Contemplating options with a mono partner
It's lovely to find this forum and I look forward to learning a lot, meeting some nice people and getting lots of food for thought here. I'm currently trying to figure out what I want next and it looks like this might be a good place to explore some ideas.
I've been with my mono partner for just over ten years. When we met I had been poly for about a year and had a number of casual partners. After 6 months or so it was clear our partnership was serious and potentially long-term. We moved in together and I decided to return to monogamy with her (I had previously been mono, mostly out of poly-ignorance) - I had no desire to see others at that time anyway.
After another three years I was beginning to be interested in exploring relationships with others. My partner wasn't entirely comfortable but knew it was something I'd always be interested in and was willing to give it a go as long as we remained very much the primary partnership. I began two secondary relationships but within a few months it was clear it wasn't working well. In retrospect, one would have been better as it would have impacted less on our time together as a primary couple. It was also a bad time in other ways: we'd been trying for a child for a year or so and during this time my partner conceived and miscarried. I was also dealing with some physical health problems and, again we realise in retrospect, was going through regular bouts of morphine withdrawal which impacted on my mental health so I didn't manage my emotions or my partnerships very well. In the end it all got very messy. I ended the other two relationships and we spent the next year rebuilding our relationship. I settled back into monogamy and was quite happy to do so after the emotional trauma of our brief time back in poly-land.
Fast forward six years and we're now civil partners (we're in the UK), we have two young children and we have found and spent the last several years doing up our dream, long-term family home. Our partnership is solid and I am mostly very happy. Can you tell there's a but here somewhere?
I am beginning to be interested in exploring other options again. This has been triggered by a few things. Firstly now that I have finished breastfeeding our youngest (I carried both kids in the end) I am experiencing that 'reclaiming my body' thing that many women go through after having children. Secondly I have two good friends - both mothers who I have met through the children - who have recently begun to have relatinships outside their marriages. One is poly and her husband is doing the same. The other is having affairs which makes me uncomfortable, but they are her choices, not mine. Either way, both are finding renewed vigour in life through their encounters with others and it's making me think.
Finally, I am not sexually satisfied in my partnership. Our emotional bond is strong and all my emotional needs are well met by my partner (and my existing circle of friends). However although we cuddle plenty, sleep together and she assures me she finds me attractive we are rarely sexual together. We can regularly go three months or more without having sex. We have talked about it and we keep talking about it. I am confident there is no major underlying issue, she just isn't a particularly sexual person and as much as she enjoys it when it happens, she doesn't feel the need for it as much as I do.
A few months ago when we were discussiong our newly poly friends she mentioned that she was aware it was something that might come up for us again at some point and that she wasn't averse to contemplating it given we are in such a different place ourselves these days. This was a surprise to me as I had assumed we would always have to be mono and it was a sacrifice I was willing to make given how good everything else is in our lives together. At the time I said I was really quite happy, but it has planted a seed. So now I am pondering, and there is a definitely part of me that feels that poly is the way I am meant to be, however much I might be willing and able to put it in a box for the sake of this partnership.
In that conversation she mentioned a few things she thought she would struggle with if we were to go back there. One is me having a regular, committed secondary partner, which in theory is fine. I'd be quite happy to agree to only having casual sexual liaisons outside our partnership, but I'm also aware that we're all human and I'm not sure how it would pan out of I found myself developing stronger emotional attachments to someone who started out as a casual lover. On the other hand our lives are very busy. We have two small children, an old, rambling house and garden that needs constant attention, we have jobs and hobbies. There isn't a lot of spare time in our lives so in the interests of not overloading myself too horribly ocassional, casual, sexual encounters with others might be all I can manage for now.
The other is men. She is a lesbian, I am bi. She really struggles with the thought of sex with men full stop - she will turn away if hetero sex scenes come up on the TV - and the idea that her partner might go out and do such a thing really puts her on edge. It concerns me that if I were to have sex with a man that it might put her off wanting to have sex with me at all. (In the time we've been together she has only known me to see other women).
I am also concerned that if I were to open myself up to poly again it just might not feel right. I'm big on equality in our partnership and last time it really felt unbalanced that I was having these other relationships and she wasn't. She had no interest in it then and she wouldn't now. I guess that's something that just comes with a mono-poly relationship, but it doesn't feel quite right somehow.
Finally she has also said that she wouldn't want the kind of set-up were she would meet my other partners, where they would be friends of us both and part of our joint lives. Most of the other poly people we know have a fair amount of openness within their partnerships in this regard and I have to admit it's what feels most natural to me. It means that if I was sleeping with someone I'd have to make an effort not to go to the same gatherings/events as them if I was there with my partner/family. I couldn't introduce them to my kids. I couldn't contemplate exploring any of my existing friendships to see if they could turn into friendships-with-ocassional-benefits. (Which would probably be my preferred way to move forward at first. Some of my friends are pretty hot.)
Ultimately as much as I ponder this I know that she will come first. Our partnership, our family and our lives together are too important to me to risk damaging too much. But we are very stable right now, and I think we might be able to stand a bit of rocking.
And this has turned into quite an epic introduction! Congratulations - and thanks - if you made it all the way through.
I look forwrd to exploring all these thoughts more on here. And getting to know some of you and where you are all at. :)
Sorry I took so long to get signed on and welcome you, but welcome, welcome to our forum. I can see from your post that you have many concerns to work out, and I just want to say that if you take things slowly, and communicate a lot with your partner, it will help.
As far as poly being balanced, I just want to point out that it doesn't always have to be. My own poly family is a case in point, we are a V with two "arm" partners and one "hinge" partner. The hinge has a romantic relationship with both arms, but the arms just have a platonic relationship with each other. Therefore, we are "unbalanced" -- it is uneven which of us has two partners and which has one (or one-half, if you want to get mathematical).
But we are okay with that. There's plenty of love to go around, and we have a life that works for us. I think that polyamory opens up a wide, wide world, of many configurations, with all kinds of geometry. That's just diversity, and it's not always a bad thing.
The most important thing is to find out what works for you and your partner. Lots of checking up with her about how she is feeling about things will probably help a lot; it will give you an idea which directions can handle some more "pushing," and which need some easing off.
Remember, too, that people's thoughts and feelings can change little by little over time. For example, your partner might find hetero sex to be a little freaky, but if she's exposed to it just by small degrees, she may find that she has a tolerance for it (even if it's not something she'd want to do herself).
I hope Polyamory.com can be of some help to you as you seek to sort things out. Again, sorry for the lateness of my welcome, but it's sincere and respectful and so I hope it will do.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful and sincere reply. It is very much appreciated. :)
Since finding this forum and posting this intro post I've been doing a lot of lurking and am finding it extremely useful. So many people posting here are so deeply aware, open and honest. I've not felt the need to post again because there is so much learning to be had just from reading the many words of wisdom that are already here. Thank you, to you and to everyone for sharing so forthrightly here.
The one thing that has become clear to me from my reading - about so many, varied relationships and situations - is that I need to really figure out what my needs are and to communicate them much more clearly to my partner. The depth of emotional honesty needed to make poly work is much more than I think many mono partnerships have. It's easy to cruise, to begin to take things for granted a little and I think that maybe that's where we are. We haven't challenged ourselves to look at our partnership, to pick out the bits that maybe aren't working so well any more (and celebrate the bits that are) for a very long time. There's no blame in that. Day-to-day life, raising kids, etc is plenty enough to be getting on with and when the basic relationship is solid enough it's easy to leave it in a corner knowing it's solidly and reliably there, even if it starts to feel a bit flat after a while. I know now that addressing that is where we have to start and you never know, I might find that once we've given ourselves a bit of a shake off that I feel much more settled with the idea of long term monogamy again. And if it doesn't, we'll have a much stronger base to start exploring alternative options from.
We have a child-free night in a hotel coming up next weekend, so I intend to raise this then. I also think I'm going to get hold of a copy of 'opening up'. I'm in no rush here, and wherever we go next it has to be right - for us. Once I'm over my initial anxiety about challenging the status quo I think I'll enjoy getting deep and meaningful with my partner again. I just need to approach it in a way that doesn't threaten or upset her. That's my challenge. I've been known to put my foot in it before by wording things badly. Hopefully all this forethought will help...
Thank you again for your reply. :)
You seem to have a good head on your shoulders. You're not opposed to returning to monogamy if it's proven that poly just won't work for you, so that's a bonus.
It also sounds like you had a lot going on the last time you tried poly, and that always makes it harder. I always think you should be on a solid foundation before you start building additions. From your description, your foundation needed work, and you've worked on it, and now it's solid.
You're right to be suspicious of the idea that you can have just-sex with others and not allow emotions to bleed in. Some people can pull that off, but if you have doubts, then you're probably not one of them. You don't seem interested in casual sex with acquaintances, so that's not likely to give you the "vigor" you're seeking anyway.
My only advice is that if you go forward, make sure your partner is prepared for you to have romantic relationships with other people, because my hunch is that it will go there anyway, and if she's not prepared then she'll feel like the rug's been pulled out from under her feet.
That's great that you're opening the doors of communications on things that we so often take for granted. Not only will it help your partner prepare for whatever's ahead, it will help you prepare too. So I recommend sharing your feelings with one another in a candid way.
I'm glad you're finding the forum to be helpful so far.
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