Question for primaries, Outside partners enhance marriage
Since I started seeing BF about 18 months ago--my only experience with polyamory, only time I've ever known anyone in an open marriage (that I know of)--I have done a lot of reading on polyamory and open marriages.
BF said from the start that problems usually arise when, like us, one person is married and the other single. So far, it's suited me, because I'm busy with work and children, wasn't looking for a boyfriend, and have no desire for a husband. I've enjoyed every minute with him, I have seen both of us grow, change, and, I believe, become better people as a result of our time together.
The only issues between us have involved him getting upset when I try to understand this world that's totally unfamiliar to me and question my place in his life and what this really means to him. He lives in fear of me breaking up with him.
The times I feel most inclined to break up with him is when I'm reading about open marriages and/or polyamory and read the statement that outside relationships enhance the primary relationship. As the outside relationship, this leaves me feeling that these extra relationships are, well...marital enhancers. Living, breathing marital aids. I, personally, have no desire to enhance someone's marriage at what could be seen as a cost to myself (the cost being that there is no future in this relationship, although at this stage I admittedly don't want one--one day I might.)
I do not believe for a minute that BF sees me as that. But he gets agitated when I try to understand from him how people in open marriage do see their OSOs, and apparently can't explain, although he's normally well-spoken, articulate, and thoughtful. He says I should know I'm not just a side dish to him and don't I know how he feels about me. He tells me what we have is 'the real deal.' Whatever that means in the context of a relationship that can never be more than what it is now.
So...I still struggle with that idea that outside relationships 'enhance' the primary relationship. Can those members who are in primary relationships, especially those whose OSOs are single, tell me their response to this comment on OSOs enhancing your primary relationship, and how that balances with seeing your secondary/OSO as a person in their own right?
I am confused.:confused:
How I perceive this? (And I could be wrong...)
But if you are wanting more comittment from the relationship than it can give you... is that what this is about? Could "one day" actually be here already? Or on the horizon since you feel inclined to break up with him at times?
It doesn't really seem to be about other people's relationships and how they view their OSO's and if it "enhances the primary relationship." For some it might. For others it might not. So? That's those other people over THERE.
It seems to be about THIS relationship HERE and your desire not to be "less than" and your desire to have "a relationship with a future" at some point. That you sort out with him.
He's been TELLING you that you are NOT "less than" to him. Do his words and actions not match? Why not just BELIEVE him? :confused: And get on to the next part of the question? Talk about your shared future and what that may be like?
Is the future he can offer you in this relationship not the kind of future you ultimately want for yourself? Could ask him.
"What sort of future do you envision for us? 5 years down the road? 10 years? Is there a committed future here or is this a float along thing?"See if it matches your wants/needs for your future or not.
You can't try to apply everything you read about polyamory or open marriages to yourself. There are tons of different situations that people use the polyamory or open marriage label on and unfortunately some people write about themselves or their experiences as if they are the only definition.
It seems to be true that there are married couples that turn to the idea of opening as a way to fix something that is already lacking in their marriage. Also some couples may look at opening as a way to enhance their existing happy relationship. That doesn't speak for all of them.
In any case, even if they do fall in to the category of looking for enhancement, it doesn't mean that your relationship with your BF exists solely to enhance their marriage or that it should be at your expense.
Presumably you feel you are gaining something from the relationship or you really should consider why you are in it. What you read about other relationships shouldn't define your own. Does your BF or his wife make you feel like he is only with you for their marriage's benefit?
I can tell you that my relationship with my other partner never had anything to do with the intention to enhance my marriage so that statement does not fit me at all. In practice it has had both positive and negative effects on my marriage, none of which I went looking for. I have a relationship with him purely because I want to have a relationship with him so there is no balancing those ideas for me. If you asked me for help understanding couples who are open for that reason I wouldn't know what to tell you. So if he indeed doesn't see you that way, he may just be frustrated that you are asking him for help understanding something that he himself doesn't understand and doesn't apply to the two of you. The fact that he is open doesn't make him an expert on every kind of open relationship.
Instead of asking him about other people, ask him to explain more about your relationship. He shouldn't be fighting that. If you need more information about how he feels or what to expect from your relationship, ask for that. If he says "Don't you know how I feel?" Say "No I don't understand. It isn't clear to me because I'm used to the idea that relationships go a certain way so I need help seeing a new vision of what our relationship can be without being those things (fill in what your typical expectations would be)"
Once you have that vision, you have to decide if that can meet your wants and needs now. Then if your feelings change in the future you'll have to decide again.
It's completely different for every relationship. Some poly people in primary partnerships find that they derive a lot of side benefits -- better communication, better trust, better sex -- from having OSOs. Others find the EXACT opposite, and find that everything is harder. Yet others find that there's relatively little impact.
In the end, though, what matters is how *you* are treated by your partner, and how satisfied you are with this particular relationship.
Relationships SHOULD enhance your life. So yes, your relationship with him enhances their marriage. Honestly it should. If you enhance his life, then he's happier, that is going to effect those around him, including his marriage. Guess what? It works the other way too. Think about it, when you spend time with him is he happy or is he in a bad mood because of things going on in his marriage? If someone has a bad day, it affects them.
A mistake we made in the beginning was trying to put each relationship in it's own little box. As if one didn't affect the other. Of course they do! If BF and I hare having problems, just frustrated or dealing with something, hubby is going to notice, he's going to see I'm upset or unhappy or frustrated. And vice versa. You can't have each relationship to completely independent that there is no cross over.
One of the things I LOVE about the openness of the relationships is that I CAN tell hubby something good BF and I shared and vice versa. There is no upset like, "Well I don't want to watch that movie now because you two did and had fun so my fun is lessened watching it." Instead, enjoy how the relationships enhance each other. It's not a one way street. You aren't just some 'tool' to be used to make his marriage better, any more than his wife is just someone he stays with because it makes YOUR relationship better. He loves you both, he wants to be with you both. Probably because of how you both enhance his life and I'm sure he hopes he enhances yours. The effort you are afraid of putting in and going to his marriage and not to you is effort you put into YOUR relationship. If you aren't getting enough out of YOUR relationship for the effort you feel you are putting in, say something. But don't assume it's like some sort of relationship bank where you are making deposits and the wife gets the withdrawals!
Thank you all for your responses.
Some of them are exactly what I'm trying to get at: seeing what this phrase about it enhancing a marriage means to others. Scraping below the surface. I see some answers that make it more palatable and understandable than how I viewed the phrase.
Why don't I just ask him these questions? Well, first, this is what forums are for. There's not much point any of us being here talking to one another if we all just tell each other, "Go ask your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend!" ;) We're here to talk about and explore ideas, get input, see how others view things in order to help ourselves in our own situations.
Second, I do ask him. He is unable to explain how he sees it. He gets agitated, defensive, and upset. He told me over and over, a week ago, repeatedly, that he has made it hard for me to be open because of his responses (this sort of came out of the blue, from him, it wasn't anything I brought up). He apologized, said he wants me to feel safe in talking to him, in being open with my feelings, so that he and I can be closer. So I asked him this, what I thought was a simple question, a simple matter of what does this phrase mean to you? How do you see it? It blew up in my face and he told me last night he guesses he really can't handle my questions.
I make no apologies for asking him questions. I have lived solidly in the world of traditional, monogamous marriages my entire life. I have no experience with open marriage or polyamory. I enjoy his company very much, I think we've been good for each other in many ways. I would like to continue seeing him. But it's a foreign world to me, I do not fully understand the mindset and I think I have every right to read, to educate myself, to try to understand, and to ask for explanations and clarification.
As one who has spent my life in education, I do not yell at my students for not understanding what they've never been exposed to. Sometimes, often, in fact, it takes going through a concept multiple times for students to really get and understand even 'straightforward' concepts like math equations, physics, sciences. Never mind the complexities of feelings, emotions, relationships, what it is to want to be with two people.
I have been respectful in all my questions, I am genuinely seeking understanding. I feel if he invited me into this world he knew was completely foreign to me, he has some obligation to help me through it if he wants me to stay here. Just as I would help a visitor to my city navigate the streets and sights. Especially someone I greatly cared about and hoped would come back and spend more and more time with me, and maybe even join me permanently.
I feel if he's this frustrated with what I thought was a rather simple, innocent question, he needs to think about why.
There are other issues raised here, such as feeling second, but right now, I have many other things I need to be doing, and given the discussions he and I are having, it may become a moot point, regardless. I'm looking at some of the reasons why this is bothering me now despite the fact that I have no desire for any husband at all, not him, not anyone, despite the fact that I have no desire to move in with him or any of the rest. I have been quite happy with this situation for those reasons, and logically I ought to still be happy with it, as I still feel that way.
However, I'm seeing that some other things going on have raised that feeling to the surface, things I think it would be unwise to discuss on a public forum.
Again, thank you for the answers, and I'll be re-reading some of them and pondering them again.
I don't ask myself if or how one relationship "enhances" another. I ask myself "is one relationship bringing unnecessary crap into another?" I don't ask that very often, in fact, haven't thought about it in a while because... if it ain't broke don't fix it.
A lot of what is said on here, in every situation or posed request for help, is to communicate communicate communicate. One of the first 'pitfalls' we fell into was that no one really tells you HOW to communicate. We all do it differently, we all think what we are saying and asking is clear and exactly what we mean or are wanting. It's not. Books on Non Violent Communication are great. It feels silly sometimes, I will admit, but it works.
BF and I have just been through a rough spot where we felt we were having the same conversation over and over, each making the same points each feeling the other wasn't hearing them or 'getting it'. He was very reluctant to read a book. Who reads a book on how to work out a relationship problem!? We do. It still produced tears, but we finally got through it today. By being able to express what we really felt using only "I" statements and mirroring back what we though the other felt. "Okay what I hear you saying is. . . " This was valid even though we had to text and email through it. We were able to finish it up with the all important, "Okay what do you want or need for this to change, solid actions by me."
I'm sure you are both frustrated, it's frustrating when you have no idea how ELSE to say what you feel you've already said over and over and are not getting clear! So not only communicate communicate communicate, but how you communicate. If it helps the book we used was Nonviolent Communication - A Language of Life by Marshall B Rosenberg. He's even considering reading the five love languages of men now!
Ah, thanks for the clarify.
For me? I think my relationships with others can and do affect each other.
For good or for bad? It depends on the current situation at hand and the relationship skills of the players. It's not an automatic positive "enhance" thing all the time. It could be a negative things just as well. It will fluctuate because life brings changes, new situations, etc over time. We are products (partially anyway) of our past experiences.
Hopefully the "overall average" is pleasing for all players in the mix. Then the polyship can feel good in itself and people are in harmony and find the polyship overall satisfying to be in.
As for asking him how HE feels about it -- if he cannot explain how he sees it? Maybe he's not done a whole lot of introspection to KNOW that about himself yet. Or maybe he doesn't have the emotional vocabulary required for expression? Or the philosophical perspective yet to be able to describe his life experience in that way?
There are six maturities. We don't all develop at the same rate in each bucket, and neither do our partners. Part of loving our partners how they are is accepting they are wherever it is in their maturities. We can challenge ourselves and our partners to grow -- in a good way. That's part of the fun of being in relationship. Letting things unfold. :)
He could think about why and do more introspection. You would like for him to and share his findings. But can't make a person suddenly do that work within if they are unwilling to do it or share info if they are unwilling to share it.
I can see where that would be frustrating for you though if you want better understanding of him, you ask him, and he turns up "blank pages" so to speak.
I saw FullofLove repeatedly use that phrase, that having another partner should "enhance her marriage." TBH it kinda grossed me out. It seemed to put her het marriage ahead of her equally long term woman/woman relationship.
My 2 most important relationship enhance each other. My partners complement each other. They are different people, and each one fulfills needs and desires I have. It's wonderful!
I remember when I was monogamously married, and so was my sister (she still is married) we used to compare our husbands' qualities and say, put them both together and you'd get the perfect man. Ha Ha! Well, I got divorced, I started dating, I found 2 people I love-- I put my male partner and my female partner together and got the perfect person for me. Sweet!
However, since I'm such a slut, I also keep my okc profile open and and occasionally date this or that guy. If one ever works out, he also will enhance my LIFE, bring me more fun, more romance, more sex, more insights into life and love, more hobbies to share, etc etc.
BTW, my bf is married and I know he doesn't look for other lovers to enhance his marriage. He just loves women, variety, stimulation.
I wouldn't use another person as a marital aid, merely there to add spice to one or both of my serious relationships, UNLESS that person is a sub and wishes to be thought of as an object, a toy, a slave in fact.
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