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-   -   New to poly and dealing with a complex setup (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=23101)

Metriste 04-16-2012 05:51 PM

New to poly and dealing with a complex setup
 
I apologize in advance for the wall of text; this post will be necessarily lengthy, but I will be as succinct as possible. I am a married man brand new to the concept of polyamory, and I'm in the early stages of a developing situation. I already know the first three rules of polyamory: communicate, communicate, communicate. My wife and I touch base almost every day and so far things are going well on our end. I'm collecting advice from those older and wiser than me and taking everything slowly and carefully; any input on my current situation will be greatly appreciated. I'll break this post into three parts: introductions of myself and the people involved, a summary of the situation thus far, and my specific questions. Obviously, all names are fake. Thanks again for reading!

Me: 25 year old bisexual male, usually about a 3 on the Kinsey scale. Been married to my wife (next entry) for 4 years; I'm very happy and consider her my primary. I know the primary/secondary classification method carries a generally negative connotation in the poly community, but as a n00b I don't know a better way to describe it.
Claire, my wife: 23 year old mostly straight female, maaaaybe a 1 on the Kinsey scale. Her initial reaction when I proposed opening our marriage was a predictable mixture of shock and confusion, but I'm actually blown away by how well she's adjusted to the idea. At this point, like me, she's completely open to exploring a poly relationship, slowly and carefully.
Chris, my (potential) SO: 19 year-old bi male, Kinsey 3. Currently engaged (see next entry); I've known him for 18 months and in that time we've developed a very strong friendship and a mutual desire to take it to a friends-with-benefits or secondary relationship level, provided the logistics all work out.
Jill, Chris' fiancee: 19 year-old female. I'm assuming she's straight but I don't honestly know. She and I cross paths on Chris' facebook, but we've never met in person and I don't know what, if anything, she knows about the nature of my relationship with Chris. Read on for further details...


I'll summarize the whole situation as briefly as possible. Chris and I met 18 months ago when he joined my game group; we immediately hit it off and became fast friends. Once I found out he was bi, casual flirtatious remarks began to spring up here and there in our conversations, but nothing came of it - our relationship remained mildly flirtatious but platonic until about 6 months ago, when a discussion arose seemingly out of nowhere regarding the possibility of talking to our respective spouses about a poly arrangement.
Here's where things get a little more complicated than usual. Chris is now in the Army training his ass off, and as such we have little time to talk. When we can talk, it's almost always via text message and he often only has short windows of free time. In a way, I think this is good: his training keeps him focused on his priorities, and since he'll be spending 90% or more of the next 4 years in another country, it gives all of us plenty of time to talk and investigate.

It's possible some of you may be concerned with the fact that there's such an age gap between "us" and "them." For one, I'm not typically attracted to 18-20 year-olds in a romantic sense, for exactly the reason you may be thinking - they tend to be less mature or less capable of handling complex relationships. The only reason my situation has developed as far as it has is because, in that sense, he's very much not a typical 19 year-old. I believe he understands what's at stake and that it needs to be handled carefully for the sake of all involved.

Here's how this web looks currently:
I know my wife very well (obviously), I know Chris fairly well, I haven't met Jill in person.
My wife has not met Chris in person, since she too is active military - the two of them have not yet been home at the same time. She also has not met Jill.
Jill knows of me, but I have no clue what she knows or what she and Chris have talked about.


Now for my questions:
1) Jill knows Chris is bi, but I don't think (although I don't know for sure) that he has directly proposed an open relationship to her yet. I know Chris well enough to assume, knowing full well that I may be wrong, that he's somewhat mortified of bringing up the topic of a complex relationship. He knows I won't proceed with him until and unless Jill is informed and on board, but I also don't want to pressure him about it, especially since he's still in the middle of some hardcore training. Can anyone offer some suggestions on how and when to talk with him about his conversation with Jill, and perhaps how I might assuage some of his fears about her possible reactions? Answers such as "it's none of my business, so stay out of it and see what happens" are perfectly acceptable if that's likely to be the best route.

2) The distance factor is also going to complicate things in some fashion, almost regardless of how things develop. I physically see my wife about once every two months, and I now see Chris perhaps 3-6 times per year, for a few days at a time. Any insight on special considerations in light of the fact that most of our communication for the next 4 years will be phone calls and text messages?

3) If all parties are willing, might it be a good idea for Jill and I to meet and get to know each other, since she and I are still physically in the same town and will be for the next 6 months or so? Or is it probably better to save those kinds of introductions for a group setting?

4) Ideally, I'd like to maintain at least a platonic friendship with Chris; I absolutely want to make sure I don't become a point of contention between he and Jill for any reason. That being said, what role is most appropriate for me here? I can't think of a better way to phrase the question, so let me break it apart: his life is his business and ultimately his decisions, good and bad, are his to own - same goes for me, of course. If this situation ever starts to look like it could be damaging to his primary relationship or mine, it has to stop, he and I both agree on that. But for me, where is the line between "due diligence" (asking questions or having conversations with Chris about what Jill knows and what he's talked to her about) and overstepping my bounds as a third party? To be clear: Chris has never done or said anything to give me reason to believe that he's cheated, or is lying to Jill, but it is fairly clear that he's reluctant to directly raise the question of a poly arrangement. After 18 months he's earned my trust, but what degree of "nosiness" is appropriate for me? Because I genuinely care about him, I don't want to see him ruin his marriage because he suppresses his feelings or does something dishonest, whether it's with me or with someone else. Like I said, I'm not a relationship cop and his decisions are his alone, but I want to do what I can to help him find happiness and stability, whether that involves me as a romantic partner or not.

Well, there it is. Sorry for the crazy-long post, I hope it made enough sense to decipher. Thanks again for reading all this and anyone who can offer some insight has my deep gratitude, and possibly cake.

NovemberRain 04-17-2012 04:27 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Metriste (Post 132839)
I apologize in advance for the wall of text;

Don't be silly, you have paragraph breaks and everything. :D Welcome.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Metriste (Post 132839)
... taking everything slowly and carefully; any input on my current situation will be greatly appreciated.

I don't have a heckuva a lot of input. Slowly and carefully sounds terrific. I invite you to know that slowly and carefully may not prevent tears and hurt feelings, but it will likely help them heal more quickly.

So, Chris knows of your interest in Chris?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Metriste (Post 132839)
It's possible some of you may be concerned with the fact that there's such an age gap between "us" and "them."

Five years is really not that huge. It feels more huge at your age, and it is a bigger difference, usually, than say the five years between 30 and 35. But modern times and particularly poly seem to have a little less ageism than other times or orientations.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Metriste (Post 132839)
I know Chris fairly well, I haven't met Jill in person.

Why? Because he took off before you had a chance? My bf and I have 'couple dates' all the time, and not because of poly; mostly because he's unbelievably gregarious and likes to go do stuff with people. :)

Oh, sorry, your wife is away. That rules out couples dates. got it.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Metriste (Post 132839)
Jill knows of me, but I have no clue what she knows or what she and Chris have talked about.

That seems odd, too. He hasn't mentioned anything of that to you? He brought up that you two should consider poly, and you did consider it, seriously; but he hasn't done anymore than say that?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Metriste (Post 132839)
Now for my questions:
1) Jill knows Chris is bi, but I don't think (although I don't know for sure) that he has directly proposed an open relationship to her yet. I know Chris well enough to assume, knowing full well that I may be wrong, that he's somewhat mortified of bringing up the topic of a complex relationship.

In the spirit of communicate, communicate, communicate, I recommend not making that assumption. It doesn't mean only communicate with your wife. :D You could ask him. I recommend it, since it is a question that weighs on you.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Metriste (Post 132839)
He knows I won't proceed with him until and unless Jill is informed and on board, but I also don't want to pressure him about it, especially since he's still in the middle of some hardcore training.

That's just awesome!

Quote:

Originally Posted by Metriste (Post 132839)
Can anyone offer some suggestions on how and when to talk with him about his conversation with Jill, and perhaps how I might assuage some of his fears about her possible reactions?

I recommend working with him on how to assuage her possible reactions. Have you talked with him about how you told your wife and her reactions? And you're quite right to wait until 'hardcore training' is completed. It might be a better conversation to have in person, as so much context is lost in text (email text snailmail whatever)(for me, even the phone loses a lot).

Sometimes fear can be addressed by 'what's the worst possible thing you could imagine happening?' 'She'll freak out and leave me' (could be, could be 'she'll want to date another man and then she'll run off with him'). And then talking about how that might get handled. But not always. I think you need to find out first IF it's fear that's stopping him, and then work with him on how to address that.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Metriste (Post 132839)
3) If all parties are willing, might it be a good idea for Jill and I to meet and get to know each other, since she and I are still physically in the same town and will be for the next 6 months or so? Or is it probably better to save those kinds of introductions for a group setting?

I should think it would be a great idea; but what if you guys fall for each other? What will the respective spouses think of that? It's been known to happen. Is she into the game too? Could she come to the game group? It might be a way for her to feel connected to him. (I know it would to me, were I in that situation. It would be the sort of thing I would do.)

Quote:

Originally Posted by Metriste (Post 132839)
4) Ideally, I'd like to maintain at least a platonic friendship with Chris;

Sounds like you're doing that.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Metriste (Post 132839)
Well, there it is. Sorry for the crazy-long post, I hope it made enough sense to decipher. Thanks again for reading all this and anyone who can offer some insight has my deep gratitude, and possibly cake.

well, Itís so delicious and moist, how can I resist? Look at me still talking while there's science to do....

Metriste 04-17-2012 04:55 AM

Hi, thanks for the detailed breakdown and advice - and especially for ending with a Portal reference :p

- As for why I haven't met Jill: Chris left for training in July '11, at which point the first poly talk hadn't happened yet. Prior to that, I'd just never had both opportunity and motive to meet Jill. Currently, she's kind of in town and kind of not. She's attending a college 2 hours away, but she bounces back and forth between here and there in a somewhat irregular pattern. Maybe when he comes home, he and I can take a road trip to her school for introductions and a night out? The only obstacle I see there is the pretext: what would he say to her that wouldn't make it seem strange? Why would it suddenly be so important to him that she meet one of his friends during one of his rare vacation weeks?

-Regarding the lack of direct communication between Chris and I about bringing Jill into the equation: since he's training 18 hours a day, I don't feel that now is the best time to say "Hey, when are you going to tell your fiancee that there's another dude that wants to bang you, and probably wouldn't object if she joined in?" He'll be home for a few weeks in July; we've explicitly agreed to talk about it then, but I want to be as prepared as I can be for that conversation.

-Regarding my assumption that he's scared to talk to her: good point. I should stay on top of the communication thing, but it seems again to just be a timing issue. Perhaps I should do that in July when he's home? As for helping him articulate his fears and feelings, the "worst case scenario" angle sounds like it could be helpful.

-My wife and I have talked about this and outlined our boundaries, and we've given each other a green light to do anything within them. I think it's statistically unlikely that I would fall for Jill in Chris' absence, just because I'm attracted to very specific and relatively uncommon attributes in people, but if it were to happen I personally am not all that worried about it. I think my general life strategy applies here just as well: you can evaluate and plan for likely scenarios, but you can't predict with complete accuracy, so just stay flexible, stay honest and objective, and deal with things as they happen.

Thanks again for the input, reading it and typing out this reply has helped me further clarify some things and given me a few ideas to kick around.


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