Did I marry a serial monogamist?
I'm new in this forum, started reading here a lot lately as my (lesbian) relationship turned a new leaf from poly-in-theory to the actual thing.
The funny (and complicated) thing is, I'm not the one seeing someone else.
This is funny because I am very poly in my mindset, but my partner really isn't. In the last 8 years we were what I called "practicing non-believers" of monogamy (a singular "non-believer" may have been more accurate...) .
But I was always clear, with myself and with her, that this was not ideal for me. Partly due to personal inclination, and partly because of the specific circumstances: we met at a very young age (20,22), she is my first serious (and sexual) partner, and I wanted to experience different things in the future.
She was not in the same place. Though younger, she had more sexual experience, was a self-described "slut", and was looking to "settle down" into something serious when we met. Our "openness" was first discussed when she broke up with me, after about a year together, because she said she wanted to try sleeping with men. I was upset, and told her she was throwing away something amazing just for some sexual experimentation, and if she wants to have sex with other people I have absolutely no problem with it, as long as she knows where home is and comes back to me. As a result of this conversation, she wanted to get back together, which we did, and our relationship was defined as "open" ever since (somehow she forgot about wanting men...)
Despite this definition, nothing really happened. I had crushes (usually for unattainable persons) and she would occasionally flirt, and we talked about our attractions for other people openly, but there was little time for actual dating as we were both working students and were struggling to keep our one relationship alive in the time shortage we called life. Our agreement was- there would be no lies. We frequently talked about me wanting to some day have a relationship with someone else, and how she will handle it, but she maintained that although she excepted the fact I could one day have someone else in my life, she herself needed no one else and only had room in her heart for me. I think she could probably picture having a fling with someone else, but I don't think she ever imagined she would experience loving two people at once.
Until- she also had a crush on a co-worker, who turned out to want her too. They started meeting up and having sex, which I knew all about (supported even) though was not all that happy with, because my metamour (hope I'm using the lingo correctly...) is married and cheating, and I have serious ethical issues with that. But after much discussions I was convinced to leave this moral dilemma to the 2 people more directly involved (the cheater and my wife).
Thing is, as we're going through this uneasy transition from words to actions, I feel my wife is approaching the situation from a monogamous view point. She finds it very hard to see me suffering bad-emotions when she goes to see her, even when I clearly communicate that 95% of those are about past relationships and childhood experiences. She even decided to terminate the relationship (while still in NRE!) to avoid causing me any more pain (and also because it's complicated on the other side and she hates enabling cheating. But she sites my pain, and wanting to save our relationship, as the main reason). She also sees herself as someone who is victimizing me, has trouble initiating sex or receiving my love, is very very confused.
We communicate a lot, and I read up on polyamory to feel more secure in my lifestyle choice, but to my frustration she sounds (in some of our conversations) just like the straight+mono friends I came out to: urging me to acknowledge the fact that it does hurts me when she's having sex with someone else- so how can I be as "OK with it" as I claim to be?
She also claims when you love someone you should not cause her pain, and since i'm undeniably in pain for some of this process, then the entire thing is wrong.
This makes me very fearful. I worry that I am in (what I think of as) a poly relationship with someone who is essentially a serial-monogamist. And though she might not leave me for this one (who is unavailable), if she can't hold the concept of feeling romantic towards more than 1 person at once, the next time she falls in love and feels the need to choose, I might lose to NRE.
I really wish I could get her to find answers in polyamory, so she would get over the identity crisis this has created for her, and she would suffer less from shame and guilt, but I don't wanna push my beliefs on her too hard. It has to grow from her, I think. I've given her some things to read, but since it's all in English (which isn't our first language) and polyamory is scarce where we live, she says she can't relate to the experiences described in forums such as this one.
What do you think? anyone with similar experience/ who themselves transitioned from believing in monogamy to polyamory and can share some wisdom? How do I help her through this? And handle my fear that she is actually, and always will be, a serial-monogamist?
Hi and welcome,
Wow I just have to say you have a great command of the language:D..I'm envious ...because this is my first language.
The only thing you can control in this is you. You say your reactions caused her to react which is causing this reaction etc, etc.
You wanted this, it finally happened but from the other side. You then reacted badly which caused your partner to react and now you think she doesn't have the right mind set. Im not sure but could you have control issues?
What happened in this situation that she approached this with monogamous view. You state that in some of your conversations that points or questions make her sound like a straight and mono person. What are those things?
I'd guess it just takes more assurance. For years and years and years I kept trying to provide more than my wife wanted. I felt there was something I was doing wrong. If only I could discover what excited her she would love me more.
Eventually, after years of assurance and a little bit of counselling, I started trusting that what she was telling me was the full truth. I don't understand it. I don't have any idea how she can be happy with the limited attention I'm paying her, but I believe that she is, and it's taken a significant amount of pressure off.
Short version is keep assuring her, and give it time.
more on the subject
thank you both for your answers!
Yes, I do have some control issues. And I'm trying to work on that.
I guess when I said she was "acting straight and mono" I meant to address the fact that it is weird she is the one that, in a way, is practicing polyamory, but she still doesn't believe it. Which makes her, and me sometimes, feel like she's cheating. She expresses a need for me not to know, or not to care about things like the fact she's doing it with a cheater (which I find unethical). And this is hard for me to deal with. I feel like while I am asking "how can we make this work?", she is asking other questions, like "why can't I stop myself?" and "what does it say about me that I have these feelings?". And these are the things I would have liked to help her with, which is why I'm interested in the experiences of other people who sort of stummbled into this lifestyle first, and got OK with it later. If anyone like that is reading- it will really help me to know how it worked for you, what would (and would not) help her in this situation, and how you made your peace with it.
The other thing relates to the second reply- I know I should give it time, but I am finding it hard to give reassurances. If I was the one in an outside relationship I would feel like that maybe what it takes, but in the situation that developed I feel that I mostly need them myself, since I am the one left at home when she goes to be with another woman, and this is all new and hard to handle. And any reassurance I give as to believing this is the right choice for us, despite the current struggles, are met with disbelief.
One observation: if you need more reassurance from her (instead of having to be the one giving it all the time), why not ask? As for "falling into polyamory," I think that happens to many of us. We often don't plan to become polyamorous, we just find ourselves in love with someone already partnered and look for a better way to handle it than cheating.
I guess I was lucky in that my "fall into poly" proceeded changes in my general ideologies that allowed for much more liberal ways of people relating to each other. The hardest thing for me was waiting for permission from the husband (whose wife I had fallen in love with). I guess sometimes it just takes time and patience to revise one's monogamous mindset.
Sorry, nothing earthshaking here I know, just thought I'd give what observations I had. I hope you and your partner can work things out, and she can be more at peace with the idea of being polyamorous.
Thanx for your input! I'm pretty isolated on this subject in my social environment and truly appreciate any comments I get.
I do ask for reassurances a lot, but then I find myself worrying that she is only telling me what I want to hear (and more importantly- not telling me what might hurt...), and that sort of defeats the purpose for me, since it creates trust issues.
The thing is- I'm not sure my wife wants to be "at peace with poly". At least not yet. She is talking about having a "dark side" and wanting to "break all the rules" (I think this has something to do with her taking on a lot of responsibility, work and money-wise, lately). She wants it to be forbidden, so she can feel she is feeding this "dark side" of her.
Oly, this is a terrible thing to say, but I have a tiny gut feeling, reading your posts, that your wife is saying some of the things partners say when they are trying to leave a relationship without having to suffer the guilt of being the one who broke the relationship up.
I could be very far wrong... and my experience is very different from yours. For one thing, I've only ever been in one poly relationship, and it was brief. Second, I'm a straight female, and I've only ever seen this kind of "wriggling away" behaviour in men, and I've always thought of it as a male behaviour.
I hope I'm wrong. But be gentle with your OWN heart, not just hers (you sound very solicitous of her). Welcome to our board.
I'm sorry you hurt. BREATHE.. and then? Could deal with the problems one at a time.
Problem 1: Her Cheating
Ask her if SHE is after reassure that you value and love her when she asks you things like
Problem 2: Your Fear
Have you told her your worries? That you are fearful? And that you worry that the next time she falls in love and feels the need to choose, you might lose to NRE?
Could talk about how to handle NRE in future so you get the reassure you need. How to cope with "trust and betrayal" when she's engaging in behavior that destroys trust in the cheating partner's life and other relationship. How are you supposed to feel about the safety of your OWN relationship with her since she's a party to shenanigans like that? This time you knew. Next time will she keep it in the dark from YOU to "feed her dark side?"
Can she get her "dark side" fed in other ways that don't compromise ethics?
Spill it out on the table and sort yourselves out. Holding back is NOT getting you what you need. And if it's going to suck either way? Maybe as well spill it then -- and try to arrive at something. Because holding back arrives at nothing.
When you Open a relationship, you pay full price of admission. There's no discounts.
Problem 3: Your relationship with yourself
Could soul search a bit here.
What is the fear of this relationship ending about? Do you know your dealbreakers with her? Could she engage in behavior that would lead to you walking out the door? Are you clear in your mind what those lines are? Have you made this known to her crystal clear?
Because there's two kinds of freedom -- freedom to and freedom from. Like... There's freedom TO have a polyship. There's also the other kind of freedom -- Freedom FROM crazyiness.
Know your own boundaries. Then YOU can make choices for yourself that serve your best healths. You are not "along for the ride" in polyship.
Could become more clear here with yourself and how you talk to yourself about this when you are thinking in your head. What you have here is NOT a polyship. It is you having a cheating partner helping her lover cheat on their spouse. Could not call it a "polyship" because that is what you hope/wish it were. WHY would you support her having sex with the other person?
So... you could sort yourself (your relationship with you) out and then sort yourselves (the relationship with her) out.
Hang in there!
Thank you GalaGirl and Leelee.
Leelee- As for her behavior being "wiggling out" so as not to feel responsible for leaving, I definitely think there is some of that there. And I appreciate you having to guts to tell me that. That said, I know she values our relationship and does NOT want it to be over. We've been through a hell of a lot together, and we do have a solid partnership of 8y. I basically think she is just lost in NRE, and wants to go do her heart's desire, hoping and counting on her ability to come back to me later. That's part of why I'm so worried about the future. This may be a possible way to deal with this in the current situation (where the other person isn't really "eligible" for anything more than a fling, given age differences and family situations), but it does not bode well for our ability to face the next non-monogamy challenge.
I do share with her my fear of the future, and my disappointment with her for enabling a cheater. I knew from the beginning this other person was married, and both me and my wife assumed (wrongly) that she was happily so. We did not want to jump into conclusions as to whether the other couple was monogamous, and after the sexual tension became obvious my wife went to meet her and clear things up about what boundaries were relevant for each. That's when they first kissed. The cheater then convinced my wife that her marriage is her own business, and should not worry her (not to mention worry me).
I found myself trying to be the voice of reason and moral, to someone who really doesn't want to hear any of it, going crazy with passion and wanting to break all the rules. And at some point I stopped fighting, fearing it will distance us from each other if I kept pushing on the "cheating is wrong" subject.
Not to mention the fact that whenever I address it I am being accused of taking on more responsibility than is truly mine to take, butting into other peoples' relationships (as I am not the one cheating or cheated with, I am not involved in her opinion) and/or hiding behind morals to ignore my own difficulties regarding the opening-up of our relationship.
I have trouble discussing this with my wife because I know she is disappointed with herself as well, and going through some serious self-doubts as a result of her behavior, and I am trying to give her time to sort through this. I sure hope I would have had the strength not to go through with it if I were in her place, but I also know people aren't perfect and don't always live up to their own moral standards. It is what it is, and I don't want to be all "high and mighty", as she seems to accuse me of being in this matter.
Your comments did help me realize this "cheating situation" may have more to do with my issues than I was willing to believe thus far. I should (and would) discuss that with my wife. Maybe if the next time this happens the situation would be more of a true poly-ship, things will be easier. Thanks for the input!
I am so sorry. I imagine this is hard for you. But... could do the job in front of you even if it isn't a fun job. :(
Don't think so. HER choosing to participate in something unethical is pushing you apart. If she wasn't doing it, there's nothing to talk about.
Could not let your soft feelings for her cloud your judgement. Could not let your soft feelings for her let her off the hook for behavior she chose to do.
Could own your part of it -- not speaking up when you discovered the dating partner was a cheater and withdrawing your goodwill and blessing for this to continue. And tell your partner that -- "I could have said this sooner when I discovered your dating partner is a cheater. I am withdrawing my goodwill and blessing for this to continue. I am requesting that you break up with this person."
Simple enough action to do. Hard to FEEL maybe, but simple action.
You can request.
Whether she chooses to meet your request or not is on her.
You ARE involved. SHE is your partner. SHE is your business. Your partner does something bad, that is your business. Until you sever the partnership ties with her, she is your partner and your partner is your business.
She could rob a bank. Then that becomes your business. You are obligated to report her to the cops and answer to a higher authority. Are you answering to your higher authority in this situation?
This is your partner. What she does affects you. She is asking you to pretend that what she is doing DOESN'T affect you so she can feel at ease in her mind about continuing to do it. One side of her mouth says that. The other side of her mouth says she should end it because it causes you pain. Could call her on it. "Say YES. You are right. End it. It causes me pain. I request you break up with her."
If she balks at ending it? The clearly unethical thing? You have you answer -- your partner is wishy washy in her ethics. She does not demonstrate respect you by asking you to be an accessory to shenanigans.
I am very sorry you are going through this but someone around here needs to put a stop to it for your sake. It could be you who does it. You demonstrating self respecting behavior. Even if it means they carry on with their crazy by themselves and YOU walk away for the sake of your own long term health and well being. It stops for YOU.
So ask her if she is willing to stop participating in a cheating affair and see what choices turn up next on the table:
1) You stay together and do the work of repair and heal together. (Long term health improvement for you even if short term stinky. )
2) You break up and you do the work of healing from a breaking up on your own. (Long term health improvement for you even if short term stinky.)
3) You stay together and do NOT do the work of repair and your fears continue about future relationships because of broke trust. (No short or long term health improvement here. Just no cookies here at all. I don't suggest you pick this. )
Remember that you do not need to accept every invitation to Crazy Town that shows up. You can RSVP "no thank you."
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