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-   -   Not a competition, still feels like losing (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=22443)

sinew 03-20-2012 08:54 PM

Not a competition, still feels like losing
It's been a while since I wrote. I discovered my husband Charlie's year-long affair with our closest friend, Juliet in January of last year. Charlie, Juliet, and Juliet's husband, Kilo all regretted hiding the affair from me, but insisted that a life in love and joy together was possible with poly. I'm mono, Charlie and Juliet are committed both to their spouses and each other as "also-spouses", and Kilo sees another woman the rest of us have never met.

That's the landscape. It hasn't worked that well. When I think of the past, the knowledge of everything they did behind my back makes me feel like dirt. When I look ahead, the fear of being cut out again is overwhelming. In the present, things are good... for me. Charlie hardly sees Juliet at all because of the stress it causes me. He tries to make me feel loved and secure. It feels good, and it's not hard to believe that I can trust him again, in the moments of togetherness. But he and Juliet aren't happy with such limited interactions as they have.

And then, the moment he steps out the door to see her, the moment I see him writing to her, I start spiraling down. He probably has more fun with her. She's much sexier than I am. They share more exciting activities. Being with her is more rewarding. As soon as he turns away from me, all the reasons he chose her over me in the affair fill my head.

Charlie and Juliet are working to restore their relationship in the wake of my struggle with depression over the last year. I know I'm supposed to be happy for the joy they give each other, but I find I'm sad for myself more than anything else. He scarcely has any free time as it is, and he's told me he wants to spent a full day every week with her. I tell him how lonely this makes me feel, and he says I'm disappointing him. After all he's done to try to prove himself to me over the last year, all he's sacrificed, I know it frustrates him that I still don't experience compersion.

The importance of being with her for him is seems so enormous that I feel insignificant. I fear that when I need him or want to share with him, he won't be there. When things are tough, he'll go to her, where it's easier. I've heard and read so many times that poly isn't a competition, but I can't shake the feeling of loss. I need to let go of some of my treasured time and closeness with Charlie in order to give him greater happiness. What will the result be? Will we drift apart as we did in the affair? Will I be relegated to the roles I'm good at - intellectual, organizer, familiar friend - while she takes over the things I long to be valued as - lover, spiritualist, adventurer?

"What will be, will be," I try to teach myself. I can't protect against the possibility that every one of my fears will come true. I have to acknowledge that back before all of this, when I had no doubts at all about my husband's love and my roles in his life, I was really no safer than I am now. I try to be brave, accept my losses with grace, accept the groundlessness and impermanence of being in this relationship. If he is truly happy with me, he will try to be there with me, even for the hard parts. And if he's not, he won't, and I may as well let it go.

SoCalDoc 03-20-2012 10:54 PM

I feel sad for you. First of all, discovering a year-long affair w closest "friend" is devastating. For me (and I'm guessing many others) the marriage would be over right there. How can a person repair and rebuild trust, especially in a situation where the unfaithful spouse insists on continuing the relationship? Wow. You have given your consent to this poly relationship but clearly you are not enjoying it, in fact you sound miserable. This is the part of polyamory that really bothers me--when a person is somehow "coerced" to go along w partner's poly adventures, and the partner goes ahead without much regard for the pain and suffering of their primary partner, in this case the woman he promised to love and protect--it just seems rotten.

redpepper 03-22-2012 06:30 AM

I'm sorry this is happening to you. He must of been on and all time low to admit that he is disappointed with you that you haven't adjusted yet and feel compersion. That was really nasty and hurtful. He started this with hurting you and so it continues.

Is this guy worth it. He is expecting miracles if you ask me. Read some of the posts here on "cheating." Its a tag here in the search engine in the tool bar. There has been many people come through here with similar stories of partners rushing them through the grief they feel of having been deceived. Most have not consented to their partner seeing the other person. He should be thanking his lucky stars that you are willing to swallow that to the detriment of your own mental health. Why does he think you take antidepressants?

Poly is about consent as much as it is about consideration for all involved, open and honest communication, and integrity (another tag search on "foundations"). He has a lot of work to do to get to a point where he has EARNED your trust. It takes long than a year. For some it never happens.

I hope you are taking care of you in all this. If I were in your position I would be walking away. I just simply don't think anyone is worth sacrifice my mental health and the short life I have to live. I wouldn't be letting this situation damage me more and would use the last bit of energy I have to change my life.

OkNewbs 03-22-2012 02:53 PM


All I see on his part is selfishness & manipulation. Granted, all I have to go on is what you say which is, so very understandably, colored by your emotion.

He is determined to have his cake & eat it too, regardless of your feelings. I'm angry for you. Not AT you, as he has chosen, but for you; that you are being apparently selfless for this man who shows none of that consideration for you. I could not do what you are doing. I could not forgive the lack of remorse from him & her. Yes, I believe poly can work FOR SOME, *if* - and I feel this is crucial - the playing field is level & all are in agreement. I would flip every time he left to see or spoke to this woman.

I am absolutely dumbfounded by the situation & I am so sorry for you. This is not something you should be feeling, if it's the right thing for you. Obviously there will be tough times no matter what life path you choose, but overall? Yeah, this ain't right.

** ETA: I would (probably) ask permission for the same freedom. How would he really feel if you were seeing another man/men??

sinew 03-23-2012 02:49 AM

Thank you all for the kindness. It's strange sometimes to be reminded that people see it this way. I'm wrapped up in the struggle, and the few friends I have that know what is going/went on are mostly also Juliet's friends, and so they take a middle ground. Therapy is like that, too. Very neutral.

I'm pretty much terrible at advocating for myself. Charlie and Juliet have been better about it in recent months. Most of last year I felt buried under their desires, but I do feel like they try to give me consideration in what they do more now. I don't feel as pressured as I once did. There is some improvement. But I'm still very aware that they are waiting on me, and that when I get sad or panicky it frustrates them. Charlie says this feels like a rejection of his core nature, which he believes very deeply to be poly-centric since the affair. He makes more conscious effort now to listen and support when I'm hurting, but he can only give so much before he begins to feel defensive about his right to be true to his nature.

And I do understand - everyone has a right to be true to their nature, and poly is his, mono is mine. There are a lot of common assumptions to being mono (like exclusivity or reciprocation) that I've had to work on letting go, and not under the ideal circumstances. I do try to respect his right to be poly, but the fact is it causes me pain largely because of how I was catapulted into it. He feels I hold on to what happened like scratching at a sore. Once he said it was like we were ballet partners, and months ago he dropped and injured me badly, but now we're trying to dance again and every time he does the slightest thing wrong I snap at him about how my injury hurts.

The fact is, I think I could be okay with a poly arrangement in time. There are still a lot of really horrible psychological triggers that make it hard for me to deal with Charlie and Juliet specifically, but these are fading, albeit slowly. What really sets me back time and again is that I still want to be primary, feel like a primary, feel like his wife. I'm not even sure how this would look in a situation like ours. Juliet is deeply important to him. While I was at work during the days of the affair, he became accustomed to spending entire days each week with her, going on trips often, venting to her about me, being her primary support much of the time. I have no chance of feeling that close to him myself, it seems. And now that he works again, his desire to have plenty of time to connect with Juliet leaves me with little idea of how I even fit into his schedule.

He says he wants a home, pets, someday kids with me. But he has all those things already with Juliet as well. I don't want to end up feeling responsible for our version of these things by myself most of the time. I guess this is one of those mono assumptions - that my partner will not be dividing his resources between our life and another wife, another home, another pet, another kid. Not long ago, Charlie proposed that we start a fund for Juliet's daughter so that we could help pay for her upcoming surgeries, and Juliet and Kilo have made Charlie (but not me) their daughter's legal guardian in their will. Kilo is keen to have Charlie in Juliet's life in a big way again, as it would ease the pressure of being man-of-the-house on him, and Juliet is understandably keen to have the full support and affection of two men in her life again. On the other hand, I find it very hard to believe Charlie will be able to meet my needs and hers both. Frankly, Juliet and I both have high demands for companionship and support. And falling back to the old anxiety, I can almost guarantee she makes it more fun for him.

So if I wanted to live poly for his sake, but be a primary for my sake, I have to ask - what do healthy primary relationships look like for others? I've read a fair bit here, and still feel unsure. A lot of you just plain sound much more independent than I am. Am I just being selfish to say I want most of his free time, not the least of it? Is it common to feel uncomfortable with the level of investment one's poly partner is making in your metamour? How do we negotiate between asking one to meet the other's needs and avoiding denying one's own?

nycindie 03-23-2012 03:41 AM

Hi Sinew,
I remember your story from last year and just went back to read your old thread. In that one you said you were trying to be okay with poly, but that it made your "heart ache in ways I've never felt before." And here you are still in deep pain over a year later. I feel for you. The betrayal cut you to the core. This has been devastating and tortuous for you, for a very long time. You don't have kids, right? Then, I gotta ask, I'm sorry - have you considered that maybe it's over? What keeps you still married and trying to make it work, when you aren't really getting what you need or any sense of satisfaction? It still seems like your needs are being dismissed by Charlie in such BIG ways. And sometimes leaving is the healthiest choice. You could have a new beginning where life is full of light and joy instead of the dark misery you're in. I'm not suggesting this lightly - being separated and facing divorce was one of the most painful things I've had to do, but I know that it was necessary. I know you still love him (you must!), but I have been realizing lately that, simply, love is just not enough to make a relationship work and be satisfying. So, what would be the tipping point for you, where you might start looking at divorce as a possibility?

SoCalDoc 03-23-2012 03:52 AM

Your husband's ballet analogy is badly flawed--I suppose one could accidentally drop a dance partner, but cheating and lying to one's spouse over the course of a year is hardly an "oops". It's hard to go along w your decision to remain in what appears to be a horribly pathologic relationship, but for the sake of discussion, I see only one potential way this could work. You would need to somehow shift the balance of power, to give yourself more and your husband much less. If you want your husband to desire you more, make yourself more desirable. This might include physical things, like getting in shape (if you aren't already), and also psychological and spiritual things. If you are able to shift your focus from him to yourself, he will likely notice and find you more attractive. Not to get too personal, but you can try expanding your sex life--engage his fantasies and share your own. You mentioned that you're not poly, but dang, if you could allow yourself to at least fantasize about sex with another man (or woman) and share such fantasies w your husband it might be exciting and maybe even healing in some way. I'm sorry to ramble, I can't resist trying to repair things. Good luck.

SNeacail 03-23-2012 04:08 PM


Originally Posted by sinew (Post 130025)
It's strange sometimes to be reminded that people see it this way. I'm wrapped up in the struggle, and the few friends I have that know what is going/went on are mostly also Juliet's friends, and so they take a middle ground.

Make finding some friends of your own a HUGE priority. For a long time, all my friends were connected to my husband in some way. When our marriage started to really take a dive, I had no one I trusted enough to even just talk to. Later I realized that this lack of self was one of the contributing factors to the break down of my marriage. It took me almost 2 years to finally find some people I really connected with and I had to go outside my normal circle of activities. I spent so many years trying to force myself to think of certain people as "friends" when they never really felt more than acquaintances. The difference was amazing.


He feels I hold on to what happened like scratching at a sore. Once he said it was like we were ballet partners, and months ago he dropped and injured me badly, but now we're trying to dance again and every time he does the slightest thing wrong I snap at him about how my injury hurts.
A friend of mine was physically attacked by someone she trusted. For years she couldn't sit with her back to a door and she would flinch when a man would so much as walk toward her. Her conscious mind knew that she wasn't in any danger, but the automatic self defense reaction was still there. A breech of trust can take years to get over and that's when both parties are actively working their asses off to make things better. It's a long slow process.

Katrpillar 03-23-2012 08:18 PM

It shouldn't feel like losing. (1 of 2)
Hi Sinew,

You are a very brave woman!!!

Your message compelled me to come out of lurkdom to share my experience with healing deeply broken trust with my DH. I am pretty verbose so this will be two messages. I hope it is helpful to you. I read up on some of your earlier threads from last year and you are doing the best you can with what you have been given. In fact you have done more than what many women would do. Myself included. I am not in the same situation as you but there are some similarities. My DH had a 1.5-2 year affair with a woman. I had known her but not super well. I knew my DH was good friends with her so I went out of my way to let them socialize, etc... During this time our relationship deteriorated and my DH seemed to grow very bitter and cold towards me. I didnít put two and two together. There was so much other stress in our lives I figured it was that and I hoped it would pass as the stress lifted. I knew this new version of him- of us was all wrong!

I was gutted when he finally opened up to me. He was spiraling into a bad mental place and it finally burst open. Then came all the details and disclosures of the past years. I was so completely destroyed emotionally. The lies, the deceit, the meanness in how he treated me, things he had saidÖ Iím still working through some of the insecurities I developed. The power imbalance!!! Anyhow... that was years ago. That is part of our past. He brought up polyamory and initially wanted to try to salvage his affair relationship. This wasn't going to work for me. Hell, I didn't know if poly was going to work but I damn well knew it wasn't going to work with her. There was too much disrespect! Ongoing disrespect and willingness to be deceptive even after all was spilled. No apology. No remorse. The survival of our marriage/family was not her issue or concern and that was all too clear to me. I had well over a decade of rich loving history with my DH and wonderful young children. These are the reasons I was able to give him the benefit of the doubt about his ability to change- to return to treating me with love and respect. He was lost. I think we can all get lost sometimes.

Now we are VERY happy and loving!!! Our relationship has blossomed and has overcome many difficult times and emotions. We've seen each other at our worst and we are still here showing up each day. Making room when the other needs it. Both of us are open enough to look inside ourselves to see what negative things we bring to the table and we support each other as we grow into better versions of ourselves. We are always adjusting and getting real about our expectations, wants and needs. We are very respectful to each other and work on owning our own feelings. We have an open relationship. Monogamy does not define our strong commitment to each other. We can each pursue outside relationships if we'd like and they can be poly relationships or not. Neither of us have ongoing romances now (besides our own) but it is a reality that I am aware of daily. I've done my own research and continue to do so. I have been reading BB boards for years. And I've made peace so far with altering the model of our relationship. Though the proof will be in the pudding.

So how did we get to this place of peace and renewed and (dare I say) stronger trust and love? Firstly, he did break off contact with his lover. This was necessary for us. Perhaps it's not for you in your situation. I can see how it might be possible if trust is repairable with the 3rd person. But w/o trust I really don't think it can work- at least not well or happily. There will always be those thoughts in the back of your head. When there is long term deceit as a foundation of an outside relationship it is HARD not to view it as your partner intentionally choosing someone else as more important than you due to the lack of respect and consideration. It takes a lot of work and effort to re-level the playing field. Is your DH up for it? Itís not worth it to me (and my wellbeing) to be continuously subjected to people I donít trust in my most private and intimate sphere.

In the aftermath we broke it all down. We dissected everything. We shared all of our feelings and emotions- especially if we didn't want to or were scared to. We had so many convos - and I knew that they might make me sound needy or unattractive or way emotional or overly sensitive. You name it I felt it (a lot)! Triggers were all over the place! I really needed these talks. To have him be compassionate and loving towards me even in my darkest, most insecure moments. If he couldnít do that how could we build a strong foundation? In the first few months I really needed for him to be accountable to me ALL the time. I would panic if he was out of touch. I was constantly looking for signs of lies. It was really hard for him but he kept with me. As he kept with me I loosened up. When I was triggered I would tell him ASAP. We had conversations over and over again. Even months later I needed him to walk through different timelines or re-address past lies. Or tell me positive stories about us during the cheating era. I needed to rebuild what my reality was from the sham it had been. For the present and future- I needed to have things be EXACTLY how he said it would be. He also asked for things he really needed and with time and some new positive history to work with as a foundation I kept loosening my need of him. Testing myself here and there. Letting him make his own choices to do well by me rather than me dictating what that meant. Who wants a coerced love? Do you? Of course we did take it in bite size pieces so I wasnít a wreck. This wasnít about me being controlling I donít think. This was about me taking care of my wellbeing. Making sure I was well enough to actively participate in life in a positive way. Nowadays he can go out for lunch dates or meet people I donít know and my heart feels secure and happy. Now I ask about his day from a place of genuine curiosity but no anxiety.

(see next post)


Katrpillar 03-23-2012 08:20 PM

It shouldn't feel like losing. (2 of 2)
Dear Sinew,


Iíve done A LOT of work on myself- reading, writing, really thinking about my needs. If DH wasnít in my life what would I be doing? What would I want my life to look like in his permanent absence if that came to be? What I realized was these were my independent goals that I had stopped thinking about in my married/motherhood state. More than just passing the time while he is out these were things that I wanted to be the fabric of MY life. Not his or ours. Just mine. I needed to do them with or without him. I had unwittingly stopped prioritizing my goals for the goals of others. So Iíve set out now to build the life I want. The time I have alone is the time that I propel my own dreams. The real lesson from the cheating to me was not to make ALL of my dreams dependent on one person. I had emotionally merged our identities and shifted my priorities to his goals because they made money and supported our family. What would happen to me if DH (who I have absolutely NO control of) was gone? By choice or not.

I am strong and I would move on and be the mother, lover, creator, daughter, sister, friend and healer that I am with joy and happiness in my life. It might take a while but it will be if I am free to make my own choices. I will intentionally make choices (even if they are hard work) that lead me in the direction of my personal goals as best I can with what I am given.

When we started exploring open relationships I needed to establish for myself what I want and need from a spousal relationship. On my own I gave it a lot of thought. What does it mean to be married while open? What are commitments when there are more than one? To stay emotionally connected- how much time do I need with DH? Want with DH? What is quality time for me? How much do I need? How often do I need to sleep with DH during the week? Are there exceptions to this? What about sex? What kinds of sex do I need (and how often) to be happy in this relationship? Does this relationship NEED sex? What if there were health issues? What if his sex life was predominantly with someone else? What if his partner selection made me feel unsafe emotionally or sexually? Am I ok initiating safe sex in our relationship? Would this damage our intimacy? What happens when we are having a difficult time in our relationship? What if I donít like his partner? Would that at all influence his outside relationships? How? What about our home? How do we handle socializing and general down time together? How often can someone outside our relationship be in our house? Could I live with another adult? What are my boundaries around that? Is there any possible scenario or fantasy where I can see it happening? Could I split time? Houses? Kids? Could he father anotherís children? EtcÖ

As I collected my thoughts I would ask DH what his current feelings were on most of these topics? I imagine it may be hard for you to go through these ďgeneralĒ questions because you are currently in a specific situation and it is HARD to isolate your relationship from his relationship with his GF around but I think they are important to address regardless. It is critical to focus on the definition of what YOUR relationship is and for BOTH of you to be happy and fulfilled by what you decide. Not just ďI love you and always want to be with you.Ē What does that even mean really? It seems you donít know for your marriage. Try not to worry too much about what his GF wants from your DH. If her wants/needs contradict what your DH has agreed and stated he needs from your relationship ask him how he plans to address the mismatch?

After going through all of these questions, and getting us fully connected with one another (taking vacations, dating, finding shared activities, sharing thoughts and dreams) I figured out that I actually needed time away from my DH to develop and work on my own goals. His constant presence would actually distract me away from my stated goals. I realized there was quite a bit of leeway time wise and scenario-wise so long as fundamental needs of connection and time were met and treated with importance by both of us.

The thing I notice in your posts is your DH's seeming resentment for the work he needs to put in to restore your trust. That is not a very reassuring thing for someone who has been unwillingly thrown into this position and is still trying to make it work FOR YOUR DHís HAPPINESS!!! I can understand why you don't feel safe, cherished or secure. You need to be able to ALWAYS be able to bring up triggers and work through them. Regardless of how irrational or unfounded they may be or how long itís been since your DH did anything wrong. You need your DH to step up and be your ally in this healing process of broken trust. By causing the hurt and still wanting a loving relationship with you he has signed himself up for it. As long as he is not your ally in this you will never feel free to let go, to fully heal and move on. And because his affair partner is still involved maybe she has to be committed to being your ally as well in supporting you heal. Itís sad that this may negatively impact his other relationship but it's unbelievable how such a large emotional trauma is taken so lightly that they are complaining and giving you grief on how you are healing. An earlier post of yours mentioned they were shocked that you were not fine and dandy after a couple of months. Ack!!!

It's been years for me (and this is w/o the affair partner present) and sometimes I still read into my DH's tone very negatively. I project disdain or disrespect or something when really he is just being brief or is preoccupied or whatever. Sometimes I get snappy or strongly reactive too him. It usually gets resolved quickly but it does hurt me that I often make these negative projections out of nowhere. One such evening I asked about his tone because I found it upsetting. He shared what his thoughts actually were. I broke down crying and asked him, "What is so broken within me that I keep doing this (negative projecting)?" Bare in mind I really feel our trust is restored but still this happens. He wrapped me up in his arms and said solemnly and seriously, "It's because I was such an asshole to you for so long." This is the kind of understanding and support you need from a loving partner who has deeply hurt you. Your hurts donít deserve to be trivialized as inconvenient.

He really needs to show up and be there for you and show accountability for his part in this healing process. Taking each trigger as they come because they do come. He needs to woo you and cherish you with abundant love. Too bad if your healing pace is not to his liking. The fact that he and his lover are waiting in the wings putting pressure on you is really not giving you and your husband time to reconnect and heal with each other and feel safe to define what you are to each other w/o distraction and alternate agendas. You shouldn't be worried about not having time with him because you should know in your heart that he needs that time and space with you just as much as you do. If you donít know that talk about it until you do. If you think he is just jumping through hoops to get all he wants with someone else you won't feel valued for the relationship you have with him.

What would happen if you removed all restrictions? Sure there might be some initial excitement and displacement but really what do you think he would do? Stop spending time with you? If the only reason you think he is hanging out with you is for the not so fun stuff it's good to learn that now rather than wasting several months/years full of fear and anxiety that he does not in fact want the same things as you. If your relationship needs are so far off from what he can provide then really you are incompatible. If you havenít had these conversations start them now. It is scary!!! Itís hard to be open to discovering that you might not actually be compatible even if there is deep love and investment. I promise you itís better to figure that out now and to keep figuring it out as you both change rather than trying to control the situation long term and waiting indefinitely for the ball to drop.

Best wishes,


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