A MUCH longer version of my intro post:
Hey, all. So, yeah, I'm new here. And yeah, I'm new to poly. I think I'm probably somewhat unusual in that my wife and I, high school sweethearts, practicing Catholics, and fantastically mutually satisfied lovers, have been together and happily monogamous for a decade before even considering "opening up." And no, it wasn't my idea.
When we met, she was 15 and I was 17. We didn't get married until 4 years later, but we waited for marriage to have sex (though there was some messing around before that) because she was a devoutly religious person, raised in a crazy rightwing baptist household, and was very, very cautious. We were and continue to be best friends, we are each others' favorite people, and we have survived some epic, herculean trials that have only brought us closer over the years. Special needs kids financial troubles, even taking care of a newly disabled family member for over a year who occasionally had violent rages and suicidal moments, which had quite an impact on our home life.
All this stuff that stacks the odds against you, we've survived. Apparently 30% of couples where one has a sudden sexual identity/orientation revelation (like Wifey realizing she was bi) break up immediately, and another 30% or so break up within two years, but we've been together longer than that since, and we're still going strong.
Through it all we grew closer. Our sex life has been fantastic throughout, in ways most people wouldn't believe. We used it as bonding and emotional shelter in the hard times, as a joyous hobby in the good times, and explored BSDM both in private and in somewhat less-than-private spaces. We liken our relationship to two sapling trees wound about each other, grown together and inseparable. When we met, she was so sheltered that she'd had zero sexual contact with anyone, and because of that, I am at the root of her sexual expression. We walked through babysteps from hand-holding to our first kiss to everything beyond, taking a long time for her to get comfortable with each step. We were friends for a year before any of that even started. I taught her how to climax, and, when she was ready to ask for things, she taught me how to spank her. We grew and learned together, we lost our virginity together on our wedding night (well, afternoon; we were in kind of a hurry by then), and have been with nobody else since.
Things are better now. We're financially back on our feet, the kids are improving, we don't take care of that family member anymore, and our sex life is still great. So why take a look at poly? Well, a couple years ago, my wife came to the realization that she was bi. It didn't change anything in our relationship because, well, we were married and happy, and there was nobody she wanted besides me, despite this sudden understanding that tits are nice.
So she knew she was bi, but nothing changed besides how she watched porn with me (not an everyday occurrence, but one that was different after than before), or the things she noticed about the people around her. And then through her work, she met "Jane Doe," as I'll call her. Jane is a bright and entertaining creature, and she and Wifey struck up a quick, casual friendship. Jane had a boyfriend, John Doe (no relation), who she'd been with for a couple years, and they were fun to be around. Eventually, through the proximity of people who work and commute together and hang out for fun besides all that, Wifey saw Jane hugging someone goodbye one morning outside J&J's apartment who was not John. Jane confided to Wifey that this person was her "other sweetie," and that John has a few of those, himself.
Well, it threw us both for a loop, as we'd never been close to anyone who admitted to being poly before (though we've encountered it in a couple disconnected social circles), but again, nothing changed between Wifey and I. Eventually, through working together on a daily basis for a long time (over a year), Wifey and Jane formed a very deep, real friendship, the kind that literally takes years of cooperation and sharing to form. And in the course of that friendship blossoming, something else started to grow in Wifey's heart. Actual attraction to a person besides myself, beyond superficially noticing "oh, that's pretty," had never happened to Wifey before, if you can believe that. So we started talking about it. We asked ourselves and each other some really hard questions, did some painful introspection, and it's now my turn to read Tristan Taormino's Opening Up, after Jane passed it to Wifey.
And that's how I landed here. They've held hands and snuggled on a couch, kissed a couple times, but nothing major. I think Wifey doesn't know how to make a move, and wants to go as slow with Jane as she did with me. Jane seems terrified of starting something romantic with someone already so involved in her life on so many levels and so deeply connected to how she functions on a day-to-day basis (they're not quite but practically business partners), but maybe interested in possibly exploring it (like I said, she's skittish).
I've examined my fears, explored them, and bared them entirely to Wifey. She wept when she realized how hard that was for me. She offered to take it all back and just close that door in herself, never think about it again. I don't know how possible that actually is, though. In any case, she spent a long time listening to my fears, comforting me, and telling me how this was different and separate from our relationship, and I think I get that. She tells me that I am family and tribe, that I am in her bones and her need for me is inherent and part of her character.
No, I'm not looking to get a "hall pass" of some sort out of this. Sure, I have lecherous thoughts about other women, I notice them, but I don't really want them. I guess what I want is for Wifey to be happy. I don't see myself as cuckolded or disrespected or cheated on. This isn't about Wifey needing sex with other people to find something like happiness and me being a sad sack of shit along for the ride. I like and trust Jane, and none of this is about something I'm failing to give Wifey. This isn't something that could conceivably happen a lot, given Wifey's slowness to enter trusting relationships, much less physical ones. I don't feel disrespected because I know how much respect they have for each other, and for me, and I have respect for them as well. I don't feel cheated on or ignored because I'm not; I've been a part of this process.
I want Wifey to better understand and be comfortable with this part of herself, I don't want to have deprived her of something this . . . momentous? Basic? I find it hard to articulate how exactly Wifey's identity as bisexual makes this easier for me, but it does. And not in the way that Jane being female makes it easier, which is a different factor, though that helps, too. My beautiful, lively, vibrant wife, thoroughly sexual creature that she is, should have something like this experience, in a way she and I are both comfortable with, and this seems to be that opportunity.
Compersion is a funny thing. It still irritates my spell-checker, for one. Made-up words don't generally sit well with literary-minded people. But this one seems to fit my experience. I've seen my wife blush and be giddy, shuffle her feet and be shy. I'm getting to see all the flustered reactions she hid from me when I was courting her, from the perspective of most trusted confidant. She was leaning up against me on a couch the first time they held hands, listening to a musical performance, and it was so nice a moment I had to pull out my phone to record the show because I figured Wifey would like to have that saved for later. First time we held hands was during a Fourth of July fireworks show, and it was very memorable, and I thought this should be, too. We have that recording of mine, and we bought the CD.
For going on two years now, I've seen Jane as an ally in making Wifey smile, an ally in relieving her loneliness or stress or fear. This doesn't change that. Jane is good for Wifey, and in no way a threat to me or my relationship with my her. Though I'm sure I'll occasionally need reassurance on that in weaker moments, I know it to be true.
We've only been talking about this, from Wifey's first admission to me that she wanted to kiss Jane, for a few weeks.
So. Questions? Comments?
(Side note, this is attempt #3 of posting this. Apparently, I was too new a user to post something this long the first two times I tried, and now that I have more posts under my username, I'm hoping this one goes through ok)
It sounds like you've weathered the initial shock well, and have adapted to the polyamorous prospect rather quickly (in relative terms). I think you should encourage your wife to continue to explore this new relationship she has with Jane, a little at a time. It is great that you and Jane get along also.
What about John Doe, is he okay with these new developments? Do you have much contact with him?
Overall, your situation sounds rather positive, despite the initial hurdles. I wish you and your wife (and Jane and John) the very best.
Yeah, John and I get along ok. Like I said, they've been involved in our lives for a while now, so I've already been around him enough to like him. He actually came over for Christmas dinner because Jane was out of town visiting family, which was weird, but not uncomfortable. Wifey & Jane have been trying to get us to hang out and be friends for like a year, but our schedules have never really matched up well.
He seems perfectly fine with whatever Jane wants to do. They have fairly separated lives, and their own other partners, and make a big deal about their autonomy, which I suppose is what works for them, so I don't think he's "allowed" to give much of an opinion on the matter. I know Jane doesn't tell him what she thinks of his other partners (they make a big deal about their communication skills, too, which I find amusing at times). I think he's urged caution because of the risk factors, and been otherwise supportive.
I have encouraged Wifey to proceed at times when she's considered retracting her offer of intimacy because communication with Jane has been difficult. We're both scared. I work on communicating with Wifey a lot about all this, and we've talked about what we're each ok with . . . Wifey just wants to kiss and hold hands at this point, and doesn't know if she'll ever want more than that. I've actually initiated discussion with Wifey about how I'd feel about various possible levels of intimacy between them, and I still have lines I'm not comfortable with them crossing.
What are appropriate levels of involvement? Assuming this thing with Jane becomes a relationship, how much can I ask Wifey about it? Jane and John seem to have a "hands off" policy where they don't really talk about it except as it impacts each other (scheduling), but I'm not sure that's healthy either. Do I have any right to be uncomfortable about what Wifey & Jane may do together? Again, remember, decade of monogamy starting from zero sexual experience.
I worry that I'm making myself too involved in this, but I know that if I don't keep pace with it, insist on talking with them both about it from time to time, maybe frequently with Wifey, I'll start to worry, or fear, or feel lonely and disconnected from this beautiful new experience Wifey is getting to have. I need to feel connected to or a part of her sexual experiences in at least a small way, and though I've been a part of this process so far, I know I won't be later on, and I'm not sure yet how to feel about that. If I feel too disconnected from this part of her life, I worry that I might start to feel disconnected from her, or get jealous or resentful. I'm already envious, just of their level of friendship. I miss having friendships of my own (I haven't had those in a while, as we're still working to recover from some heinous financial shit, my best friend of 20 years died a couple years ago, and we've only been in our new town for three years), I miss spending time with (non-Wifey) individuals who make me happy just by their presence, who care about me and worry for me. And yes, I'm envious of the rest (whatever that is, whatever that grows into becoming), too. It sounds absolutely delightful for them, nervousness aside, if they proceed.
I see 2 main issues that make you feel cautious.
First one: Wifey (and I kinda hate that nickname) and Jane are practically business partners. So if they start a full intimate loving sexual relationship, and it goes sour down the road, it could hurt the business. Is it worth the risk?
2nd: How much are you "allowed to know" about the developing intimacy and sex-having between the 2 women? That is totally up to you, your wife, and Jane. Just b/c Jane seems to have a sort of "don't ask don't tell" (DADT) thing with her bf does not mean you and wife need to.
All poly people decide on their own how much to share about their other partners with their other partners. Personally I have no big boundaries about that. My gf and I share most things, even sexual details. I like pretty much full disclosure. My gf likes to tell me a lot of things, and my bf sometimes shares a lot with me, sometimes neglects to share, just because it doesn't occur to him.
As well, some poly couples set boundaries on sexual things they are allowed to do with new lovers, or even longer term lovers. Some even have no oral, no penis in vagina (PIV) rules. Personally, I would HATE that. My gf and bf and I are all adults and are all allowed to do whatever with other partners as long as safer sex is practiced. Time sharing/management is more of an issue. Sex? Eh, go have fun! See you when you get back. Maybe you'll learn a new trick we can try!
Since you and your wife come from such a conservative background, you'll have to take babysteps. Just keep communicating! If DADT makes you nervous, DONT DO IT.
"Wifey" is spousally-approved. I just wanted something more silly to refer to her by than "DW", and it makes her laugh. I know it isn't terribly PC, has a bit of a demeaning tone, but she's a business owner, lifts weights like few women you'll ever meet, and is very much more "type A" personality than myself, so it is humorous. One of her favorite songs is "Pants" by Walker Hayes. Look up the lyrics. :)
And yeah, we've figured out DADT isn't for us. Lots of new ideas to consider here. Baby steps. Baby steps.
I agree that the main keys here are slow, piecemeal progress, and lots of quality communication along the way. Feeling uncomfortable about something isn't about having a "right" to feel uncomfortable, as people feel what they feel, and don't choose their emotions. What you can choose is your words and course of action in response to those emotions.
In most cases, a relationship can go forwards and not backwards, so try to avoid a situation where you say, "I'm not comfortable with where things are *right now,* so please back it off a little." Instead, try to anticipate whether you feel up to handling the "next step," whatever that is, and giving your wife notice ahead of time.
It's very possible that things you don't feel up to today, you'll feel up to tomorrow. However, there's no way to be sure until that time comes. So as you said, baby steps, and much more communication than DADT.
We're pretty good at talking things out, and I know I think further ahead than Wifey on these matters so far. One concern we've discussed is the potential for this to go beyond the cutesy, kissey, hand-holdey stage, beyond attraction and romance (which is all Wifey has in mind at present) and into sexuality, carnal kinda desires.
At present, that's where I start to get uncomfortable. I talked about it with Wifey for hours last night, and I'm much less uncomfortable than I was, but still have a lot to work through, and for now she knows where I'm at on it.
She's also working through some of her own possessiveness issues, trying to figure out what she might be ok with me hypothetically doing as we explore opening up. Right now the answer is "nothing," which is fine because I want nothing, but she feels she has to work on at least figuring out why that is and under what circumstances that might change, because I've been so supportive of her in her conversations with Jane. Casual sex vs.loving friendship with benefits, every circumstance of me opening up scares her, and is hard for her.
I don't really want casual sex, and I'm as slow to form friendships as she is, and the circumstances of my career and social opportunities don't lend themselves well to bonding with others at present, so all her fears are kinda moot for the time being anyway, but she has decided she has to prepare for all eventualities, and I appreciate her efforts.
It is wise of her to address her own reservations before they may begin to affect reality. As for your own limits, it seems that your wife and John have already pretty much gone as far as your current comfort zone allows. If she's okay with that (at least for the moment), then you have a safe space in which to do your own introspection. For the moment, things should remain where they are.
I recently heard that surveys have been done in which men and women were asked what they'd feel more threatened by, their main squeeze having a purely sexual encounter with someone else, or their main squeeze developing very close feelings for someone else. On the whole, the women were more likely to feel threatened by the outside emotional relationship, whereas the men were more likely to feel threatened by their partner having sex with someone else. It has been debated how much of this is genetic programming and how much is social programming, but the theory that has emerged is that men are subconsciously programmed to fear raising another man's child, whereas women are programmed to fear being left for someone else (and losing their source of support).
I take it your wife is nervous about both things: the sex and the emotional connection. Whereas if you were in a situation of being interested in someone, you'd desire the sex and the emotional connection together.
If you keep communicating with each other as things and your feelings evolve, you'll be able to navigate these rocky waters. Let each other know when your limits are getting a bit stretched. A little stretching is probably good exercise; a lot of stretching could cause an emotional injury of some kind. Work on your limitations gradually.
To clarify, Wifey is interested in Jane, not John. John is Jane's Primary. We've all been friends for some time now, to varying but slowly increasing degrees, since well before Wifey started feeling this way toward Jane.
And yes, things are in a stable equilibrium, but mostly because Jane is reluctant to proceed. Aside from having reservations regarding the wisdom of entering a relationship with someone already so entangled through so many parts of her life, she's also somewhat exhausted by some turbulence in her relationship w/ John. Not something I can speak on, really, besides to say that she doesn't have a lot of energy for stufff external to that right now.
So yes, equilibrium, steady-state, holding pattern, whatever. It is very nice to have time to think out possibilities and dangers, ask questions here, and discuss with Wifey. We've been doing a lot of talking.
D'ope, sorry, I meant Jane not John.
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