My boyfriend's wife wants him to break up with me
Hi poly people! This isn't my first time in a poly situation but I'm having some difficulty deciding how to navigate some things at the moment.
The characters in this scenario are me (Berta), my primary (Doug), my significant secondary (Red), and his wife (Jordan). I am a 26 year old female in the San Francisco area and my primary lives in Seattle. We open our relationship when we aren't getting along and my primary is no longer interested in being in an open relationship.
He has been making a lot of efforts over the past few months to make some changes I needed to see and I'm happy about that, but he's made these changes before and they haven't stuck. I don't feel like exclusivity with him is a healthy choice for me right now but it is something I could see us doing down the road. I had two secondary boyfriends and to compromise I am breaking up with the one Doug dislikes. That's not going to be easy but I'm not conflicted about it because Doug is very important to me.
Segway to my significant secondary and his wife. Red and Jordan are in an open marriage. I met Red last summer and we clicked, but he thought I lived in Seattle and I thought he was in a monogamous marriage. His wife Jordan told me around Halloween that their marriage is open and within about an hour of learning that, Red and I were making plans for a date. I was looking for casual sex and after negotiating the terms of what our relationship would look like we started hooking up. Jordan and I check in with each other frequently and we're friendly. Red recently reached out to Doug via email and that went well too. Things are fucking awesome with me and Red and things with Doug are pretty great too.
Red and Jordan's marriage is not that great though. Jordan dates a lot of people and also has significant secondaries. Red was monogamous until he met her and adjusted to her needs to be with her. She has broken the rules they've tried to set and is very inconsistent about what she needs from him. She moved out of their apartment and stopped having sex with him, but still wants him to be there for her emotional needs.
Red and I talk online and via text all the time when we're not together. We haven't had overnight stays for the six months we've been dating, by my request. We made some plans for a sleepover so we can have morning sex, and Jordan got upset so Red cancelled our plans at the last minute to attend to her needs. I was really hurt by that, but he apologized to me and I got over it. Jordan also apologized because she didn't mean for him to cancel our plans. I realized that I shouldn't be getting that upset about him attending to his wife's needs and I apologized to them both, and things were going smoothly again for all of us until this past Thursday.
Red and I had been making plans for a few weeks to stay at a haunted hotel together and we were both really excited about it. Jordan told Red she was upset because he doesn't take her to haunted hotels, but the trip was my idea and I booked the room. We had already changed the date of our trip once so they could do something together.
We had a great time. It was an amazing night and an amazing day after that. When Red got back Jordan was really, really upset. She gave him an ultimatum: monogamy, or they're breaking up. Red said he would resent her if he had to break up with me because he hasn't been this excited about a relationship in a long time. That's part of what I told Doug when he brought it up as well.
So, I proposed a compromise for Red to offer Jordan and she accepted it. Red and I won't have overnight stays or plan adventure trips together because that seems to be Jordan's trigger and I respect her needs. I'm mad at her though because she just doesn't care about my needs right now, she seems to believe hers are just flat out more important. When Red has asked her for monogamy or for more emotional support, she has told him to work it out himself or seek the support outside of their marriage. Now she's asking him for monogamy and he doesn't want it. Isn't that how it always seems to go??? I'm glad because I don't want to stop seeing him either. I fucking love the guy! He's amazing.
I need to express my feelings to Jordan though, because that's the nature of our relationship. We are open and honest. But I've never had to express this kind of frustration to my secondary's primary partner before. I don't want to comment on their relationship because that's up to them, but I'm frustrated about her double standards. I want to work them out with her but in the past when I have helped couples I've dated improve their relationship I've gotten dumped or hurt. What do you guys think I could say to her to make my feelings clear, while respecting their marriage and her feelings?
My relationship with Red started off as casual sex, and it has blossomed into more than that. Since Doug lives far away and Jordan has moved out and pushed Red away in many ways, he and I have leaned on each other for emotional support in ways that are more characteristic of a primary relationship. This was unexpected and is also difficult to negotiate.
I'm not sure that I have any good advice yet, but I'm just curious about something -- what does "primary" mean to you guys? What does it mean that you're primary with Doug when you guys don't live together and don't agree on the parameters of your relationship (open vs. closed)? What does it mean for Red and Jordan to be primary if they also don't live together, don't have sex, and also don't agree on the parameters of their relationship? It seems to be different from how I'd use the word.
You're so right!
For Red and Jordan, they are best friends and husband and wife. They have been going back and forth about breaking up for awhile. I think that the circumstances have caused a lot of confusion about who our primaries are and that's part of what I'm struggling with, and I believe that's what Jordan and Doug are also struggling with.
Maybe these aren't the right words to be describing your relationships at all right now, maybe the paradigm of hierarchy has ceased to be useful. Maybe it's getting in the way to run yourself around in circles by thinking "Well, Doug is my primary, so his needs come first, except that his needs DON'T come first because he wants monogamy and I'm not willing to give it to him, and Red is my secondary, so he's a lesser part of my life, except that he's NOT a lesser part of my life because he's actually physically here right now and is my primary source of emotional support."
Maybe just take each relationship as its own thing, assess the role you see it playing in your life now and the role you want it to play in the future, and go from there. It might not make much of a difference, but I believe that the words you use matter a lot.
I mean, you say you're mad at Jordan because she's acting like her needs come before yours, but, if she's supposed to be Red's primary and you're supposed to be his secondary, then isn't it perfectly within her rights to expect that her needs should come first when it comes to him??? Again, I think the paradigm has ceased to be useful.
Anyways, advice right, hmmm, advice. Ok, how about this.
I hope you're doing well. I'm glad that you and Red have come to a workable agreement, and I'm sorry you're having such a hard time, I hate to see you hurting.
I have to be honest, this is really hard for me. Red has become a very important person to me, and giving up things, especially overnights, is rough. That said, I know you're still working stuff out, and I wouldn't have offered this as a compromise if I didn't think it made sense. Still, I hope it can be a temporary fix, and that relaxing the boundaries can be on the table in the future, assuming you guys work things out.
I understand that it might be too soon for you to say, since you're in the midst of so much heavy stuff in terms of your marriage right now, but I just wanted to put it out there because I feel like being open and honest has been so important, and so beneficial, to our relationship.
Wishing you the best,
You gave me some very solid advice and I appreciate that. I rewrote your letter almost word for word to Jordan. She hasn't responded yet, but the letter you wrote was less emotionally driven than the drafts I have made until now. That's exactly what I needed and thank you so much for taking the time to think about it objectively, when I couldn't.
Aww, good, I'm glad it was useful. I hope everything works out for you. Being your own primary really is the way to go. Doesn't mean you can't have a co-primary or two, but you've gotta look out for yourself.
Could let him deal with that relationship tier in the polymath. He's in the (Red + Jordan) thing -- you are not. If either tries to suck you in past your comfort zone -- say so. "This is sucking me in past my comfort zone. Do not do that. Respect my limit. Sort it out with each other."
You could tell Red you are willing to give him space to go sort it out with his wife. And let him deal with it.
If his wife asked him to break up with you, HE could answer her.
You don't have to get sucked into drama there. Let him own his deal.
You could not offer compromises that do not meet your OWN needs. Since you have now given a compromise with no time limit, could correct that to give a time limit then. Then you aren't left in limbo forever.
"I am willing, as a short term compromise, to not have any sleepovers for the next 3 months with Red to give you both the time and space to sort out your boundaries and agreements since sleepovers seem to be a trigger. After that time I would like to check in and know where things stand. I am willing to hear of a plan if you guys come up with one to deal with the trigger. I am willing to help create that plan or help support the plan if appropriate and reasonable for me to do. I am not willing to NEVER have overnights with my BF. This does not meet my own long term needs. Thank you for listening."Then let them sort it out. When you get a Final Word, then you can choose your next behavior.
If Red is not free to share his time with you in a way that meets your sleepover needs, you could accept it as a limit of his because he has agreements to meet with his other partner.
If Red does not want his own time management to have to account for her wants, needs, and limits or agreements they have? He could sort out that business with her himself since he's the one in relationship with her. Maybe he no longer wants that relationship with those limits. It is for him to discern and then to renegotiate agreements or terminate relationship.
Again... Why are YOU getting sucked into it? You could not get sucked into it -- have it as a limit for yourself.
Do not be writing your metamour letters and getting all up in their marriage biz. That adds to your problems, not take away from your problems.
With her -- all you have to do is be generous with Red's time and encourage them to sort themselves out while respecting your own wants, needs, and limits in the meanwhile. If you wish to be free of crazy, you could not chase it down.
You could also not put Red in the middle. You could just let him determine for himself what he wants for himself and what he is willing to do or not.
In your own tier of the polymath -- where it is (you + Red)? If you need to not know about her drama -- could ask Red to not tell you about her drama then. For your own mental health needs and reduction of stress.
If your need is to be free of dealing in double standards, you could not choose to polyship in a primary-secondary format. There IS double standards in that open model configuration:
If you are now seeking a co-primaryship, talk to Red about that.
If you are still ok in a primary-secondaryship but want your Y stuff written out and honored by the primary and the meta -- ask for it written out. "I can expect ____ from you" and hold them accountable to the agreements. Stop stepping on your toes. Secondaries have rights. If you did not consider it before, could consider it now.
If you find you could primary-secondaryship in general but NOT with this couple, could accept that personal limitation. Not compatible with them in that shape configuration.
Just my opinion.
GalaGirl, if you get a chance to read this I just want to express how helpful it is for me to reread your response a couple of months after this issue came up. Things have only gotten worse.
He told Jordan that he wouldn't break up with me or accept monogamy. However, he was put in the middle of the issue between Jordan and I. He brought up trying to date again but I'm still very wary of Jordan and getting involved in their marriage again.
I tried to set a limit not to get involved, but it's very difficult not to be there for Red when he is upset about something that happened with Jordan. At least half the time they hang out, he's bummed afterwards for a couple of days. When Jordan talks to me, she just complains about him. Nice comments are a self-conscious afterthought when she talks about him. I hate to see him be treated so disrespectfully, and I've told Jordan not to say things like that to me because it makes me feel defensive.
I wrote her that letter I discussed here, and she didn't respond. She reached out to me, essentially saying "Hey if you have a problem I don't want to hear about it but I think it's important we have open communication. Oh? You have a problem with some of my behavior? This conversation is over."
Red and I talked about breaking up about a week before we actually decided to, after that exchange between me and Jordan. I was hurt, even though it was mutual, and he is too.
Jordan used to date my other boyfriend, Tim, and she told me and Red that she broke up with him, but they're still in a semi-romantic relationship. After she didn't like my response to her "reaching out", she heard that Tim and I had plans that weekend and she texted him that she was "hurt he was going to a party with [me]" and that she wants to talk to him "because things with Red are changing." She was in an unhealthy relationship with Tim for a few months and has been dragging it out. Tim is frustrated about this, but he and I are talking openly and he is being respectful of my need for separation and I'm being supportive of his needs too.
Red and I would both like to continue seeing each other. I don't want to be secondary to a self-centered primary, and Jordan's making it very clear that she'd rather accuse me of intentionally hurting her than make an attempt to listen or compromise. In her head she has framed my attempts at expressing my needs as attacks on her.
When I met her, she seemed like an open minded and flexible woman I could experience positive polyamory with. I was even interested in dating her. Now I feel marginalized and hurt by her behavior and, even though Red and I broke up, she and I are still in a girl fight AND she chose this as the best time to reach out to Tim for emotional support. I feel wary of her intentions.
The polymath link you shared above was helpful, but what if I get to know her and rather than establishing trust, I'm starting to feel like trusting her is a mistake? Do I break up with two boyfriends just to avoid her? Do I try and work things out with her, and if so, HOW? Our needs seem to be in direct conflict.
Glad it was helpful, but I am sorry to see you still hurting. :(
It takes time to finish the stages of grief for the break up with Red. TBH? You sound like you are at the "bargain" stage where you are still trying to make things that do not fit together... fit together somehow.
At 2 mos ish since your last post that sounds about right to me -- "bargaining stage" stuff -- since still processing the break up thing. Breaking up stinks. It takes time to heal.
These things cannot co-exist together. Options?
I took the liberty of trimming the extra info out so you can read this below more clearly in your feelings regarding Jordan:
You do not trust her. To not get dinged by her again? Don't put yourself in a dingable position. Like... could not date the same men.
Could rewrite this NOT in a "questioning" tone but in an assertive "take action" tone. And see how reading that digests:
Could not chose that. Could finish the grief process. And move on. Whether or not you inform Tim and Red about where you stand on Jordan crazy -- that part is optional. You could make your boundaries clear if you decide to inform him. Something like... "Date her, or date me. That is not a poly partner I want for myself, so no. Cannot date us both concurrently. Because I am not willing to be in a polymath with her in it somewhere."
Could look out for your own best healths/interests. Some choices in Life are not "win or lose" but "which one of these stinky options stinks the LEAST?"
Even with Red there's still things that do not line up.
These things cannot all coexist harmoniously either right now.
Because it happening CONCURRENTLY is NOT going to happen with your willingness right? You are not going to sign up for more crazy town because you value your own well being and health more than being in crazy town romance with Red with a side helping of Jordan, right? And because you are not going to choose something that is essentially incompatible? You both agreed to break up -- it won't fly.
If his situation changes and Jordan is no longer in his polymath picture, he can give you a call. Then see what you all see. THEN. But at THIS time? No, thanks. No crazy town.
I know the short term health is suckage right now for you... but could look after your long term health instead then. Get to the place where in the LONG TERM view, you have arrived at a healthier place for yourself rather than choose behavior that sucks you back into Crazy.
You do not have to automatically accept every invitation you get to Crazy Town. Could RSVP "No, thanks."
Could be kind to yourself as you keep traveling through the stages of grief. Could look them up. Could see what stages come next and monitor yourself -- even if those stink to feel, you know you are making progress through them and will hopefully arrive at "full acceptance."
Then start to feel better. Hang in there!
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