In a standstill at the crossroads and need to vent!
I don't spend much time online but find myself coming back to this forum now and then, usually when I'm in a tough spot with my relationships. It's nice to know what other people are going through, as the only person I know in a poly relationship lives on the other side of the world! Right now I feel almost ready to "give up" on relationships period, I am so conflicted about how I feel vs. what I believe in and want for my life. One of the hardest parts is that I have absolutely no one I can talk to about this outside of my husband and his girlfriend, and at this point communication between any of us has become extremely strained, so I guess I'm looking for advice but also just a place where I can say all of this honestly...
My husband and I started out "poly" when we fell for each other while he was in a long distance relationship. After some time alone together and some time spent as a group, we went our own way but kept our relationship open. My husband has been the only one to take advantage with a series of casual sexual relationships, primarily because of the difficulty the girls he med had with the idea of dating someone with a family (same situation for me, who has had two kids in the meantime).
Eight years later, my husband has been dating and getting progressively more serious with a young woman (let's call her K) for a year and a half. She has been a regular fixture in our home the entire time we've known her, and two months ago moved in. I have been vocally supportive and encouraging throughout, but continue to experience intense jealousy, especially when exposed directly to the physical aspect of their relationship. Due to K's previous living circumstances this activity has always happened in our home, and while I don't mind so much what happens when I'm out of the house, asleep, etc. having to hear, see, or be asked to remove myself from their presence in order for them to be physical with each other is 9 times out of 10 a source of minor or extreme discomfort for me. I don't have the option of removing myself from the situation because my second child is still sleeping with me and nursing, which makes me feel trapped a lot of the time (we don't even have a car, and I can't exactly go wandering the streets at night!). We occasionally engage in sexual activity as a group, but more often than not I find myself wanting to isolate myself from them or find some way to punish them (even if it's just avoiding eye contact, etc. the next morning) for their intimacy.
While our relationship had been doing better than ever before this all started (providing the situation for it to happen, in a way!), our fighting has now become a totally disruptive force in our lives because I just can't get my emotions under control and either cause an upset intentionally to get attention and drive them apart, or try to distance myself and get called out for it by my husband, which usually just makes me defensive and even more hostile. In between I usually end up pouring love and affection onto my husband and arranging for us to spend as much time as possible together, leaving me feeling great until K. inevitably makes her way back into the picture (example: we recently went on vacation just me, him, and the kids and had a totally peaceful, wonderful a time together, ending with a nuclear fight the night we all came home).
At this point I guess it would be pretty obvious that this is something I don't have my heart in. But the only reason I'm still here at all is because of the days when things aren't like this (that 1 time out of 10!) the friendship and love we find in one another is the greatest thing I've ever experienced in my life. I love her to death and I love their love as much as I love my husband and children, and the days where we can spend all day and night together without even the slightest twinge of jealousy make me feel like I understand what life was meant to be. We are completely compatible as artists, friends, lovers, and human beings and I feel like if I could just get over this b.s. nothing would lay outside of our grasp. I know that all my feelings of hostility, resentment, and abandonment have nothing to do with how they are treating me. I've had sexual issues all my life- really repressive upbringing, infidelity that broke up the family, a string of pretty awful sexual experiences as a teenager before meeting my husband, and only had my first orgasm when I was 23. In between having my two babies I also had a really low sex drive and for about a year we fought intensely about it. These issues had more or less cleared up in the year or so previous to my husband meeting K., but seeing the open affection they share, how easily and comfortably he approaches her compared to me (he always references all the previous times I "refused him" as the reason for this), and hearing all about K.'s comparative sexual "health" pushes all my buttons and then some. Still, they are completely forgiving of my "outbursts", often do what they can to help not trigger them, and are generally very understanding. There is definitely distance between me and K., but given how I've treated her as a person and her and my husband's relationship, I consider this understandable. She says she loves me and I believe her, but she's also very frustrated and threatened by my disruptive behaviour and at this point just "checks out" when it's going on. When it's not, I'm the one that has to make the effort for us to connect, though she's usually responsive to those efforts.
For reasons I won't go into, our relationship has been a tightly guarded secret the entire time. At some point this will no longer be necessary, but the secrecy just adds to the burden since I can't talk to anyone about this and since it's become such a big part of my life I honestly feel as if none of my friends even know me anymore.
So here I am now. I feel like I can't even be in my own house without being completely overwhelmed with negative emotion. My children see us fighting all the time, my husband doesn't understand why I'm punishing him for living exactly the way I think we should, and has no idea how to make me feel secure enough in our relationship to honour his love for someone else. He gives great advice on how I should build a better relationship with myself, between me and K., and does what he can but I can tell he's really buckling under the load. He says he will always feel married to both of us, but I'm sure if I said it was the only way I would stay with him he would give up at least the physical aspect of their relationship. And despite the fact that K. is probably a better match for him (she's never expressed any jealousy herself, they share all their interests, and have far less conflict between them than me and him do even at the best of times) she's never indicated anything but belief that our marriage comes first. Again, I really have nothing to complain about.
But I'm so worn out from feeling alternately on top of the world or like my life is a living hell I have no refuge from because of how awful I feel every time I even anticipate seeing them together. Then I feel guilty for keeping them apart, for how I've acted. I feel less and less worthy of love, period. I'm too exhausted and depressed to be as good a mother as I want, to be the person I know I can be. But I have no idea how to proceed. I know everything I need to do to make this better, but I can't bring myself to face the challenge except on the best of days, which are fewer and farther between. Every time I talk to my husband about how it was probably a mistake for her to move in or how I don't think I can do this at all, he just says I'll change my mind tomorrow or the next day, and he's usually right– after all, how can I bring myself to go against everything I've believed in for so long? But for the first time in my adult life I find myself looking at mono couples with their kids at the park with such envy, even though I've spent years thinking about how many ways mandatory monogamy impairs the development of people as individuals, as couples, as families, as a society. It's not what I want for my children. Love, freedom, a stiff upper lip, fighting and sacrificing for your beliefs runs through everything I believe in and have built my life around. But I don't want to go home tonight. I don't even want to go on a date with my husband to the movies that we have planned because time alone with him or with K. feels increasingly dishonest, like when I'm nice to her or to him it's just because I've put out of my mind the reality of our lives together and when faced with that reality, the truth of my "love" for them comes out, and it's not a pretty one at all.
I hate sounding like someone who refuses to see the light at the end of the tunnel, because that's so not me! But right now, I'm feeling so down and out, I guess I just need any encouragement I can get...
I have a question for you that I'm asking you to think about. What is the one thing you could do or ask for right now that would make a big enough change in your life to make you more comfortable right now.
awwwww, poor lil pookie, I'm so sorry you're hurting. I'm completely impressed at the depth of your self-knowledge and understanding. You sound committed to your beliefs.
You are very likely still reeling from hormones, which are enough to make mono women feel like that after a pregnancy. (so I'm given to understand, can't speak from experience here)
Are you able to share your frustrations with her as well as your husband? When I read things like you're feeling like it's a lie to spend time with them, I'm wondering if you're holding back somewhere.
The phrase 'mandatory monogamy' struck me also. I'm wondering if you're wishing that you could have non-mandatory monogamy? There are one or two threads around here recently about poly folks who are missing monogamy.
Poly is a lot of work. I suspect it feels like even more work when you're all under one roof, and exponentially more energy when you've got a new infant in the mix. It's not beyond the pale to imagine that you're simply exhausted.
Wishing you peace...
SO... what kind of before/after care do you get from your husband? Before he has sex with K?
And what kind of before/after care do you get from K? Who lives in the home with you?
Because I'm not hearing you get any sort of before or after care and that probably adds to the jealous UGH feeling of "What am I? Chopped Liver?!"
You need support and nurture and while you sound willing to share your husband as the hinge, and they are willing to hear your upset and forgive you... if they cannot mind reader how to before/after care you... you kinda have to know your OWN self and announce what needs doing.
I don't know if that helps any.
But there is my impression.
Also make sure you have done the obvious health check ups -- with nursing babe cosleeping? You are still awash in hormones from either recent pregnancy and/or nursing hormones. That jacks up the hormone soup your brain floats in, and it can color your feelings/perceptions/thinking. I nursed our kid for many years and while it was one of the best things I did, I remember the first 2 years I felt all up and down heebie jeebie! If you are taking the mini pill (for birth control while nursing) check it's chemistry works ok with your own brand of body chemistry or any other meds you might be on for other conditions.
How is your sleep with a baby around? Sleep disturbances (body bucket) can also cause wacky in emotion (heart bucket) and thinking/problem solving (mind bucket) and they all tie to your spirit feeling flat. (Soul bucket.)
Some BCP's can mess with your emotional meter too. Depending on their formula -- I just cannot deal in a triphasic. I need a monophasic so it is EVEN all the way across not more bopping up and down and all around.
Would you like to not have K live with you? If that is your desire and you know you would be much happier that way, are you letting worries about what they think be more important than what you need for your own happiness?
Once you're feeling a little more appreciated, you'll probably want to work on your jealousy. As you know, you need to work out what's triggering it so you can root it out at the source, otherwise it just sits in the corner waiting to leap out when you least expect it. I'm a big fan of the broken refrigerator analogy from Xeromag when it comes to that subject.
First of all, acknowledge yourself for how self-aware you are. The degree to which you are able and willing to look at what is going on with you is impressive, and commendable. Clearly, you have done a lot of inner work on yourself to be able to grasp and understand the deeper issues, so kudos to you.
Next, don't be so quick to blame only yourself for the tension and fighting. Remember, each person in a relationship is 100% responsible for their part in it. So, while you are looking at what stuff inside you prompts you to be upset and start arguments, what is he looking at? What is his part in it? It sounds like the two of you still have some residual resentment from the past that is still unresolved. It takes two to keep a war going.
Also, while the gf may not be a cowgirl per se, but she could be what a teacher/mentor of mine calls a "relationship splitter." Those are people who unconsciously influence couples to fight. When they were kids, they were the ones to wriggle between mommy and daddy when they were hugging, just to get some attention. It could be that she is unknowingly projecting an energy of that sets you and your husband to fight over her. People like that create conflicts wherever they go. It could be because underneath it all they want attention, or to feel superior, or it's just a habitual dynamic they learned at an early age.
If she is a "Splitter," there is nothing you can do to change that in her, but it is a dynamic to be on the lookout for. If you are feeling perfectly fine and at peace with yourself and then walk into a room where she is and immediately bristle or feel like you want to argue with your husband, that is a clue. She needs to look at that possibility for herself, but what you can do when you feel that argumentative urge rise is take a step back and not give in to it. Yes, it takes two to keep a war going, but only one to end it.
Walk away from the fight, figure out alone what it is you really want to express and then say it to him later without a fighting energy. Perhaps you really need to make sure that you and hubs have plenty of private time together. She should be willing to leave the house and let you two have your space. If she isn't, that's a sign, too. Maybe she is a cowgirl who might not even realize it herself.
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