Moving from a primary to a nonprimary relationship
I was wondering if anyone could weigh in with experience or insight into transitioning relationships from primary to non-primary status. My husband - following a recent meltdown/breakthrough - has realized that he does not want a committed, financially entangled, children-having relationship. I am looking for a primary relationship with all of those components. We care deeply about each other and enjoy being together, and I'm trying to think about what it would mean to give our six-year primary relationship a different framework.
We've been open for a year and a half - all sort of new, but so far a great development in our relationship. Has anyone out there been through something similar or watched something similar go down? The idea of changing the relationship this fundamentally is sad and frightening, but I'm hoping that thinking openly about the options means that it's not either married or nothing. Any help very appreciated!
Sorry to hear that things are going this way for you.
Perhaps you could help clarify a little, though - different people mean different things by the term "primary" - some see it as an emotional thing, some as a purely practical thing (living together, sharing finances, etc).
How do you see it? You mentioned about the financial side of it - would you still live together? How much say would he have in your choice of other lovers, etc.
Thanks for these questions - clearly I'm at the beginning of this thought process. So far the primary-ness has been emotional and practical (as you write - shared finances, living spaces, etc.). I guess I see the change as living independently, being financially independent, and no longer necessarily having emotional primacy. I'm not sure how to change the practical parts without impacting the emotional parts - but I like the suggestion in your question that it's worth separating the two parts.
Given that family/children is what I want, either another primary partner or a different primary partner seems like the direction I want to take. Right now, I'd like to negotiate new partners with my husband (as we've done so far), but I imagine that might change.
Thank you again for writing - I really had to parse out my thinking. It's such a change and I'm so grateful for your input.
I don't know where you live, but in the US, or at least in many states, if you are legally married and have a kid, your husband is the legal father of that kid even if DNA testing proves that he is not the biological father. Something to consider. I'm sure LR is better equipped to advise on this matter.
I'm just saying, if you want to have kids with someone else and your husband doesn't want a "kid-having" relationship, you might want to get divorced at some point.
I have some good friends that transitioned from a "primary" to a "non-primary" relationship. The stresses of trying to merge their lives seem to make it harder for them to love one another because their lives weren't that compatible.
I haven't talked at huge length with them about it but one thing they did say that helped them in their own transition was to not jump right into finding other primaries right away. The moved into separate living quarters and proceeded to "date" each other from their new, non-merged position for quite a few months before they started seeking new relationships. They said it helped them reset their relationship on this new setting but keep some security.
That was quite a few years ago, and they're both still together with other primaries now.
This is helpful insight re:divorcing if kids are involved. Definitely something to look into. Also: I agree with not jumping into a new primary relationship. I really like the concept of "resetting" the relationship. I don't have a clear idea how it would work and no idea how it will feel. But building in space and security sounds great. Thanks.
I think the best way to go about this is to do it in three steps:
1) Separate, get your own places, get some personal space.
2) Untangle your finances, get to a place where you and your husband are living on separate incomes.
3) Get a divorce. This won't mean you love him any less, but it's a formal committment to breaking those financial and legal bonds that he apparently wants no part of.
Finish these steps before you seek out a new primary committment. These things can be difficult, but it wouldn't be fair to your new man to walk into this situation when it's only half undone. This also gives you time for you to foster your emotional relationship with your husband as the practical things change.
YGirl made a great point about parental rights. There's more: if for some reason (god forbid) you need to adopt, you may not be able to seek out adoption with your new primary if you were still married to your husband. Also, perhaps after you separate finances, your husband happens to go into debt. If you're still married, he would be obliged to report your income as a means to pay off that debt--and if you had any shared accounts with the new primary, his finances would be in jeopardy too.
This all seems very clinical, I know, but it seems like his concerns are mostly these practical issues. If you could both go through these steps, give it some time, and make this separation amicable, I see no reason why the emotional side of things really has to change upfront. It may naturally develop into a secondary emotional connection as you find a new partner, potentially remarry, have children, etc. Just take everything one step at a time, don't jump into things.
Good luck, and be well. :)
I like what Korindino has laid out.
The first step is (mentally & emotionally) disentangling what a "marriage" is/has been as accepted by society.
Half a legal contract.
Half an emotional connection.
Those two things can well stand alone and I'm one who feels they should anyway by default. But that requires reprogramming thousands of years of tradition. Seems it's going to need to happen on a one-by-one basis.
Once you get that separation accomplished each piece is much easier to work with.
Good luck !
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