Why am I reacting this way...?
Why do I feel resentful that my wife is more present, loving and appreciative of me after she sees her boyfriend?
A little background, we've been together 11 years and still love each other. We've had a tough past 5 years and it turns out we don't deal with stress too well, and we've been behaving badly towards each other and fallen into some bad habits which we are in the process of fixing (being reactive, not listening properly, not talking nicely). So while we love each other, I would not say we're totally secure and have complete trust in each other (again, yet). Both of us being depressed (on medication) probably isn't helping either...
We've both always believed in non-monogamy but never did anything about it until recently. My experience was of a more casual nature, but my wife's was deeply emotional. I had quite some issues with jealousy, even though my wife was genuinely more loving towards me as a result of her other relationship. But he turned out to be a fool, so that ended.
Now she's met another man she's very attracted to (but not done anything about other than several lengthy emails back and forth) and from the emails she has shown me, and the one time I've met him, he seems like a genuine nice guy. He has a wife, kids, and 3 girlfriends who he sees about once a month (sounds like he's got it sorted to me)
So this afternoon my wife and I spent the most connected and emotionally intimate time together in years. When I asked what had brought this on, she said that she had seen her new friend and seeing him was reminding her to appreciate me, at which point I got upset and felt resentful that she could only be so connected to me after seeing another man.
I mean really, what is the matter with me? Here's something which is dramatically improving our marriage, and I'm resentful???
Now, how you interpret and act on that feeling is a different matter entirely. Sounds to me that you have already identified the fact that this is not exactly a positive response to the change. That's a huge first step. Have you considered speaking with your wife about it? As long as you keep it about your feelings and not an attack or "opinion" about her or her new relationship, it might be constructive.
This is and interesting (and not uncommon) problem and I am glad that you brought it up, because I think a lot of people can relate.
(I'm going to cut/paste your post a bit in my reply - please feel free to point out if this causes what you said to be taken out of context.)
Secondly, I completely understand where your wife is coming from.
I will expand:
I think that it is not unusual for the established partner to have some degree of resentment that it took another person for their partner to "see the light" in terms of realizing how awesome their established partner is. ("If I am so great, how come you didn't see it before?")
You might be thinking (not saying that you are): "Here is this newcomer, who barely knows her, and his mere presence can cause her to see her immediate surroundings and relationships in a new light? I've been here the whole time, we have these significant conversations, done all this work, but THAT wasn't enough?!"
Let me come up with an analogy...you have a box of old pictures. You kept them because you actually really like them, but most of the time they are in a box in the closet, you take them out occasionally, look through them, reminisce, and back they go. A friend of yours takes up a new hobby, and asks you for your favorite picture. You pick out one of your "old favorites" and give it to them. They take it, clean it up, blow it up, mat it and frame it - and THEN you see this picture in a whole new light. This picture, your favorite, that was hidden in a box of snapshots is now (da-da-DA) a "Work of Art." The picture is still the same picture...but the context has changed.
Sometimes we don't see our partners fully because of all the day-to-day crud (bills, laundry, chores, etc.) and past baggage (ongoing fights/disagreements, past betrayals - however small, times of neglect, etc) that many long-term relationships have. Sometimes, it takes a shift in perspective/context for us to realize/see what was there all along.
My relationship with MrS was good before Dude came along. We weren't perfect, but we were solid. Many of our friends looked at our marriage as the best example of "happy" they had ever seen. Yet still, when (after one of the most tumultuous times of our 20 years together) MrS gave his stamp of approval to my exploring things with Dude..holy shit, MrS came into "focus" in a way that I can only compare to our early NRE days.
THIS man, who has stood beside me through years of my own angst-y shit, who has explored life with me day-by-day-by-dreary-day, who has seen me at my best and my worst - he is still here. Someone I have sometimes taken out my anger on (unwarranted), that I have neglected at times (because he is a fixture in my life), THIS man is here, by my side, through THIS - my exploration of a connection with an "other." Even THIS is not enough to shake his love for me - even though he is uncomfortable at times, even though he is unsure at times, even though he can't predict how things will turn out. Still, here he is, hanging on - to me, to us, to our marriage, to what we have created together. How could I have not seen? How could I NOT love this WONDERFUL man? (Ah-hah! a light - I CAN'T NOT love him...NOW I can really SEE and APPRECIATE this man that is my husband.)
If anything in this (too long) post was helpful - great. If this ramble was not useful, feel free to ignore it.
You imagine it cut out and folded so the "petals" touch. It ends up something like an ice-cream cone ish shape. As things increase in "volume" the move on up. (Hope that makes sense... kinda hard to describe.)
Since "resentment" sounds like "annoyance" could check the increasing volume on that track or "petal":
The in between circle things are what happens if two paths "cross." So could consider those too.
Are you feeling any of those items? If so, could consider what is causing that feeling to appear. Any behavior or yours? Hers? The BF?
Given that you have not fully recovered trust, this resentment thing could be stemming from that also. You could feel resentful because you are not fully trusting of her in polyshipping or fully trusting of her with your emotional safety in general given your shared past history.
Or it could be stemming from the desire to be SEEN in your own right. Like "can't I be considered, appreciated, admired, valued all by myself? Why am I only appearing to be valued when compared to the other guy? What am I? Chopped liver?"
You could tell her how you feel, and seek reassurance that you ARE valued all by yourself. See if that helps alleviate the resentment, and start building more trust in her -- that she will treat you well and your emotional safety better.
Sooner or later, if trust building is the shared goal, you have to take the risk of her dinging you -- just to find out that she is NOT going to ding you. Then trust can come. Like give her the opportunity to show you different. If you don't risk it to give her the chance to show you how she's changed, she can do all she can but nothing moves it forward. You keep it stuck at this square.
YKWIM? Both of you have to put something here to move it along to the next square.
and it's lies between
I wasn't married, and didn't have nearly the years in that you did; but this is exactly how I felt. Exactly.
Marcus, Thank-you for validating my feelings...
I have spoken to my wife about this as we always talk about everything so we can get to the bottom of why we're experiencing these feelings. Like me, she's sad that I'm taking a negative from the experience and unable to just revel in the beauty of the moment we shared. We're thinking it's a combination of me being depressed which makes me tend to dwell on the negatives, as well as feeling insecure in our relationship ATM. I'm changing my shrink and looking for a poly-friendly counselor, and hoping as our relationship grows strong again that I'll be able to focus on the positives like I used to before I got depressed and our relationship got shaky...
JaneQ, Thank-you for letting me know others feel this way and there's nothing wrong with me - that's a relief!!
And you totally nailed how I feel with "Here is this newcomer, who barely knows her, and his mere presence can cause her to see her immediate surroundings and relationships in a new light? I've been here the whole time, we have these significant conversations, done all this work, but THAT wasn't enough?!" "Unfair!!" I say (or have been)
It's nice to hear this from someone else. I've felt my wife has been guilty of this "Sometimes we don't see our partners fully because of all the day-to-day crud (bills, laundry, chores, etc.) and past baggage (ongoing fights/disagreements, past betrayals - however small, times of neglect, etc) that many long-term relationships have" quite a bit in the last few years. I'm guilty of it myself, hopefully to a much lesser degree. Feeling like I've made the effort to remember her good points, while it appeared she wasn't making that same effort has led to quite some resentment for me. But hearing it from someone else has allowed me to let go of that resentment.
"Sometimes, it takes a shift in perspective/context for us to realize/see what was there all along" has made me feel a damn sight better about her other relationship, and even grateful.
"THIS man, who has stood beside me through years of my own angst-y shit, who has explored life with me day-by-day-by-dreary-day, who has seen me at my best and my worst - he is still here. Someone I have sometimes taken out my anger on (unwarranted), that I have neglected at times (because he is a fixture in my life), THIS man is here, by my side, through THIS - my exploration of a connection with an "other." Even THIS is not enough to shake his love for me - even though he is uncomfortable at times, even though he is unsure at times, even though he can't predict how things will turn out. Still, here he is, hanging on - to me, to us, to our marriage, to what we have created together. How could I have not seen? How could I NOT love this WONDERFUL man? (Ah-hah! a light - I CAN'T NOT love him...NOW I can really SEE and APPRECIATE this man that is my husband.)" made me cry to hear it from another woman...
So no, your post was not at all too long. I really needed to hear this from someone else, particularly a woman, particularly a woman going through the same experience my wife is.
I'm not totally cool with it all yet, but your replies have helped in a big way. That almost perpetual sick wrenching feeling in my gut is now just slightly uncomfortable, and I'm feeling like the foundations have been laid for me to forgive and heal, and move forward with this beautiful woman I love and want to share my life with. So I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
JaneQ, are you a counselor? If not, you should be...
No, I am not (officially) a counselor but ... looking at these feelings, and where they come from, comes into play on a daily basis at my job (and, I think, helps me do it better - actually, reading on these forums has accelerated my understanding of my clients lives/feelings - in ways that has nothing to do with poly).
I'm glad that what I had to say was helpful. I was a little afraid that I was a bit too... impassioned? but these are deep and powerful emotions that we are dealing with here. Potentially life-changing.
Reading on these forums, all of these situations, all of these reactions - has really helped me in terms of my own perspectives, and all of the OTHER perspectives out there. I'm glad I could reflect some of this back to you. Your reply to my post really touched me (in so many ways); THIS is what we are here for - to share our experiences and support each other, help make the road a little smoother.
May your journey be enlightening...wherever the roads may lead ("construction zones" and all :p).
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