polyamoury. Very level headed advice I thought. You must take responsibility to make your needs known. And when you set limits - and you find they are not working - it is OK to say "let's renegotiate something that works better".
Lemondrop, thanks so much for the encouragement. It's good to hear that I don't have to be *there* right away with the emotional issues!
Rick, thanks for the practical advice - we may work on some sign language! Its funny that you mention not adding anything new into the mix until things settle down... since I posted last, I did some exercises to help puzzle things through, and I came to the conclusion that I need a lot of stability, and that maybe I couldn't handle any more changes than the ones we have undertaken at the moment, and HB pausing his searching might have a lot of benefits for me.
The new GF is someone I know through friends and have met at social functions. I like her, and think she's both respectable and kind, I just don't know her very well, and it's a bit different to think of someone as an aquaintace or a metamour. We've been back and forth with preliminary emails about a visit, and that has helped a lot already.
I have read the Ethical Slut, and it's not my favorite... but I have found similar books with a different tone to the writing.:D
Hey - sounds like you are approaching this in a thoughtful & balanced way.
Good start :)
It's unfortunate that your first steps got off to a rough start but be advised that's maybe the rule rather than the exception :) As you said, the fact that even the concept was very new to everyone adds to the chances for stumbles. But think about it - is it any different with anything new we tackle in life ? We get skinned knees, we heal and get better. :)
Humans don't like change. Always a little scary.
Until we 'get' there. Then (hopefully) it's all worth it.
Yea - the 'affair' situation always leaves a hook of uncertainty (for awhile) but like I mentioned earlier - it's not an uncommon way right now that people get launched into this lovestyle. It's just because of lack of awareness in society and as unacceptable as it may be - it's where we are for the most part as a culture. Give it it's little place, but don't put more emphasis on it than you would any other learning curve. The uncertainty it adds to moving down this path will go away as you learn & practice more.
You seem like you have a good start, developed some tools to help (the signals etc) and are talking as you go. Keep that up and I bet you'll be just fine.
Good luck !
Hi Seasnail, everyone.
After my first post, I found I had a lot more to say on how I overcame being an introvert. When I was in high school I was at the bottom of the school's pecking order. People bullied me; I was shy and miserable. I realized that I was acting like a victim and so people victimized me. I decided to change my personality.
It was the hardest thing I ever did.
To become more outgoing and or change your personality what might help is:
-- Go to some classes on how to communicate more effectively. A lot of things are easier if you can communicate well.
-- When you do something that does not work, think about how to do better and force yourself to do things differently next time. When trying to change your personality, habits are your enemy.
-- Try to find just one or two people who you like and are willing to help you. If you get some kind people to reinforce your successful behavior and give some kind advice when you mess up it is a big help. In an area where there are so many hang-ups& judgmental people, it is harder to get in person support so you may be stuck with friends on forums. However, a sympathetic friend in person is great if you can manage it.
-- Are their people in your life that reinforce your unsuccessful behaviour? If you identify people who are holding you back AVOID THEM!!! This is very important. A lot of your behaviour is triggered by the behavior of others, if some idiot is making it hard for you to change, DO NOT spend time with them!!! (This was key for me, but after I wrote this, it occurred to me that the person I'm advising you to avoid might be your husband. Er, maybe not such good advice...)
-- If the person that is reinforcing your behavior you do not like is a significant other, then talk to them and get them aboard and helping the change. Say, "I am trying to change these habits, and when you do THIS and THAT it makes it hard for me to change. Could you do THIS OTHER THING instead, to help me grow."
-- Spend time in different places. Do different things. This forces you out of old habits which is important when you are trying to change yourself.
-- Is there a part of your life where you are less shy or successful with socializing? Spend more time socializing where you are successful. With me, I was good with games. (Try www.boardgamegeek.com for lots of really great games like "Settlers of Catan", "Ticket to Ride" and the like.)
-- For example, let us say that there is your Significant Other (SO) and the Other Significant Other (OSO) and you are having a hard time with the dynamic. One way to break an uneasy dynamic is to do different things with them. Try going to a planetarium show or something very different from the things that have you in a rut. If you are doing something that is different for all of you, you almost can't help developing new behaviors. (The problem with this bit of advice is that the SO and or the OSO may not WANT to change. Still if you are doing new things and increasing your repetiuor of behaviors that may be enough to help your group break out of a rut.)
-- Accomplish things! My biggest problem was low self esteem. Maybe put the emphasis on the social life on hold for a bit and do something significant. The best way to improve your self esteem is to accomplish something important and difficult. Doing so will likely give you interesting experiences and help your self confidence.
-- Volunteer to help people. Could you be a Big Sister to a little girl without a mom? Knowing you are doing something important for someone else is a big reality check if you are questioning 'do you deserve this', 'are you worthy' type feelings. When you are confident of your worth it is easier to say, 'this is what I need' and feel like what you are asking for is not simple selfishness.
-- Exercise is good for fighting depression. When I have the blues, the first thing I always try to break out of it, is to get out and move about.
After I wrote all this, it occurs to me most of it may not be much help to you Seasnail. If not, look at is as a living example that someone was able to become a more outgoing personality. In any case, I have a heart felt hope that things go well for you. Wish I could help more.
I think we might be working on different definitions of "introvert"!:p
I use introvert/extrovert as a description of where one draws energy from and what kinds of social activities/settings one finds fulfillment from. So, as an introvert, I draw energy from time alone or in one-on-one interaction, and I prefer to relate to others in small groups or intimate settings. As an extrovert, my HB draws energy from people... and he prefers to flit from one group to the next, and meet people in dynamic settings. Sometimes this causes misunderstandings between us when we forget how the other is oriented, and sometimes it makes it difficult for us both to get our needs met in the same setting. But it's not something about ourselves we want to change.
I get the feeling that you are talking about shyness, which is also something I have overcome to some degree. Yup, I put myself out there, I volunteer to help behind the scenes, I glue myself to someone familiar, and I people watch from the corner, but I still find it exhausting, particularly if I don't get quiet time on a regular basis.
I originally posted about our introversion/extroversion dynamic because I was wondering what it is about HB meeting & possibly getting casually intimate with someone that I find threatening at the moment... could it have to do with my sense of privacy? We're not "out" among most of our friends, so that is part of the equation too. I feel that it's my business, not theirs in the case of friends that aren't very close, and I'm not terribly into answering a lot of questions either. Realistically, if he sleeps with one of our friends, they then know more about me than I might have been willing to share. This is part of what I don't think HB understands as one of my needs. Not unlike how I don't understand why he would want casual sex.
I have decided that one of my bottom line needs is stability, and I know that if he is seeing someone, I will get attached to her. Some families seem to have rules about the turnover of lovers to protect the kids from becoming attached to a string of adults (many parents do this regardless of poly, actually) only to have them move on, and I kind of think of it the same way for me.
I think you hit on the key - and one that unfortunately too many others in your situation don't because they let things explode before they have the chance.
As has been noted many times by others (even on this forum) the base issue really comes down to 'trust' - and that feeling as you mention it of being 'left out'. It doesn't do anything to strengthen a bond if anyone feels there's such a gap - that you can't talk openly & honestly about what's happening in your life (and head).
And therein lies the tremendous gains that CAN be made from affairs, indiscretions, anything hidden. It's a coming together - an open acknowledgment - that everyone really understands WHY it happened and (hopefully) that there was no reason - or is none going forward - for it to BE hidden. No reason not to talk about it and work together to find the best solution. As you practice this more on a day-to-day basis, trust builds. And this trust that you build has a feeling of being much more real & solid. Not so much built on 'assumptions'- untested. Real bonds - tested in the fire. Good stuff.
On the other hand, good stuff is that I've arranged a surprise visit with his GF for this weekend for his birthday, and I'm truly excited for him!
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