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-   -   Don't even know where to begin... (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=268)

JustMe 05-17-2009 06:56 AM

Don't even know where to begin...
My husband and I had a dear friend, a best friend, a friend who we'd known for three years before we invited him into our home to share our lives. It was wonderful. He was "just a friend" but we worked incredibly well as a household - for 3 years. My husband has always been very jealous and so, when I developed sexual feelings for our friend, I didn't feel comfortable sharing them with him.

Then I did something really stupid and we started an affair. I lied to myself and told myself that I could have everything. I love them both so much, in slightly different ways. It has always been so clear to me that I love my husband deeply and passionately and want to share and build a life with him. I also always wanted to have this other person in my life and felt such a strong emotional connection. As it is with all deceits, we were found out. About 8 months ago, our entire world exploded and our friend was forced to move out. I can not express exactly how much I realize that I was wrong and committed the unforgivable betrayal.

My total comfort with the concept of polyamory opened it up for discussion as we have been trying to work things out. My husband had a good friend from a previous job that he often confided with as he struggled to work things out and one night, one thing led to another. He knew that I was okay with it so he could explore that experience. He had never thought that it was possible to have that kind of love for two people simultaneously. He realized it was possible and that it had happened.

We agreed that he could explore the relationship and acknowledged that my betrayal made it still too soon for me to have any contact with my former lover. If he decided polyamory wasn't for us, I was willing to make the choice live in a monogamous relationship - and I could be (and was for several years) happy this way.

However, he decided poly wasn't something he could deal with. The idea of me with someone else, especially this other person (the only one I really have any desire to connect to besides my husband), wasn't something he could handle.

He also has really fallen in love with this other woman and I truly want to honor that. I've been there and know the pain of separation. He's allowed me to have electronic contact with my former lover, but acknowledges that he's still incredibly angry with him. Angry enough that it scares him.

Sometimes, as I'm home alone, while he's off with his girlfriend (note: this doesn't happen all that often, 1x/every 2 weeks or so) I start wondering if my guilt has made me overly compliant. The irony of my interest in polyamory triggering him having a new relationship while I'm not allowed to is not lost on me. His being with her doesn't make me jealous but it makes me angry/sad/baffled that he can feel that connection and still deny me having it again. Is this fair, some suitable consequence for having cheated?

To be true to my beliefs, I feel like I have to allow the relationship to continue. Destroying something that I know is special and precious to him would make me feel like a heel. Selfishly, I also don't want to have to trade off "you can't see her" and losing the little remaining contact I do have with the person who was basically my best friend for years.

Anyone ever had such an experience? Do any couples ever start an open relationship after an affair? Am I being foolish to let this continue in the hope that his views will continue to change and he will grow comfortable with me at least having a platonic relationship with this person? We talk and talk and I know he's tortured by it all but I also know he doesn't want to give her up or let me also be open.

vampiresscammy 05-17-2009 05:56 PM

Let me start off first with (((((Hugs))))

now, my personal advice would be, you need to decide which one you want/need/love more and choose him by letting the other man go completely, your current situation is not a fair place to start being poly from, your husband can't completely let go and move on til he feels the threat is gone, and your guy can't be free to love you with limitations

as to his other lady, i say if its bothering you, he should either slow down or end it all together if its that upsetting to you, and you both should try to start on an even keel and if you want to try poly, meet new folks, don't look to those from your past, theres always going to be too much baggage there, and to be honest with one another, you'll never know for sure if it bothers you to see each other with someone if they're someone from your past, there is bound to be hurt/uinsecurities/issues abound with past interests

you both need to sit down, really talk, and really listen, decide whom you want to be with, and let the others go and move forward, not back, find new loves with whom neither of you have a past, then see if you can make poly work, thats my advice anyway, take what you will and leave the rest, no harm, just words of experience, hope any of it helps

chad 05-17-2009 06:53 PM

Hello Just Me,

Your story is for me like looking in the mirrror. I too desperately miss my friend who was for so long part of our family. We fell in love and tried to contain it, thought we could hide it and deal with it. But as you say, all deceits are found out. So much hurt... So we all had to part ways. I don't get to talk/communicate with her at all, and time just keeps going by.

After almost 2 years have gone by, I am still not sure I can even come close to understanding what the betrayal feels like to my wife. My wife is one of those super and unusual people. At the time of this all starting out, and though we had never heard the term before, she was probably naturally more accepting of "poly" than I was. But the betrayal changed it all. THe hurt and anger, and worse...

Your husband's anger, I can only imagine, is something that he has a hard time with. Maybe he stuffs it? Just to survive and keep us together, my wife did. But of course, that is only a band aid to a very big wound. We are still working on this one.

Your husband having someone and you not... wow. I think that vampiresscammy could be right. Taking a break, a pause, that could be a good idea. I know that for me, being happily married for so long, I could never choose to leave her even if she never wants to allow me to be poly. And that is difficult for me. But I also think that the we have to heal the bad stuff between us before we could ever include another. Like you, I am only thinking of my friend as someone that I would like to be with, even if only just friends again.

I don't think you are being over compliant. But him not allowing you what he allows himself, something is wrong with that, no? I know most folks would say that you have to find someone new, as there is too much baggage with the old flames. But I have to admit that it seems silly that we can't figure out a way to get beyond that, grow up together through the experience. I know that the friendship I miss was something rare and meaningful. I want that.

Well I hope this gets you going. You are not alone. I think there must be a lot of folks out there in these kinds of messes.

JustMe 05-17-2009 08:32 PM

It's just nice to hear that other people have made mistakes and have lived past them. I too can't imagine actually no longer being without my spouse (nor he without me), which, I think, will be a great asset to us in the future.

River 05-17-2009 10:36 PM


Originally Posted by JustMe (Post 1146)
The irony of my interest in polyamory triggering him having a new relationship while I'm not allowed to is not lost on me. His being with her doesn't make me jealous but it makes me angry/sad/baffled that he can feel that connection and still deny me having it again. Is this fair, some suitable consequence for having cheated?

Certainly not! It is hypocritical.

But, yes, your dishonesty -- the secret affair -- was a violation of his trust. That violation does not get him off the hook for his hypocrisy, however. You should not allow yourself to be manipulated into believing otherwise because you feel guilty for your having had a secret affair. Please ask your husband to live one day at a time with you. That is, ask him to forgive you and to move forward with you in honesty and forgiveness. Tell him he can keep his girlfriend/lover... if you can likewise have your freedom to explore and express love outside of your dyad. If he doesn't agree? Ask, "Why do you get to make the rules without my participation?"

River 05-17-2009 10:55 PM


Originally Posted by vampiresscammy (Post 1150)
don't look to those from your past, theres always going to be too much baggage there, and to be honest with one another, you'll never know for sure if it bothers you to see each other with someone if they're someone from your past, there is bound to be hurt/uinsecurities/issues abound with past interests

I can't agree with this view. It seems to me that if the husband has the right to choose who he wants to include in his life intimately that the wife ought to have the same freedom. I don't think it fair to allow him all of the freedom of choice and her none of that same freedom.

Quath 05-18-2009 12:09 AM

I can understand your husband feeling betrayed by that specific relationship. However, he has come into awareness that such love is possible without diminishing the love he currently has. So he should be working towards acceptance of your love since he has found additional love as well.

He should try to understand how he would feel if he losy his current love and realize that is how you feel. Hopefully by tryiong to empathize, he will be able to handle the relationship you want to rekindle.

theque 05-18-2009 04:14 AM

So, I am JustMe's husband that she talks about above. First, I'd like to thank you all for your clearly caring and well-thought out responses to her message. This has been, and continues to be, extremely challenging for both of us. We both are needing support through this, and I fear she has not gotten as much as she really needs and deserves. Perhaps here we can both find some more.

I also wanted to share some perspectives on our situation that I hope might give a more complete picture to anyone wishing to chime in. I hope to speak solely for myself, and focus on where we are now as a couple. There is a whole boatload of baggage and issues, shared amongst all parties involved, that contributed to JustMe's affair. While those issues are relevant and deserve attention, they're not really why we're here. This may or may not be the place, but I don't think it's the time.

Historically, I have considered myself a completely monogamous person. Polyamory was not something I understood, nor did I want to understand it. For the last 12 years I was perfectly happy with my wife being my one love and saw no reason to pursue anything different. My best and oldest friend has for the last 5 years been the de-facto "mono" in a mono/poly relationship, and frankly, seeing his experiences with it really made me fear it. From the outside looking in, it often looks like a bad situation, despite his assertions it is not. It may be typical, it may not be, but for better or worse, that relationship has been the "face of poly" for me, and it has not been an example I have any interest in following.

And as JustMe mentions, the work we did on salvaging our relationship brought her openness to poly to light. It became something I started to give serious thought to. I've always considered myself to be a fair, open-minded, and thoughtful person, and I did not want to discount the possibility of polyamory out of hand simply because I was afraid of it. Casting about for ways to save us, and to make me feel safe with her again, made opening our relationship and eliminating the reason she had to lie to me intellectually appealing. Soon, the "one thing leading to another" with my friend (Her from now on) happened, and I found myself in the middle of another situation I never imagined possible, and all my theoretical thinking on poly suddenly became practically relevant.

That was several months ago. In the intervening time, my opinions on the subject have swung wildly, sometimes from one moment to the next. There have been countless times I have convinced myself I don't really love Her "that way", and the next time I see Her I marvel at my skills of self-delusion. I absolutely hate how she was elevated from "just a friend" to a lover, but having her as a lover has enriched my life in so many ways. And yet, I am so very very afraid. Often times when I am with Her I wish JustMe was with her old lover (Him from now on) so that she wouldn't be alone. And when I'm alone at work, or with JustMe, I am plagued by thoughts of them together. I am so very, very angry, and I don't know what to do with it. I exist in a near constant state of elevated cortisol /adrenaline "fight or flight"; near constant fear / rage / heartbreak. It has been getting better, but I still have this static in my head. Like a TV in a bar that is turned up just loud enough that you can't quite tune it out, I have these fears, mistrust, and invasive images. And then, on the high of my love for Her, keeping JustMe and Him apart seems like the most foolish thing in the world. In those moments, my idealism makes me wish for all the people I care for to have as much love in their lives as they can get, regardless of the source / focus of that love.

The visual I use when thinking about this is that of a continuum, with completely open polyamory on one end and strict monogomy on the other. I was quite solidly on the strict monogomy end of the spectrum, but the events of the last year have kicked me into the air and now I'm floating above the spectrum, trying to figure out where I will come down. My old values seem wrong, but I can't yet embrace what seem to be my new values. My "emotional immune system" keeps rejecting them just solidly as my rational mind rejects the monogamy that I used to consider a given for me.

And I do see the wrongness in the imbalance that currently exists in my relationship with JustMe right now, and I am tormented by it. I am trying to learn how to restore that balance, but "closed" is offensive to my mind, and "open" hurts my heart. Especially since "open" implies including Him, my very very dear friend who helped nearly destroy my marriage, and through that nearly destroyed me.

Anyway, there's a lot more to say, but I can feel myself going off the rails, so I will stop for now. Thanks for reading, and I eagerly await any thoughts and/or wisdom you might be willing to share.

vampiresscammy 05-18-2009 12:16 PM

JRiver - I meant both should give up their current interests and look for new ones with no ties to either in their past

JustMe and theque - I can only help based on my experience, having read both sides and going by whats been said, again, I suggest letting these current interests go, taking time together to work out your issues while seeking possible new loves and getting more of a nuetral starting point to come back to giving poly a try

being open doesn't mean you have to do anything, it simply suggests your open to try, my experience suggests there is simply too much pain and hurt surronding these current interests you both have, to me that suggests the best course of action is letting go and moving on

you both need to do whats best for you, individually and together, talk openly and honestly, listen to one another, don't feel or be forced into anything, you both trying poly at the same time sounds like what your interested in, baby steps, and moderation, just take it slow, keep talking and sharing, really talk until you think its all been said, then talk some more :)

I wish you both the best whatever you decide

Quath 05-18-2009 01:46 PM

theque, I don't think you are alone in what you are going through. I think many people find polyamory from falling into it as opposed to deciding that it is what you want from the beginning. So like any other major change to your life, it can leave you very disoriented until you get your bearings.

I like your view that it is a continuum. Polyamorous people do tend to vary in the openness of their relationship from polyfidelity to complete openess with no rules whatsoever. Most poly people fit somewhere in between.

It sounds like you want to get over your anger and fear of Justme and your friend being together. Is that right? I had a hard time visualizing my wife with someone else. However, once I really thought about the idea of compersion (or frubble), I realized I could focus more on her happiness and try to focus less on my jealousy.

I would suggest reading some books on polyamory if you think that could hel you. Sometimes it takes listening to what others have been through to help you find the ground for your situation. If you listen to podcasts, you could listen to Polya,ory Weekly. That is a very good forum for a wide range of polyamory issues and discussions.

I hope you and JustMe can find the happiness you are looking for.

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