Is this poly FAIL?
My husband and I have been together for 21 years, and married for 19. Our relationship became progressively sexless about 15 years ago, though I did not wish it to be so. We had therapy, had bouts where he tried to physically connect again, but it never lasted long. We began drifting further apart, though we rarely fought, and mostly got along. I slipped and had an affair. After 3 months, the guilt was weighing on me, so I ended the affair, and insisted we get back into marriage counseling. Shortly thereafter, he suggested we open up our relationship to others. At the time, I was not sure about it, but felt I did not have the right to complain after my mistake, and was actually curious to try it, anyway. He soon connected with a high school girlfriend who was married but open, and they have been seeing each other every other month or so since (she lives about 7 hours from us). I had a few dating scenarios that didn't go anywhere, but am currently dating a couple who are new to polyamory. I met him first via a mutual hobby, found out he had permission to have a girlfriend, began to date him, then met his wife, connected well with her, and the three of us decided to try dating.
My problem is this- my husband approached me about 5 months ago, said he loved me but was no longer "in love" with me, and wanted to separate. He said he was in love with his girlfriend, but the girlfriend has no plans to leave her husband. He said he no longer thought of me as "primary". My heart was broken, and I grieved for the future of our 6 year old daughter. Shortly thereafter, he came to me, said he made a horrible mistake, wasn't sure what came over him, and asked me to forgive and forget. I forgave, but I could not forget. He continued to press me to let the hurt go and to trust him again, and he made some strides to reconnect sexually. At first, it was as if we were having a second honeymoon, but, within a couple of months, he drifted again. One month ago, he again told me he was no longer in love with me, that he just didn't have it in him to try, and felt we should stay together as friends for a few more years, as we cannot afford to keep up 2 residences and we feel we want to give our daughter an intact home as long as we can. I am in more pain than I have ever been in my life. I still love him and it is a living hell to be under the same roof with someone who is no longer in love with me. My couple has also pulled back temporarily, as they feel I need some space to process everything going on. They have been there for me as a support system, and we talk almost every day, but I am currently without lovers.
My question is this: is it common in polyamorous relationships for someone to quickly fall in love with another to the degree that they wish to leave a long-time relationship? And how is that poly, if one replaces another? That sounds more to me like serial monogamy. I am beginning to suspect that he is not truly poly, while I am able to care for and desire others without my love for my husband diminishing. I'm not sure what to do at this point. I was able to live with the idea of my husband's girlfriend as long as I believed that he loved me, but now I find myself feeling threatened and jealous. To that end, I am baking cookies when he goes to visit her and communicating occasionally via FB messaging, but I find myself feeling resentful of the situation. It's not miserable all the time- in some ways, we are connecting better as friends than we did in a romantic relationship, but my heart hurts.
Focus on what IS here.
Set his name aside for a moment.
In general, do you feel you need to be connected to a legal husband person as friends AND lovers?
If so, your current DH is not longer that man then. That much is clear and has been clear.
A new person cannot come in to fill the legal husband role if he's still holding on to it. Best for him to vacate that place and for you both to agree to be co-parents and friends and good exes instead. Whether you live together for a while or not -- that's another thing. But start sorting yourselves out here.
What is love to you? Do you subscribe to triangular love theory?
If so? Even if consummate love as run it's course on this one? It doesn't mean you cannot keep loving in another form.
Right now since he's trying to share inner life feelings kinda... hodge podge up and down? And I'm not getting that you have shared with him about the cheating and you feel your own up and down?
I'm not sure how much real emotional intimacy or mind intimacy you have been sharing. You are clear that you do not share body intimacy.
So if you guys are parked in "empty love" right now where's it just the marriage committment to be together that is holding you together? It feels flat? To me it seems like progress/deepening relationship to just end the marriage. End the conjugal duties. Not just to free up "legal spouse" slots for some future happiness to come along to fill with less brouhaha.
But to open up to loving each other in mind/heart intimacy and really BE good friends who are committed to the raising of the child in a positive way. That I think you can both get behind. Or sound like you could. I'm not sure either one is really behind holding up marriage vows that don't mean anything any more.
Platonic companionate love is more connected than empty love alone.
To me getting back into right relationship with each other (even if it means changing relationship shape) IS loving behavior and it is progress than keeping the unsatisfying status quo. You will both process loss of the marraige, but hopefully can move it to embracing a new thing. You may need time apart before you can be together again as friends and coparents. You may need pro counseling support in the transition. I cannot predict what you may need.
You guys need to talk and sort yourselves out on this. What each is and is not willing to do. DIRECTLY. Rather than avoiding facing the state of the relationship and doing things like having affairs or suggesting Opening Up to polyamory from a broken relationship place rather than a health one.
Land THIS relationship well and bring it back down to Earth well before launching new ones. Even new ones with each other. (ex: friends and coparents)
I dunno if that helps. I'm sorry you are down today. :(
Its possible he isn't poly, sure. It doesn't really matter what the terms are though. The fact is he broke up with you. Now you'll have to move on some how for the sake of your child and yourself. You are free to go about anything you want in your relationships now without consulting him about his boundaries. That's tough I would think to adjust your mind to being single again and yet still have him as a friend. You have every right to grieve. You'll get throught it though.
Usually easier to build a friendship with an ex after taking a few months to grieve-away from them.
Sorry you are hurting.
I don't think this a "poly fail" issue.
I think this is a relationship over issue and possibly an "upholding personal boundary" issue.
GalaGirl, I guess I left out some information in my OP. The night I broke off the affair, I told my husband everything. His initial reaction was anger, followed by guilt, as he felt his long term physical neglect had left me vulnerable. I do not hold him responsible for my choices, as I could have made other decisions. I could have been up front as soon as a mutual attraction developed between this other man and me and asked for permission to see him.
I have been completely open about my relationships with others during the year and a half we've been poly, and he has been pretty open with me as well. In fact, he has, and continues to provide the occasional advice about my romantic endeavors.
In terms of whether I need my legal husband to be both friend and lover, I'm not sure. I'm not even sure I have been "in love" with him all this time. I'm not sure how I feel about anything. It never occurred to me to question my feelings or to label my love. I had made my peace with the idea that we had a somewhat platonic love, and that I had the ability to meet my physical needs with others. But I never thought that breaking up was an option. We have been together half of my life. I think of him as I do any other family member. The idea of living without him now feels like losing an internal organ. I think the triangular love theory makes a lot of sense- I had not read about it until today.
He blamed himself for years for the lack of sex. He felt there was something physically or emotionally wrong with him. It appears that having a girlfriend led him to realize that he was perfectly capable of being sexual... just not with me.
LovingRadiance, I agree that it is sometimes ideal to take a few months to give each other space in order to grieve and to rebuild a friendship. This is extremely difficult in our situation, as we are co-parenting and sharing the same home. We are still sleeping in the same bed for now, but at some point, I might suggest we have our own separate rooms. Right now, I feel the need to have some closeness, but I'm not sure it's healthy for the long term.
Right now, we're both trying to figure out the new rules. What is allowed? What is off limits? How much do we share with one another? And how long can we live this way? We are both scrambling to get our finances in order, and we are waiting until we can afford to make a move, and until our daughter is a little older. She has some struggles- ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder, and it takes a village right now to keep her together. So, for now, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
redpepper, I believe I will get through this. I am not censoring my feelings, and I am trying to be kind to myself.
Thanks for the feedback. I have a lot to chew on right now...
Just remember, its all temporary.
Your daughter needs to know you both love her.
People wrongfully assume that children need both parents to be in love with one another. But, they don't. They do need to know their parents will prioritize the childs needs over their own personal issues-but they need not be in love. :)
You can both be good parents-coparents-without being in love.
Take each step one at a time!
GIve yourself lots of room to breathe!
OK, this is going to be long. Bear with me.
Thanks for the clarify and good on you for confessing the affair asap. That is good then that he knows. Def a plus!
Basically is sounds like you both had fallen out of love with each other, but did not acknowledge it or really dealt with it directly. Opening Up when broken -- that's not really a solution to the problem of "no longer in love with each other" if you never address it direct first. It's kind of avoidy actually.
It is one thing if you talk about not being in consummate love any more directly and THEN agree to stay married and agree that companionate love of the strong-friend kind is enough to bond you in a marriage. And Open Up to meet sexual needs or passion needs and other needs not being met here. And both feel happy and fulfilled there.
But it does not sound like this was entered into with intention after both talking it out and both agreeing to this relationship model. It sounds more like you both just floated into that space without really facing or discussing the issues of emotional intimacies and body intimacies of a lover role fading down. Or the practical sides of relationship management in such a model.
Here is what is:
The marriage like a garden you once both used to tend together and now neither one actively tends to it really. Other than you both still have a key to the gate, and you have a plot. And...you both come in to water two plants only.
The only plants you tend in there are the kid (parenting) and the friendship plant. (you sound like you are good enough friends.) We can't transplant those plants to a new garden you both are more excited about tending? The garden of friendship & co-parenting? Or paint a new sign for the gate of THIS marriage garden to read "Companionate Love Marriage" instead?
I don't see what is horrible about moving the plants to like to a new plot or painting a new sign for the door. Relate to each other. Decide together.
I'm glad you are both honest and open about your extramarital relationships. That's a good thing and bodes really well for post marriage friendship. I'm very hopeful/optimistic for you guys in your Transition time.
How long has that been going on? Just now? Like emotionally flooded/overwhelmed? Or has this been a while? Have you been emotionally numb/depressed a long while over all this?
Is it really "made your peace" with all this or "resigned" yourself to it rather than actively sorting it out? Do your self care that you need to do. Check in with him to see if he's been experiencing any of that and if this is why he's been sexually repressed.
Depression is not fun. Please care for selves and each other emotionally appropriately.
But again, he's not a lover-husband if he's "just like any other family member."
And this sounds like it it speaking to habit and a fear of living in another way more than speaking to being in love with him. On the bright side, you do love each other -- just in a new shape. Here's what is:
You guys are good roomies.
You guys are good friends.
You guys are good co-parents.
It sounds like in these areas you are good. So... yay! :) Much better than a split where those positives do not even exist! You get options others don't even get -- like keeping the marriage intact but changing the marriage expectations/agreements/boundaries and being INTENTIONAL about being in a companionate love marriage arrangement where you both feel happy/fulfilled.
And while painful to acknowledge that you are no longer lovers, take the steps to arrange you lives along those lines -- good roomies, good friends, and good co-parents while you have to share a home for financial reasons. Either for a time (a year?) or permanently. You both can discuss what is best for all in your new arrangement.
And deep down you know you can hack this. Look! You have made changes to the relationship shape before --
You can SO work this show and change relationship shape AGAIN. You guys have done it before and can do it again. That is comforting.
So even though it took the long way around -- you both have arrived at the place where you must deal with WHAT IS. And the fact is that neither of you is in love with each other. So how do we agree to be together NOW in this phase of the relationship?
You can decide things like...
KEEP MARRIAGE SHAPE AND KEEP EMOTIONAL MANAGEMENT STYLE: You both can choose to stay there and just be married for married's sake, and not discuss anything at all and continue to avoid. "Empty Love" portion of the triangle theory. (I don't think this feeds either of you. Do not suggest you stay there.)
CHANGE MARRIAGE SHAPE: You can choose to create a companionate love marraige agreement --from a place of going there with INTENTION and not just floating into there. Make your new boundaries/limits/agreements then for living together in this shape.
CHANGE MARRAIGE SHAPE: You can choose to divorce neatly/clean and quick with a mediator to guide you thru a DIY divorce and make some kind of responsibilities plan since you have entangled finances/child to care for/need to live together for a while yet.
CHANGE EMOTIONAL MANAGEMENT STYLE: You can choose to love each other in a new shape -- as friends and co-parents and figure out the new boundaries of that role but change your emotional management on your own to bravely talk about these things as they come up rather than avoidy.
CHANGE EMOTIONAL MANAGEMENT:
You can choose to seek a counselor to help tend to the emotional side being in a marriage of companionate love. This new shape marriage agreement and what it will entail to take advantage of practical marriage benefits -- like filing joint taxes, being on each other's health insurance, car insurance rate lower, etc. Also acknowledging what to do in future if one of you wishes to take on a different legal spouse -- how to accommodate for that. And help you learn better communication and emotional management skills that you will need for this shape.
CHANGE EMOTIONAL MANAGEMENT: You can also choose to seek a counselor to tend to the emotional side of an amicable split and mourning the end of a marriage. And help you learn better communication and emotional management skills that you will need for this shape -- whether or not you remain roomies post divorce.
To me it sounds like CHANGE must happen in the emotional management bucket and in the marriage shape bucket.
You don't sound like you hate each other. It just sounds like your shared love changed shape into friend love. Which is fine. Relationships all evolve/grow.
ALLOW yourselves to adapt with it and grow with it too.
I know this is all hard to feel and do. But seriously -- I am way optimistic for you both finding your way through this. I sense there's real caring here rather than animosity. You guys can support each other through a Change For the Better -- whatever shape it will come in.
Play ball, play hard, RELATE. Sort yourselves out and your new shape to be.
Hang in there.
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