How to Navigate This
Hi, ... so I'm new to this whole thing and I'm wondering ... here's my tale ...
I got married 10 years ago, totally buying into the cultural ideal of one spouse for life, totally committing to this in every way. Even though I always felt bound by the restriction, even though there were men in my life that I felt close to, but stopped myself from exploring relationships, even close friendships, because we're taught that married women just can't do that.
About six months ago, a friend of mine and I started becoming even closer friends. No sex, but just really close intimate talks that deepened our friendship. I decided that I was tired of putting up that wall with friends just because they're men, and let it develop. And he's a great friend, the best I've had in years. Then my husband, out of the blue, starts talking to me about swinging and trying to convince me that this was something we should try. Our marriage is good, we're sexually healthy and adventrous in our sex life, so why not? But I wasn't really comfortable with the casual sex aspect of swinging -- I wasn't good at that when I was single and dating and I'm still not (no judgment, it's just not something I can do). I start trying to wrap my mind around this and in my research I come across the terms polyamory and polyfidelity and I think, "Wow, this is exactly what I'm thinking!" I bring this to my husband, but he's not into building relationships, he just wants the sex. But to encourage me into getting into the swinging idea, he suggests that I find my own partner to enjoy in order to get used to the idea. I broached the issue with my friend, who is recently realized that he's polyamorous, and the three of us sit down, discuss the potential relationship, and my husband gives the go-ahead and it all looks good ...
... until my friend and I had our first sexual experience together. Which took awhile to happen because life kept getting in the way. My husband, in the meantime, took to swinging like it was going out of style, setting up sex dates left and right. My friend and I have had only one night together, and we're still friends and the friendship is even better, we're still close and there's no weirdness. I've actually felt pretty good about my husband's dates because it seemed like he was enjoying them and I felt a measure of freedom in our relationship that I'd been craving. I felt like our values and the reasons we were together were no longer defined by this possessive, ownership understanding of relationships, and I felt like we were on a great path.
My husband, on the other hand, seethes with jealousy any time I even mention my friend's name. Any time he knows that my friend and I are going to be sharing space -- even just lunch like we'd done for years before this -- he texts me nonstop. He demanded nitpicky details of our sexual encounter. After weeks of nearly nonstop sex dates, he quickly burned out on casual sex, decided that the whole experience just isn't for him, and is stopping. He says he's not going to ask me to stop seeing my friend, but I can tell that he wants me to. I haven't even gotten a chance to explore this as fully as I want, but I already know that this is the way I see relationships now, that I don't want to be beholden to one person forever, but to share love and intimacy in a free relationship.
I guess my question is: What do I tell him? I don't want to break up, my friend and I are not romantic, so it's not like there's any threat to my marriage. The only threat, it seems, is what I'm bringing, my understanding of relationships as open and free, and my desire to keep it that way. I realize that it's not just my relationship with my friend, but it would be my relationship with anyone. I'd do this again with another partner, in another free relationship. I feel selfish and greedy. But I also feel a pull to let this go, to maintain the peace in our marriage, even though I know it'll mean squashing a big piece of me.
I think I'm venting more than anything. Anyway, thanks for listening.
Reading your story, I get the sense that your husband is just completely wrapped up in his own emotions and isn't being very considerate of your feelings. He wanted to be able to bang a whole bunch of other random women, and was okay with you taking your friendship to another level while he was busy getting laid. But now that he's getting bored of meaningless sex, now his jealousy is coming to the surface.
Some people get way more jealous about emotions than sex or vice-versa, and try to make all kinds of rules and restrictions accordingly, as if feelings are so easy to control.
Marriage is supposed to be about compromise. If I were in your shoes, I'd be willing to give him some time to get a grip on his jealousy, give him links to articles to read, be willing to talk about whatever his insecurities are, but would not be willing to return to monogamy permanently because of his feelings. He's only one person, there's no reason that his feelings are more important than your feelings or your friend's feelings.
Also, you mentioned that it's not romantic...Too often, people think intimate=romantic=deep=meaningful, like it's got to be all of those things or none of them. An intimate/deep/meaningful relationship can feel threatening even though it's not sexual or romantic, and all of that should be discussed- possibly with all 3 people in the discussion.
If you try to understand why your husband feels this way, that will deepen your relationship. If you let him restrict your freedom without understanding why, that will lead to resentment, and create a gap between you.
Thanks for the perspective, I appreciate that. Yes, it really didn't begin as well as I had hoped, and he does react more jealously to the connection my friend and I have than to the sex, but it's all tied together now. All three of us talking together would be a good idea. I'm nearly afraid to bring up the idea, he's so touchy about it all. But that's probably best, thanks.
You may want to see if he can identify why he is feeling jealous. It could be envy. Maybe he wants a relationship like you have. Or maybe it is insecurity where he is afraid you may leave him. (If this is the case, you can try to reassure him that there is no pressure for you to leave him since polyamory helps remove the idea that a relationship is possession of another.)
Polyamory works based on communication. So if you can get him talking about what he is feeling, you will have a chance to work through it. Just verbalizing it may help him process how he feels as well. He may see that is he applying a double standard to you or he may see the picture better.
I have to agree with Quath. His comments are a lot wiser than the hot headed response I was tempted to write. A number of people on this forum have pointed out that working on polyamory relationships tends to magnify and intensify the problems and pleasures in existing relationships. If you and your husband get into the habit of communicating very honestly and effectively to deal with your new relationship, it may well deepen and help your existing marriage.
I wish you the best! Warm regards, Rick.
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