Not sure I like being a secondary, is it something I can get better at?
Background: I'm a woman married to a bi guy w/2 kids and I have a boyfriend who has two other full time mates (m/f) and 2 kids. I'm also new to polyamory.
Dilemma: Struggling with feelings in the secondary relationship. Somehow, this secondary relationship has become rather serious in that we share some pretty strong feelings for each other after about a year of dating. But we don't live together, nor do I really see a way to make that happen. So, I'm not sure where we go from here...
We see each other a couple of times a week, some of it is social, with our mates and other times are more just about 'us'. B/f seems happy with the arrangement and it's okay for the most part. But deep inside, I wish we could have more together... I want to be able to talk to him whenever I feel like it, give him a hug when I get the urge, wake up together once in a while...basically just share my life with him AND my hubby...yet I know it's never going to happen. We both have families that we're committed to. Then I start to wonder: HOW on earth can this relationship sustain itself if it cannot grow? It's like we're 'stuck' at the dating stage and never moving past it.
Question: Am I unable to feel satisfied with a secondary relationship because I'm so new to poly and a mono one would follow a different pattern that's ingrained in my psyche? Or am I just bad at being a secondary?
I wouldn't even entertain the thought that you're "bad at being a secondary" if I were you, so stop that! :)
I think your situation sounds wonderful!
You are married, so you have a fulltime partner, plus a shared household and two children who also need your time. You have a boyfriend whom you see several times a week and not just for getting laid, which means it is a relationship that has some depth and quality time. Poly relationships don't have to require living together to be successful and, indeed, many do not.
Yet you say you want more, and you wonder how your relationship can grow with the limits it already has. As I see it, some of the things you mentioned you want, such as more opportunities for sharing physical affection, and having overnights, don't seem too unreasonable to me. I don't know why being committed to a family and other partners would preclude those things. They can be negotiated. Perhaps you can ask for an overnight once a month.
As for talking to him "whenever you want," that would probably be problematic. Since he has two children and two other partners beside you, there will be times he cannot talk to you, and to disrupt his time with another partner could be seen as a bit disrespectful if you were to expect that.
My question to you, however, is how much time do you have -- realistically -- for him to be more involved in your life? You didn't say how old your children are, but I would imagine that your schedule is not wide open either. How long have you been seeing the bf? If it's still new, it could be NRE euphoria that just makes you want more. But even if it's not that, it could be just that this is new territory for you and you're not used to having a serious relationship that is not completely entwined with your life. I say, be grateful for that! Maybe all you need to do is a little reframing of your perspective. Being with him can be an oasis when you need it. And you can grow in intimacy by letting down emotional boundaries (when you're ready), even if the amount of time spent together never changes. Taking risks with your heart only needs quality of time, not necessarily quantity of time.
Or maybe you think that if he is more available to you, it will mean something, like that it's a good relationship. We ascribe meaning to all sorts of things, often without realizing it. Like you said, a "pattern ingrained in your psyche." So maybe somewhere in you, you don't think a relationship is real enough or meaningful enough if you're not with him or in touch every day. You seem smart and like you have a good awareness of yourself, so take a look at your belief system regarding intimacy and relationships and see if there is something like that at play here. If this is coming from some old idea from the past about what relationships "should" be, that doesn't necessarily mean that what you want is not valid, but if you know where it's coming from then you have a choice instead of running on automatic pilot. If wanting more involvement and more time with him actually is something you want/need in the present, then you can talk to both your bf and husband about how to have it.
I think it would benefit you to look at all the good, juicy positive stuff you get from this relationship, see if the things you are pining for are really what you need to make you happy or not, and then figure out if there is a way to negotiate for them. But make sure that you're not shortchanging your husband, kids, and your own alone time, in wanting more from the bf -- and be prepared that he might not be able to accommodate your request. Like I said, I think what you have seems pretty sweet to me, but only you know if it is satisfying enough for you.
I wish I had an answer, because I'm in a similar situation! I would LOVE to live with both my husband and my partner, but I really don't see that happening anytime in the next, oh, decade (having kids is part of it for us, along with lack of space!). TGIB (my partner) and I have talked extensively about to what degree we want to entangle our lives, and while he, like me, would like more than what we're currently stuck with (LDR) he knows he needs his own space and once he’s out of his current situation does not want to live with ANYONE for a while. At some point he may end up with a roommate or living with an OSO and that will be hard. I know I'll be jealous because that person gets to be there with him every day and I don't. I’m hoping, though, that we can work out a living arrangement in the next few years where he’s in an apartment over our garage or in some sort of in-law quarters. However, that’s only a possibility because of our particular situation and set-up. I doubt it would be an option if he had other partners already.
It may be that I, too, am bad at being a secondary- when I'm close to someone I want them around! Maybe not 100% of the time but I want them around more often than not! Unlike what seems to be a lot of poly people, I don’t like alone time (I’ve never even lived alone). The things I do to recharge still involve people, just maybe different people from the ones I’m usually around. I’m not poly because I want to be independent- if anything I’m poly because I get close to people and want to make them an even bigger part of my life.
I know with kids it can be VERY difficult to do overnights but once a month sounds like a good starting place, and then gauge if more is possible/needed or if fewer are necessary from there. However, I don’t know that your relationship necessarily needs to “grow” from the point it’s at now. I guess I don’t see how sustaining a relationship necessarily requires growth. Change, yes, but that happens automatically with time, regardless of the circumstances. Adapting to the change and keeping your connection is what will sustain your relationship, as I see it, not necessarily growing beyond what it currently is.
Again, I wish I could be more helpful but you are definitely not alone in feeling the way you do!
Nycindie had a hell of a lot of great points right there. I'd also throw in a few other questions.
1. Does your husband know you'd like MORE from your other partner, and if so, how does he feel about (either this partner or some other partner in the future) co-habitating with other partners in the future?
2. Does your bf know you'd like MORE from him? Him seeming to be satisfied with what you have is different than talking about it and hearing he would/wouldn't like more. Being vulnerable and telling a partner you'd like to see more of them and having them say they are content with what is happening now can be awkward, but if you haven't asked, I think it's better than keeping things to yourself if you are feeling frustrated.
3. If your bf says he would like more frequent contact with you, is it possible that perhaps some day in the future you might move closer to each other (if not in together). Would it address any of your feelings if you could stop in for coffee because he was just a few blocks away? Is that something his other partner's would be comfortable with? etc etc.
I think if you're afraid to ask him some of the hard questions, it's less likely that your relationship would grow past the plateau you feel you are at in your head. I think if you (for ease of wording) would like this "secondary" relationship to grow into more of a "primary" one, that really requires some soul baring honesty about how you are feeling and what you would like from the relationship. Talking about it might help settle the issue either way for you, you may even hear what he has to say and find yourself more content even if nothing can change.
I also wonder about sustaining longer term non life sharing connections, I think I have assumed that they will either fade away or grow into more in time since I have no experience in maintaining them before now. It's going on a year here with my boyfriend and I wonder if I can see somebody once a week for two years? Three? It is new odd territory for me too, so although I am not in a position to want what you want from your relationship, I am very curious about what other advice and responses you get about this subject.
So much wonderful advice...
Thank-you...every reply brought up some really good points and questions. Looks like I have much thinking to do. Maybe I don't really want more from the b/f, maybe I just worry about losing what we already have.
We have no life together per se, no kids, no joint account...just moments in time. I guess I've been looking to set some kind of foundation to solidify this really great and loving relationship but can't seem to find a way, for obvious reasons.
I also wonder, as was said, how we're to go on 'dating' for 2-3 or more years. Typical mono relationships either evolve into deeper commitment or face the great 'fade out'. And I worry that once the new and shiny wears off, we'll have nothing left.
Perhaps I need to address those fears with him directly...I just hate feeling so damned insecure :(
I can't help but feel like people who need to be with their partners all the time have dependency issues.
I personally find it very draining to be involved with people who can't stand being away from me.
So it makes me think... it's not that you're bad at being a secondary, it's that you're bad at being single. It just happens that you're not single, but the symptoms look the same to me.
I think it's important for people to meet their own needs themselves. Expecting other people to meet your needs puts a heavy burden on them. It's a lot to live up to.
For those who feel the need to share every aspect of their lives with their partner, I'm curious: do you have a history of rushing into serious relationships? Does that ever leave a trail of destruction when the relationships don't work out? Or is it more that you're comparing your marriage, which you've spent years building, to a new relationship that's still growing? Perhaps all you need is to give the new relationship time to flourish.
Hmm... that is an interesting observation you make about many poly people liking their alone time. I know I certainly do. I haven't ever polled people to see how common that is. I'm currently interested in a woman who is very gregarious and hates being alone. I'm interested in hearing how it is for other poly folk.
Hi nouryia, welcome to the board.
Like NYCindie here, I think your arrangement sounds pretty wonderful, especially because your bf makes time to see you twice a week, despite 2 other live-in partners and you both having kids.
I hear you wish you could tell him things whenever you feel like it.
But that's why god gave us internet IMs and PMs and texting!
One social get together and one evening for intimacy sounds good to me... I know when my kids were younger and still living at home, this would have seemed like an unattainable luxury to me.
However, I think your main problem is your fear of fully communicating your desires for even more contact. Even if it's impossible to negotiate more time, I'd encourage you to express your longing. One thing we say in poly is it's all about full disclosure of feelings. Open and honest communication is mandatory. Don't expect people to read your mind.
Maybe you'll be able to arrange an occasional overnight and more online and text communication, maybe not. Either way, you'll probably feel better to let your bf know how you are feeling. Just use "I statements"-- "I wish," "I need," "I feel..." (envious, jealous, lonely, imbalanced, unfulfilled, or whatever it is).
And yes, I do think you're stuck in a mono mindset. Commitment in poly often does NOT lead to shared homes and finances and kids together, happily ever after with a mini van and a white picket fence. Poly brings us other good things: shared interests and activities your other partner(s) don't share with you, good talks, laughs, and lots of yummy sex. Also there is the potential for much personal growth when one gets opinions and views from more than one lover... it keeps us challenged and taking risks.
Monogamy programs us to think that the relationship should move through stages and if it gets stuck that we should end it. We start out with meeting people and dating casually, then dating seriously, then comes marriage/moving in together, and kids. The great thing about poly is realizing that you don't have to do it that way for every relationship. You also don't have to give it up if it gets "stuck". If you enjoy the relationship for what it is, relax and enjoy it. Not all relationships need to be marriage minded. That is a hard mindset to break though. It took me most of a 15 year relationship to get it right in my head that moving in and marriage is not happening, and he and I still fantasize about it together on occasion in terms of wouldn't it be great if..... Yeah it would be so great... Oh wait... No it wouldn't. For a lot of reasons.
I am involved in a quad and occasionally now we discuss the 4 of us moving in together. So never say never number one. And we are going on our 4th year as a quad.
We are all bi or pansexual too, so of course I've been imagining some kinky sex orgies as well! :p
Well, I might not be able to get that on a permanent basis, but I am sure looking forward to it once a month or so!
(edit: not the sex orgies, the other stuff lol)
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