Help! I'm struggling as my mono marriage of 20 years is turning poly
My wife and I have been happily married for almost 20 years, we have two kids, and we've been best friends (as well as lovers) since the day we met. Just over a week ago, I found out that she's bi (she only realized this herself about 7 months ago), that she fell in love with another woman, that she still loves me just as much as always, and that she wants a polyamorous "vee" relationship between the three of us.
I'm a hopeless mono, and for the past week, my whole world has been shattered. I love my wife and want to stay with her, but I can't stand the thought of sharing her with someone else. I feel hurt, betrayed, taken advantage of, that this is a one-sided relationship, unequal, unfair, ... At the same time, I can tell that this is something she's been missing, and that she is so much more vibrant, self-confident, and alive now. I love how happy she is, and I love that she still loves me just as much (if not more) than before.
I'm going to give it a try, but ultimately I don't know if I'm capable of pulling it off. I wonder to myself, as a mono in a "poly/mono vee" relationship:
1. Do the hurt feelings ever go away? Have any monos in this group ever made it through successfully to being completely happy in this type of relationship, or am I doomed to a life of hurt feelings if I stay?
2. Can I change myself into a poly (or at least to feel good about being in a poly relationship) by using, for example, a 12-step behavior modification approach to retrain my thinking and feelings? Has anyone done this successfully? Or would I just be bottling up my emotions and setting the relationship up for failure?
3. Should I try going "full poly", i.e. fully embrace the poly lifestyle, invite additional partners, maybe even turn our "vee" into an "N" with my own secondary (or even a new primary) to balance the one-sidedness of this relationship? *Or would this just be emotional, reactionary, and destructive?
4. What other support groups would you recommend I reach out to for help?
5. What other advise do you have for me?
Thank you for any help or support you may have.
2.there is no quick answer to this. You might be poly yourself, but its early days yet and you by no means have to be or are expected to be.
3.emotionally reactive and destructive. Give it time my friend... lots of time and educate yourself first.
4. and 5.you have come to a really good site, use it.... start searching in the tags and stickies here and find some information and support. Thanks for starting the process of asking questions. That is a good start... your partner should be doing the same thing, because cheating is not poly...! She has not acted with love in her heart, but out of selfishness. No worries, a lot of people do, but it is time to readjust and get on a better path with you at her side... she has a lot more work to do than you. I suggest she start educating herself MORE.
This means she has to own up to her betrayal and be willing to do the work too...otherwise she might not be as poly as she says she is. By this I mean that it could be easier for her to claim to still be in love with you so the external conditions of her life do not change. Would you be happy in the role of safety blanket/financial support,/homecare. Challenge her to work with you.
Opinions will be varied on this question. Here's my take: if your mono wired, (not saying you are...some people are conditioned mono) you only have intimate/romantic attachment to one at a time. If you push it you may run the risk of replacing your wife. Is she willing to take that chance? Are you?
I considered this when I first fell in love with Redpepper...then I realized that going down a path to attempt altering who I fundamentally was was a path that would likely lead to damaging myself and undoing the self awareness work I had spent a lifetime accomplishing. I am more mono now than ever and I am happy and healthy with my married poly girlfriend :)
I think this answered question 3 too.
Other opinions.....be true to yourself, stay healthy and don't be a afraid to hurt more to be in pain less.
I agree with Mono that a lot of your hurt is caused by the fallout of the affair.
You and her and even to a small extent her new friend will need to work through that. I was in a similar position to you. I made the decision to consciously forgive my wife within the first few days of our Vee starting up. Otherwise I knew I would not have been able to function day to day with her at all, and we had to protect the kids too at the beginning. But it was very hard. Hurt and anger used to come out when I did not want it to.
She used to seem very hard to me at times even when she insisted she was vulnerable and needed to be understood.
This will take everything of you and you will feel used up sometimes.
About question 2, I would not try to force yourself to try to be poly. If you had wanted to be poly in the last 20 years you would already know about it. Why add more shit to the top of your pile? See how things go first. Give yourself time.
Actually a Vee has its own symmetry and balance. You may feel it is unfair at the moment, that she is "having her cake and eating it." It is almost certainly more difficult for her right now than you realise. She is not trying to hurt you.
You are in a process now. One day you will wake up and realise you are actually happy and its all OK.
I feel bad for your wife coming to terms with her bisexuality at such a late date. It's obviously hard on both of you. But this is rather common. Cultural conditioning can make us blind to our bi urges. Denial can be very strong.
Look at the upper left corner of the main page, go to Practical Polyamory Website, and click on Downloadable Relationship Skills and Activism-Related Documents. There you will find such guidelines as Lemons and Lemonade: The Pleasure and Pain of Poly/Mono Relationships; and 14 Steps to Opening a Monogamous Relationship.
I'm a total neophyte and can't probably offer much, but 3) type thoughts and plans helped me a lot when my husband asked for us to be polyamorous for freaking ever ago. (Don't let it take you as long as it took me though to process things lol jk). I thought about 3) ideas a lot and found that there were many attractions to others that I'd simply repressed because of thinking our relationship was monolithically monogamous. Going after those that I've been attracted to took the pain/sting out of my husband wanting to go after people he's attracted to. Like i said though, it can be done much much quicker than I've done it (one year of thinking and processing) best of luck.
Thank you so much for all the kind words and support. It's all been extremely helpful! I've been following up on all the links, references, papers... reading a lot on the subject, including the book Opening Up (since I can get it in Kindle format and read it w/o others knowing what it is :-). I'm also discovering that polyamory is a lot more common than I ever imagined... a good friend of mine is openly polyamorous, and apparently he knows of a bunch more friends of mine that are as well... but aren't open about it yes.
So... here's the latest status for the three of us (me, my wife, and her OSO in a vee relationship):
1. From the beginning, I've felt compersion for my wife in: (1) discovering her full sexuality (being bi), (2) falling in love with another woman, and (3) being much more complete, happy, alive in the process. It is wonderful to see. I still feel that way.
2. All three of us get along spectacularly, plus my wife's OSO gets along great with our kids. She (the OSO) will be moving in with us as soon as possible, and we have all accepted her into the family as a full, equal member. In fact, we are all committed to each other that this will be a lifelong partnership... not just for a few years, but a long-term, committed relationship. I have a very good feeling about this.
3. All three of us have had various jealousies towards the others from time to time, but we always talk them through and work them out.
4. My biggest issue is basically having to split my time with my wife. Since she now has two partners, I'll only have half the time with her than I used to have, and I mourn that loss. At the same time, I recognize that my wife is now a different person, that there's no going back (at least not on the fact that she's bi and has a need for two partners in her life... one male and one female). We are consciously starting a new relationship with each other (my wife and I, to be specific), and as such, started dating again, romancing each other, ... and honestly, we're having some WILD NRE between us right now (after 17 year of marriage). It's wonderful. At the same time, I've also had a few bouts of depression, where I mourn our loss of time together and change in the relationship, from being two peas in a pod (<-- as Forest would say) to, well... I guess the analogy breaks down. Two pods, perhaps, with one of the peas in each pod? You know what I mean! ;-)
5. As a new poly couple, I would also like to bring in an OSO of my own. Of course, the key is to find just the right person - someone who gets along great with all of us, who loves kids (and would even like to have another), large families... it could be epic wonderful. We could either do this as an "N", in which my wife and I are married and each have an OSO, or we could even consider having my wife re-marry her OSO, I re-marry my OSO, and we're then two couples bound together in a poly relationship. In fact, that arrangement has several advantages, including: (1) medical insurance (two married couples instead of just one, so more sharing of benefits), (2) better acceptance (since my OSO would be married with children, easier on her parents, friends, etc.), etc.
Ok... so now, here's our latest issue. My wife gave me permission to start dating (so long as I don't go any farther than kissing without getting permission from the vee, which is only fair). However, once I started dating, it caught her off guard and she got very jealous and started having strong mono feelings/reactions herself. She fears that I would fall in love with an OSO so deeply that I would end up leaving her, or that she would no longer be my primary. She's fears that I would have even less time to spend with her (since our time together has already been split in half due to her taking on her OSO). My wife is jealous that my OSO may be younger (which is likely in order to have kids together), that I would be romancing her, that she may enjoy doing activities with me that my wife doesn't (e.g. hiking, etc.), etc.
Therefore, even though my wife was the original poly in our relationship, I recognize that she's having very mono emotions, and I'm being very sensitive to her feelings. I'm going through the "Fourteen Steps to Opening a Monogamous Relationship" with her (even through she's already has an OSO of her own). I'm letting her know that this is something that I need. That it doesn't lessen my relationship or love for her at all... I still love her with all my heart, that my love for her is unconditional, and nothing will ever take that away. That she is not powerless in this process, and no one can be added to our family without permission from everyone. That I'm not doing this for a fling but rather only want an OSO that gets along with the entire family and would be committed/dedicated to a long-term/lifelong relationship. That we (my wife and I) will continue to be romantic together, go on dates, and have great fun and love together, even when I have an OSO (and have similar experiences with her too). And that we can slow down and put my dating on hold for awhile, to give her the time, space, love, and support that she needs to feel more comfortable with this.
When I resume dating (a few months from now), my wife is asking for a LOT of visibility into who I'm seeing. Specifically:
1. If I put up a profile on a dating website, she wants access to read it, and she doesn't want me using a photo of myself that's easily recognizable.
2. For each person that I start talking to electronically, she wants a link to their profile. She's very concerned about me inadvertently meeting an axe murderer that wants to off us all.
3. She has lots of questions like: why did you pick that person to talk to? what is it about her? is THAT the type of person that you like, someone younger, etc. And then comparing herself against them.
Honestly, I don't mind telling my wife who I'm talking with or dating once I've been able to establish a little rapport with that person, for example, after a week or so. But I'm very uncomfortable talking about each and every person before I have any rapport... that just seems too early and disruptive to the dating process, especially if my wife gets jealous each and every time. I'm also admittedly uncomfortable with my wife reading through my dating profile or telling her which dating websites I'm on, not because there's anything bad on them, but because I need a little bit of space to myself on this. And ultimately, if/when I find someone, I'll let my wife know all about her.
My questions to this group are:
1. How much transparency in dating is good vs. excessive / too-much-information?
2. When is the appropriate time to tell my wife about someone I'm interested in talking to (as a potential date): (a) before I even meet/speak to the person, (b) after I've said "Hello" but before she responds with her own "Hello", (c) after we've both said "Hello" to each other but before we actually carry on a conversation, (d) once we've officially met but before we know each other, (e) once we've established a rapport with each other and want to start getting to know one another, (f) once we've had kids together, etc.
3. Is it reasonable for me to have my own space, at least in the early stages of dating / getting to know people without my wife being involved at every step? Or is it important that she knows everything about everyone at all times, even in the earliest stages of meeting someone, so that she feels comfortable, empowered, and we can address any issues of fear, jealousy, concern, etc. that may arise right away, head on?
4. What other advise do you have for me in starting the dating process?
As always, thank you for all the wonderful advise I've received from this group and warm support as we build our poly family, which I believe will be great.
A bit of a double standard she wants, I think.
are all these rules being set up in order to facilitate communication and be pro-active about "addressing issues", or are they being set up to put you in a position where you can't do right no matter how hard you try?
A lot of your "rules" sound like they are set up for pre-emptive failure.
Rules of dating
My wife says that she would be very happy for me to have an OSO, but she's freaked out about the DATING process. In her heart of hearts, she wants me to find my OSO by accident (the same way she found hers), as a true love at first sight unavoidable sparks flying everywhere kind of event. For that, she would have a great deal of compersion.
What she hates is the idea of me posting my picture up on an online dating service, going to dating clubs, or otherwise putting myself out there. She doesn't understand why I'd want to date people unless it's the instant-attraction cupid arrow love of my life type of rare find. She hates "meat markets" and hates me interacting in anything that even remotely resembles one.
She's also afraid that I could find an OSO very quickly if I tried, that I have a lot of "charm", and that I could attract not just nice people (for whom she's have compersion) but also axe murders. Lots of emotions and fears. At the same time, she realizes that this is completely fair and understandable, and from the beginning she gave me her permission to date. She's just wresting with the reality now that I AM dating (or moreso WAS getting ready to date, before I put that on hold temporarily to give her a chance to be more prepared for it).
I don't think she's trying to put any of those rules in place to make this fail. In fact, part of the rules were that she could not reach out or talk to any of the people until I'm ready, and that even through she could read my profile page, she couldn't criticize it or even bring up anything about it except for things she considered to be "safety concerns", such as having a recognizable picture of myself on it, unfortunately. lol
So it's very touchy right now, and I'm hoping that a little pause in this process will help take a bit of the edge off. At the same time, I'm looking for a sanity check myself, to see if these rules are a bit overly restrictive and not respecting the space I need, or if instead I need to err on the side of giving her more info than less in order to be 100% open and transparent, even before I've even introduced myself to someone I may be interested in.
Ideally, if she could just give me a little space in the early days of my meeting someone (doesn't have to be long... just a week or two, or even less if we hit it off quickly), then I think the process would be a LOT smoother and everything / everyone would work out great.
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