Mono marriage in trouble
I've done a bit of reading this past year about polyamory, and I just need to bounce some thoughts off of people. My situation is that I am in a severely strained mono marriage. My wife and I have been married almost ten years. We have one wonderful son together.
Although I never had sex with another woman while married, there were two occasions when I had too much to drink and ended up kissing other women. Additionally, I used to sneak looking at porn, something she abhors. Even though I said I wouldn't anymore, I would break down and look at it again after 6 months or so.
In these issues I hid the offenses, which naturally resulted in a huge trust divide once she found out. Now it's just gotten messy, with distrust, screaming matches, and woe if she does catch me glancing at another woman. While I feel I've made progress, I feel like it doesn't count for much in her eyes.
Trying to trace out my issues that resulted in me acting behind her back, I realized that even early in our relationship I felt regret at forgoing the possibility of pursuing emotional/romantic relationships with other women. Like I said, I was married young, and I thought emotional & physical interest in other women would pass. It hasn't. I have a feeling that had I not gotten married when I did, and had I heard of it then, I might have become a poly a long time ago.
I would like to believe I have matured since I violated my wife's trust. With counseling, I am trying to heal the effects of my dishonesty. At the same time, though, I feel relief at the thought that there is a type of relationship out there where responsible adults can form relationships with more than one person. I can't help but think that maybe it's that kind of relationship I truly belong in.
Due to my work we've been living apart for a few months, and in that time I feel less stressed, more focused, and have even started working out regularly, something I haven't done in years. People see me as kind, friendly, and reliable. I don't feel that way around my wife.
I am not afraid of the truth anymore. I have learned so much about myself, and about how my actions have hurt my wife. I am also very sad to see how much anger she harbors.
Even if she would accept polyamory, which she won't, I know that introducing polyamory cannot fix a broken relationship. The problem is I feel extreme pain at the prospect of having my marriage end because, it could be summed up, I'm not happy. It just feels selfish.
I don't know which "right" is more right...
1) Honoring my commitment, being at home for my son, and doing whatever counseling I need to do to re-establish our love and become a better husband, or
2) Recognizing that we are both in so much pain and will continuously cause each other (and our son, by extension) unhappiness because, at its root, I want something different out of a relationship than she does.
I'm not asking for people to "tell me what to do", but I am curious about other people's insights and thoughts. Especially those that had a divorce from a mono marriage before they embarked on the poly life. Thank you.
This type of situation is a very difficult one, Vexed, and I sympathize. I didn't get a divorce but I was in a monogamous relationship that has turned poly. And I broke the trust of my partner in the process and had to work long and hard to get it back.
For me the foundation of any relationship, poly or not, is trust. The question that the two of you need to be asking each other, then, is whether that trust can be rebuilt or not.
If your wife really has a major issue with you using porn, is that something that you can truly forgo, or can be see that you using porn isn't a betrayal of your marriage vows? If she insists that you being porn-free is a "rule" of your relationship and you can't stick to that permanently, then you don't have much of a basis on which to work.
If poly for you is a "non-negotiable" - if you are going to be wishing to have relationships with others and be unhappy if you can not, and if she isn't ok with this, then again you don't have much of a foundation.
I think you have to establish this foundation, or recognize that the two of you can't. If you (or your wife) are the list-making type, a technique I have used and recommended to others is that of Needs/Wants/Likes lists. I blogged about it on my poly blog.
As far as your son is concerned, how good do you think his upbringing will be in a household where there is no trust between the parents? What sort of role model do you think that establishes for him, for when he gets older and starts relationships?
I wish you luck on your journey.
For me, there was no question it was done. I had tried and tried to make everything work but we were very different. Quick background she was 23, I was 17...7 years later we split it off and I was walking out more mature. Nothing clicked, communication couldn't even click, being around her was always tense (as I am sure it was for her with me), we didn't have anything in common etc. Our personal life AND our social lives diverted completely. I took time to do a soft breakup, see and feel what it would be like. I moved into the spare room (we owned a house) and started being "single". It was by far the easiest thing I had ever done. Kind of like how you feel when you are away. It was more natural to be apart then to be together. The breakup happened slowly and naturally...our relationship was simply over. Luckily, while it sometimes hurt, we both knew it.
I don't have kids, so parents can chime in, I was also lucky enough to have bother parents together until I died...but I do feel staying together for your son is the wrong thing to do. I can't imagine what a household would feel like without the parents being happy or trusting each other.
I really feel for you. It is hard for me to sympathize with your wife's point of view, because I think her rules are unreasonable. The other thing is some people are forever unwilling to forgive and forget. Say, for example, that you avoid looking at porn 5 years - is she the type to honor you for forgoing for 5 years or still take you to task that you broke that promise all that time ago? If the latter, then you have the choice of ending the relationship or being treated like a pariah for the rest of your life.
Not much more I can add. You will need a lot of courage what ever you do. Best of luck.
Can I just point out, *of course being single is easier*. When you're not part of a relationship, you don't have to work on being a part of a relationship. Also, where's your son? He's with his mother. You don't even have to parent. Trust me, there are definitely days where being single is my dream, and my relationship is actually doing wonderfully. Being poly won't alleviate your responsibilities, so I hope that's not why you think it would be better.
Of course, you know you're the only one who can figure out what you want. Do you want the relationship? Then it's your responsibility to communicate with your wife that you want to be poly, whether or not you think she will accept it. You already know what you're going to do if she can't accept it, but if you don't want to walk, then you should at least give her a chance. Make no mistake, introducing poly *will not* fix your marriage, it will put a strain on it. However, I can tell you from experience that in my marriage, introducing poly forced us to deal with issues we hadn't, learn to communicate more effectively, and be honest with ourselves about our feelings whether positive or negative. (myself especially)
Do you want out? Then it's your responsibility to communicate with your wife. I hope that you will be kind, and that you will think long and hard before you walk away. Yes, I think it's better to divorce than stay in an unhappy marriage for the kids, but make no mistake, it does affect your children in a negative way, at least in the short run. There will be acting out, there will be unhappiness, there will be anger and blame. Probably in both the adults and the children. :P
If you want experience, I'm afraid I'm not divorced, but I did marry young. Easy and I were handfast six weeks after we started dating and seven weeks after I turned 18. We were monogamous for 18 years, had two children, and had many issues we didn't deal with, partly because of poor communication and partly because I learned from my mother to suffer in silence. I dread to think what lessons I taught my children during that time. During that time we had poly friends who taught me to hate poly--all I saw was the negative, how hurt people could be by somewhat less than ethical behavior. (Also, one of our poly friends was a zealot, and sought every opportunity to criticize me for "forcing" my husband--who never once came to me and asked to be poly--to be monogamous.) To shorten my story, about a year ago we agreed to be a polyfidelitous quad with dear friends, something I ***never***never***never*** thought I'd agree to. Since then we've had fights, looong nights arguing and crying, but I think overall it's been a positive experience. We're still working on issues, still growing, but I definitely think we're in a stronger place now. Did it come easy? No, absolutely not, it was and still is an enormous amount of work.
Is it worth the work for you? Will doing the work fix the relationship, or do you think that you are too different? Sometimes people's goals are too different to make it work. Can you have something wonderful, or would you two be happier apart in the long run? What would be healthier for your son? For you? Do you love your wife? I think it would definitely be worth discussing why you don't like who you are when you're with her--I would want to know that if I were in that position, but maybe try to phrase it kindly. I hope things work out well for you, good luck.
I was in a mono marriage which ended in divorce... now am exploring poly with my new bf. I never knew that this was an "option" before I met him. We are going slow and it is teaching us things we both needed to learn.
My marriage failed because it was strained, I believe mostly due to the severe lack of communication between us. The whole thing spiraled out of control until I and He felt like you describe in the above quote. No children involved...
I still feel my ex had poly tendencies and never knew how to put it into words (lack of communication!). I won't delve into details, but that relationship was horrid.
If I were to suggest anything, I would say this: If you are interested in poly, try talking to your wife about being open in a different way. In the we will talk about anything that we feel we want to talk about way. "open communication", so to speak. You will need this skill in a poly relationship for it to function well, and so you might as well bite the bullet and try it with her. Talk about your fears, insecurities, happy moments, anything. It doesn't have to be related to porn, but I don't see the hurt in trying to explain where the urge to watch it comes from.
Divorce SUCKS, even when you really want out. Maybe you will both be afraid in this process, but that in itself could rebuild trust and allow you two to know each other again.
Just my humble opinion.
Thank you for the responses
Hello, again. I want to thank all of you for your thoughtful responses. It's given me a lot to think about. I'd like to reply to some of your comments...
Thank you for sharing the needs/wants/likes list idea. For the issues we've come into conflict, having relationships with others and porn, porn would be a "like". I am still trying to sort out exactly where having relationships with others is. I don't know if it's a "need" or a strong "want". Knowing how discontent I've felt when I should have been content, this is a hard one to figure out for me. I guess it's also what has me feeling the most selfish. I'm thinking, when I talk to my wife, of putting it in the "wants" category and see what happens. You're right, though, either way, our trust has to be restored.
Sorry, didn't mean to leave out the common-law marriage people! ;)
I'm hoping our physical separation right now will make it easier to deal with these difficult topics in a way that's not so emotionally heated. It's given us both time to understand who we are individually, I hope.
Yeah, it is sad about the environment our son is in... Poor guy, he even tries to play peacemaker when he senses that we're angry at each other....
In hindsight, I agree with your sentiments. When I was younger and got married I thought thinking about other women was something I'd grow out of because I was so in love. But I agreed at the time, and I didn't let her know when I couldn't maintain our agreed expectations. So I accept responsibility for violating her trust. About the 5 year thing... I don't know... I suppose there would be some small credit given, but mostly disappointment and renewed feelings of distrust.
Thank you for your perspective. You are right, I owe it to my marriage to tell her what I feel, even if I feel she will never accept it, and give her the opportunity to respond and work together. I guess part of me is concerned that, if it doesn't work out, no matter how I explain my perspective, it will just get way oversimplified and repeated by her to others as "he left me so he could f*** a bunch of other people".
You're right. There needs to be a new, healthy way of communicating. The trick has been talking about issues that upset us without sounding like being angry or accusatory of the other person, because we usually end up going down a vicious spiral when that happens.
Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts. I have a lot to think about.
Obviously this changes per situation (age etc) but it helped me a lot to at least know what was going on.
"I'll grow out of it." ... The ironic part to me is that if you were thinking about other women early in your marriage, that's only going to grow stronger as the Honeymoon stage wears off. At that point, not only is there guilt that it hasn't worn off like you expected, but also regret that there's been so much time "wasted" while you tried to be something you weren't. Your mileage may vary, but these seem like recurring themes.
So I am 100% against any couple "staying together for the kids." Especially these days when divorce is so common, kids no longer feel like the only one, since every kid has at least one friend whose parents don't live together, or have two moms and two dads at two separate homes.
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