Being poly when primary relationship needs work
I am in a committed, long-term relationship. Not legally married because we can't be, but we do consider ourselves married. We've been poly from the beginning, almost 15 years ago, but neither of us have seriously dated anyone else since I broke up with my boyfriend 6 years ago.
After the breakup, I wasn't pushing to go back to dating anyone. I needed to heal, then my wife and I were planning our wedding, and then there were job changes, and life in general. Nothing that meant I couldn't, but things that kept me busy and took up lots of attention. We've also been trying, unsuccessfully, to get pregnant, and I've put a lot of other things on hold because I just didn't know what life would be like in 3, 6, 9 months from any given point.
I've had a couple false starts in the last couple years, with people that just weren't a good match. Things fizzled fairly quickly in both instances. Still, I felt that my wife had issues with both of them (not unfounded - part of the reason they fizzled). She hasn't said she doesn't want me to date, but I've been being very cautious about being actively poly again, partly to keep her comfortable. But I am realizing her comfort level isn't improving as long as there is no real person on the horizon. She doesn't know how she'll feel until there is a real situation to think about.
Currently, I'm getting closer to there being something with a new guy, very,very slowly and cautiously. My wife and I are also talking over all our old poly rules, and seeing if they still fit. Some do, some don't, and we're figuring out where we are comfortable now.
Being actively poly again makes me feel so happy. It's not this guy, although I like him a lot. It's the part that makes me feel like me again, after it being gone for a long time. In the past few years I've dropped a lot of things I used to enjoy, and being poly is just one of them. I am ready to start claiming some of that back.
But. Now that I am coming out of that fog of lost time, I am also realizing that my marriage is seriously lacking in a few areas. One of those, of course, is my desire to be poly again vs. her desire to let everything just go on as it has ben for the past few years. I am willing to do the work to bring it back to where it needs to be. We've made it through a lot together, and I don't have any doubts that we can make it through this, too.
Even if my marriage was 100% wonderful, I would feel the same about wanting to have outside relationships. No matter how many times I am willing to drop a new interest in order to keep my wife comfortable, the end is the same. I am still interested in seeing someone else.
I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with building up their primary relationship while also starting a secondary relationship? Most of the people I know in this position in real life have used being poly as a way to avoid the problems, and then end up getting divorced. Is it even possible to work on one without dropping the other?
Ideally, I'd like to continue to slowly pursue this new guy while working on things with my wife, but wondering if this is only a recipe for distaster and I am fooling myself if I think otherwise?
It might help if you made yourself an actual list of what other areas you feel your marriage is not as strong as as you'd like it to be, as you didn't list anything other than you want to be poly and she's content (or perhaps prefers) for you to not date.
It might also help if you asked your wife to write down what areas she could be happier in regarding your marriage.
Then I'd get to work on figuring out how to improve them.
Poly is one of the issues, though not the main one. The others have to do with some work-life balance and other parts of the relationship that have gotten somewhat off-kilter as we've both been absorbed in other things. The fertility issues certainly play into it as well, as we both are dealing with that grief in our own ways.
They are all things that have been discussed, but aren't resolved completely, and I do plan to continue to bring them up and work on them, and have a time set to discuss them again in a few days (after a big deadline). Overall, I feel like we are strong and the relationship is mostly good, but there is still work that needs to be done or we might not be so good down the road.
I have been very clear about keeping our issues separate from the dating issues. For example, too many late nights at work means not enough time together. I do NOT want to date someone else because I feel I get too little time with you. I don't want you to feel I am abandoning you for someone else. I also don't want to cut into the limited time we do have together right now. How do we negotiate this around our schedules and that of the person I am interested in? Etc.
I guess I am feeling like I am asking to balance our relationship by fixing the problems, and at the same time asking to unbalance it by starting a new relationship. I am also feeling like this new relationship has been very slowly growing over a couple of years, and I don't want to disrupt it right now, when it is finally gaining momentum. I will, of course, if needed, but was hoping to hear how other people have successfully juggled something like this. Or not.
It might also be helpful to set up a limit. Here we can out of the gate date somebody 2x a week. If that relationship gets serious/lasting, we are welcome to ask for more time, but we can't just start scheduling more than that without a discussion. We each have up to 4 nights a week that we can be off doing things a week if we want, (dates, friend activities, bowling) and will be at home for 3 nights.
One of those is a set date night with each other and one a set night a week to both be home together, so we know if we have a problem we want to discuss, that we can count on us both being home that day. It makes it possible to hold of on talking about an issue late at night when the other person gets home when emotions are more likely to get tense, if we know that we have a whole night we can talk about it in a couple of days. That third night is important for household chores and such, it sucks when your partner schedules themselves so heavily that you're stuck picking up the household slack while they're out having fun.
Just to be clear, neither of us takes advantage of all those, we are home more often than that. We have both noticed that if we get that busy it does take a toll on us, so although above is what we've negotiated, if we were both gone 4 nights a week for a few weeks and at least one of those nights a week wasn't a group activity where we were together, we'd probably quickly formally negotiate decreasing it in order to enable us to have more time to hang out together. I think our agreement is currently more liberal than it should be for both our comforts, so thanks for the reminder to check in with my husband and see what he thinks!
I tend to think 2 date nights a week max with a new person works well (lots of people are only comfortable with one a night too, so I'd really discuss that upfront with your partner. We usually only end up with one date night a week at first, since other people have schedules to juggle too - and its easier to check in on how your partner is doing with things if you start slow ), even if you were looking for a co-primary relationship (which you dont seem to be) it's not like it cant be ramped up later, but it is MUCH more traumatic to everybody involved if you start off with 3-4 nights a week and your partner has to say its a problem and ask you to date less. Deal with problems before they occur, I always say.
I will say - if you don't want to cut into your already limited time together, and she feels the same, I really would advise you NOT to date others, unless perhaps she'd be OK with being friends and hanging out with the person you were dating so you were still spending much of your "hanging out with your other partner time" with her too. Most of the time that's not so likely to be doable for all involved. But to reiterate - if you or she don't feel you have enough time together as your relationship is, or its just enough to keep you or her from feeling abandoned, starting another relationship is asking for trouble in my opinion.
Thanks for the thoughtful response. It's nice to hear how someone else arranges things, and it gives me some things to think about.
We are both busy and work comes home with us (I work from home as a contractor and also have my own business; she often works late plus has a volunteer commitment that takes up a significant amount of time, mostly at night). I think this contributes to the fact that I feel like we don't get enough time together, even though we are home together much of the time, eat dinner together most nights, see friends together on weekends, etc.
I think a regular date night would be good, and it's been a while since we've done that. Especially if I am seeing someone else, I think she will need that. And I need the quality time, not just quantity. I think that regular time focused on us as a couple would strengthen a lot of areas that I am feeling are weak right now. So thank you for mentioning it. Seems simple, but it's something we've lost track of.
I'd love to be at a place where I could see someone 1-2 times a week, but I don't even manage that with good friends. It's a moot point anyway, since the person I am interested in is only available once every 3-4 weeks, which right now feels fine and comfortable for everyone, and plenty slow enough for discussions between times.
At any rate, we are not talking about extensive amounts of time away from home. It also looks like it would overlap with times when she is busy. Or like a couple weeks ago, where we all socialized for part of the evening and then she excused herself to finish up some work. I do think there is the potential for a level of friendship between them, which is one of the only reasons I am considering it at all right now. Frankly, if we can't all be at my home and socialize once in a while, it's just never going to work, anyway.
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