stories in extended triad land
This is a place for me to keep the story of my relationships in place.
The relevant parts of my first post, with an edit about the triads...
I've lurked here for ... ages, it seems... and tonight is the first time that I want to post something. I don't need the labels, but I've been poly all my life, while my wife has been monogamous. We've had the usual agonies. I have a LDR that has lasted many years, but I rarely see her and my marriage has managed the difficulties. I've read (and adore the writing of) many of you, most of all (hate to single you out, but seriously, you're amazing) GalaGirl, and thought I'd share what is happening in my life tonight.
My previously monogamous and straight wife (W) is out tonight with a woman she's fallen in love with. They connect, they share, they are absolutely gorgeous together. When they kiss, when they smile that sheepish grin about the other, when they open up to the happy space, they are in such puppy love that ... well, it makes me more than happy. Ahem. Cough. Compersion is easy. Raging horniness at my wife's exploration of her deeper emotional self is overwhelming. And awesome. Cough...
The thing about this woman she's fallen in love with is that she and I met years ago, and fell in love with each other more recently. But, having a past in which I'd cheated on my wife, before I figured out what ETHICAL nonmonogamy was, I was simply not going to cheat again. Ever, not if it was going to destroy my marriage. We were close friends, I told my wife all about her, my wife knew something was different with this friendship, was nervous, but we kept lines of communication wide wide open. Eventually, this woman (A) contacted my wife ... and ... they inadvertently fell in love, it seems. My wife started to see me differently, understanding nonmonogamy in a way that she never had, and safely saying that we (A and I) could be lovers. Which we now are.
So, tonight, my wife W and my girlfriend A are ... lovers, for the first time, on their own. How did we end up in a triad?! But that's where we are. The threesomes we've had (HELLO, that was sexier than any fantasy I've ever had) helped them feel confident with each other, and hiding from the kids (heat and passion in a kiss) led to a walk with making out (like, seriously, in the bushes, like you're teenagers?! that's so cute!) and has now led to making love.
Maybe this is the only place I can imagine sharing that, yes, it feels weird to be alone on the night my previously monogamous wife is with a lover for the first time... which should be a monumental shift in any marriage... except it's with my lover... and I'm just so HAPPY for them. They're so damn beautiful when they are together. They are so utterly gorgeous when they open up to each other.
It's funny, people hate on the unicorn seekers, but we didn't go into it seeking that. We didn't expect this triad. The two are quite open to the possibility that I'll be the hinge in a V that includes sexy threesomes but not them as lovers, outside of explorations like tonight. And they are best friends, they tell me, no matter what they do with their bodies. But I'm seeing them going deeper and not yet safe with each other, constrained by the social expectations around us. I can imagine that in a year, we'll be Out in a way we aren't right now. Or hidden but pretty damn happy. Because they seem pretty damn happy, and I am, too, with both of them, and with them together while I'm alone.
Why am I writing? because I'm alone tonight while they make love. But I'm HAPPY, and I didn't really expect to feel that. And this community (in which I've lurked) helps me, and that means a lot to me, so, in the grand scheme of things: Thank you. Thank you for being here with and for me. You've helped me more than you could know.
This was my post in the introductions section:
My name's pulliman. I'm married quite happily. We've been through a lot of changes, none stronger than what is going on right now. But to get to that point, I'll give a brief history of how we got here.
I probably realized in high school that I actually consistently fell in love with other women. Sure, I had a girlfriend but I'd... flirt... and fall for... and feel something about other women. I tried to hide it. I tried shaming myself out of it. I tried to stop doing it. But it just kind of regularly happened. When my wife and I broke up (the first time...), we stayed close friends. She was the "consistently present other woman" during my next few relationships, until she and I realized that we weren't going to separate, and maybe this was our true love, and we got married and everything would change, right? Nope. I still fell for other people.
These other relationships weren't sexual - and then suddenly, one was. Unethical. I cheated. It caused all sorts of heartbreak and difficulty, but we managed to create a stronger marriage from it... also, I stayed with my other partner. Surprisingly, my wife, WI, helped me: she recognized that losing my relationship would take away from her the person that she knew I was and wanted to be. It was a bit of a deal with the devil: each of us dancing on a line of wanting something (monogamy or relationship) while not wanting to take away something (happiness...) as well.
At the time, we had no words for any of this. My other partner, EL, and I tried our best, first in total isolation. Then we found some books (Ethical Slut was relatively new) and online groups (monopoly and polymono, because each of our spouses was monogamous and we were learning there WAS something called polyamory). Slowly, we fell into a pattern of rarely seeing each other, with strong rules about how often we could see each other, and hobbled along. Deal with the devil and all that. Nobody was leaving anybody, and our spouses slowly began to trust us again, and we learned a LOT more about our selves, about each other, and about our marriages. In a way, it's a success. I'm still with EL, more than a decade in. We're in a long distance relationship, and the love we feel is still incredibly strong. Sometimes we feel like we deserve an award for keeping a LDR going for a decade...
Over the years, I've fallen for other women, and my wife and I negotiated ways in which I could talk about this so that I wouldn't, you know, cheat again. It remained hard for my wife, who wanted to deny that I was poly, and wanted me to fit into her mono world. Sometimes it was harder than others. A recent friendship, AM, kept growing and growing, though, and it felt different. I was really open about it with WI, and she was unhappily dreading where it would go. After many many months of conversation in which she warmed to the idea of AM being a good person, AM contacted WI and they started talking. It was clear that AM and I had attraction for each other - their friendship began through their remarkably blunt discussion of it and what everyone's intentions were.
Something clicked with them. They became close friends. Deep talks, a sense of safety and honesty. AM was the first person WI really talked to about the "other relationship" in our life. AM's reaction was calm and relaxed. She was poly, too, having some past experience with multiple boyfriends or being one of multiple girlfriends. Her conversations with WI helped WI see me in a different way, building off the changes from a decade of trusting EL and me.
And slowly, they started to be more than close friends. There was a light first kiss. Later they kissed again. And I was happy. We wanted to explore further. We ended up going from three way kissing to an intense threesome (all of our first) one night. It felt like the world shifted. They had a date in which they ended up making out on the couch. Both consider themselves straight, but ... just not for each other. They had a walk in which they acted like silly teenagers, hiding in the bushes.
With her own experience happening, WI talked to me about my relationship with AM - and said she understood me and supported me. She stopped fighting my polyamory and started accepting that I really could love more than one person - in part, because she was falling in love herself and it was strengthening her connection to me. EL, watching from afar, thought it was great and was really supportive of what we were doing, though she said it was like watching someone win the lottery. WI and AM explored their friendship further - recognizing there was more to explore, beyond friendship. AM and I found the right time, and became lovers. There were more threesomes throughout all this - each better than the last (how can that be, when each was transcendent?!). WI opened up about non-monogamy and her desires with AM and with me. AM and WI had a date (all of last night) and made love without me - a kind of test for them, since they really do feel mostly straight and yet can't stop kissing each other.
We seem to be moving toward a triad relationship, where I continue to have a LDR with EL, as well. But it seems a pretty closed situation - WI and AM are just not interested in dating other women, and WI isn't interested in other men, either. Maybe AM will be open again someday, she says, but right now, she's as content as any of us. I feel sated and sexy and happy. We're still a bit in the stages of NRE, sure, but we're trying to be sensible about our decisions together. Hey, my marriage just opened up, my previously vehemently monogamous wife is suddenly dating someone - my lover! It's pretty crazy and we're feeling... safe. Maybe that's the biggest emotion - safety in the face of really big change.
Based on jobs, the town we live in, and more, we are including AM in our lives as a really close friend. WI and I have kids, and AM has kids, and none know, other than that we spend a lot of time together. AM is ever more welcome to walk in the door - when our kids aren't around, she gets a kiss from both of us, before we keep cooking together or whatever the case may be. We do recognize that we're going to get caught doing this, someday. We don't really care, all that much. It feels like the right thing for us to be doing.
In other words, we're not out. Our triad isn't witnessed, but the individual couples within it are strongly witnessed and supported by each third person. We have a few outside people who know (EL, for example, or AM's old poly boyfriend whom she hasn't seen in about 10 years, but they talk every now and then). So far, that sates our need to be recognized...
And of course, I'm sharing with pseudonyms here. Thanks for reading...
Tonight I got home from a 13 hour work day, the other two were home, talking, holding hands in the kitchen. WI got up to kiss me, AM sat there, tired and drained after a 16 hour work day. Just absurd, the pressure we're under sometimes. We were slugs.
Talking. Sharing. Hand holding. Hugging. Back rubbing. Nobody had real energy. But we were close, and it was calm.
Tonight was supposed to be date night. Were we ready to hop into bed? No. Were we itching to do it? Though AM and I are insatiable (just in general, and therefore with each other), we had nothing in the tank.
In part, that's because AM stayed longer than expected yesterday (dinner while WI was away) and we ended up in a lovely spontaneous threesome last night.
Tonight, in comparison, was soft and calm, talking and easy, lovely and strong. AM left (we sometimes talk about her spending the night... but not yet) and WI went to bed. I want to post, just to share a night of calmness. It's not ecstasy, it's not perfection, it's just a night of tired normalcy.
This is new to me. My poly world has always involved a long distance relationship and a wife who didn't like it. To kiss WI and AM, to have WI and AM kiss so deeply AM left... this is new. And it makes me happy. Some nights, doing nothing and being happy is about the best sign you can ask for.
Tonight, my wife WI and our partner AM are out with other friends - I'm at home with the lazy kids.
Last night, AM and I had a crazy great date at her place, dinner and talk and fun and a wonderful space of connection. I'm madly in love with her, she's madly in love with me, and we both get serious joy on the other being madly in love with WI. How did this happen?!
One of the odd parts of last night was that WI made the time and space for AM and me to have our date. "Hey," she wrote in an email, "do you two have time on Wednesday? I think you two need a date..." What the hell? This is my wife? Only 6 months ago, she was ready to kill me for my interest in AM, and now?!?
Life is good.
AM and I spent a long time talking about WI, and she says they spend a lot of time talking about me. We have found that it's not really possible to have a good relationship with either of the others, if the couple that is the others isn't doing well. So, for me to feel strongly connected to AM, I need to know she's doing well with my wife. For her to feel good with me, she needs to know that I am doing well with my wife. It's a round robin support system.
Another perspective for it, though, is a sense of powerlessness. When I'm doing badly, I go there: My wife controls my love life, and without her instigation or approval, I can't have a date. The only reason I had a date was because she organized it. I can't actually WANT a date, I can only do what she allows me, I am a weak piece of ttthpt.
It's amazing how viscerally one can feel all that - and how it takes the smallest of shifts to realize that it's all total utter BS. WI organized the date with AM because she saw me pining for AM. She thought it was cute. She was busy, AM and I weren't - before we GOT busy, she intercepted us and got us together. It wasn't controlling, it was enabling. Having us close helps her feel close to both of us. It's not power that drove her, it's love.
I guess I have a hard time with her supporting me because she spent years avoiding my poly self, denying that I really was this way, trying to undermine my relationship or at least act like it wasn't there. Then she fell in love with someone I'd fallen for.... and things got better. It's like we got away from our past shitty dynamic. And now, she is helping me with my dates, as I slowly learn that I can actually HAVE them, and maybe next time I'll do the planning myself. But she already told me she's happy that it's going to happen.
Oh, and turn about is fair play: AM and WI have a date next week, and I organized it for them. And AM has already asked how she can help WI and me have a date. "You two are too domestic. Let me watch the kids," and ... we might just do that.
Triadland is really amazing. I never believed this would happen. Each person watching out for the other couple? Wow.
little tidbits - big changes
A quiet overnight happened last night - yet the nature of the quiet was that we are far more connected today than yesterday.
Today feels... different. Like we crossed a line to a place where we are more fully intertwined than we were, before.
We're talking about a vacation next spring. To a city far enough away that we won't run into anyone, where we can be an open triad, holding hands however we wish, and so on.
We're talking furniture. Who gets to pick the size of the mattress that AM needs to buy?! No matter what she pickes, WI and I are buying the sheets for it - after all, we'll be in them, often enough, right? AM finds this whole thing hilarious.
We're talking about witnessing, with me asking them (and each responding) with real words about who and what they are to each other. Since neither was bi, before this, it's been hard for each to admit what they felt for another woman. Hmmm, they seem not to have a hard time kissing.
We're talking about commitment to the relationship as it now is, without knowing where it might be going.
This weekend feels momentous. It feels essential. It feels like a new world.
date night (home with kids)
Today is not as easy as other days have been. AM and WI are on a date, which both really need with each other. I haven't seen AM in too long, and WI and I are processing so much of our past that none of us are really in the giddy space we've been in, at times.
Today is harder for me. My wife spent years fighting me about my relationship with EL. As a result, that relationship was held back (out of respect for WI, and fear that she'd leave me if I pushed too hard). I now wish I'd fought harder, but the effects are what they are - EL and I aren't what we'd like to have been, and the past battles weigh heavy on us. As WI has fallen in love with WI, I've often thought about how hard it was for me with EL, and how much simpler it is to have a supportive spouse, as WI does. I love that she's with AM, after all. But I'd really like her to see how she's changed and acknowledge how goddamn much she hurt me for something she now calls her own.
From a text I got, WI and AM are talking about me a lot tonight. That's good to know - since I talk to each of them about the other, it's nice to know that there's a three way symmetry of talking about the person who's not there, right?
So am I feeling left out, tonight? It's the sum of small things, but yes. I am. Sigh. Not that I begrudge them their time together. I just wish we were all together.
That's a thought for another night. The dream of what I'd really like to have. I wish we could be together, all three, all the time. None of this individual date crap. A new assumption about life - all three living together, kids intermingled, families intertwined and redefined. But I'm scared to say that out loud. Funny that I'm posting about it pseudo-anonymously in a public forum. I read about triads moving in together, but how does it really work? I have no clue.
Just now, AM and I were holding each other in the kitchen while WI and her sister were on the phone. There was some kissing, lots of small talking. Intimate. Nice. WI came back in - aw c'mon, join us! We held each other close. They are the same height - kissing is easy. Every now and then, one tilted up to face me - I'm much taller. It was tender and soft. Three people in arms around each other. God I love this feeling. I've never had anything like it before.
Responding to a different thread, editing, expanding a bit, and archiving my thoughts here...
AM, WI, and I just had dinner with our kids intermingling, while the adults worked out date nights and reactions to past dates and all. I showed gorgeous old photos of WI to AM and tried talking WI into the short short dress for their next date. I kissed AM while WI grinned at us. I'm still incredibly happy.
This triad it's just an incredibly rich, complicated realm. I'm not sure I would have picked this, had it not happened. I don't know if I can say that - there's a part of me that feels so at home with this feeling that perhaps it's something I've wanted all along, but it's not like I was unhappy with WI. I am just happy and polysaturated and sated with AM in my life, too. That WI and AM are also lovers is just fucking awesome. Icing on the cake. The perfect after dinner drink. The ... never mind, I'm being silly.
But it's happening, and it's more than three couples, really. There's A-B, B-C, and C-A, plus there's also the actual triad of A-B-C (where we recognize that we're subtly different when we're all three together, in terms of talking styles, sex, and so much else), and then there's also A, B, and C as solo individuals outside of each of the couples, and interacting with and reacting to the couple. That makes for a lot of relationships. In a "typical" couple there's just A and B and their interaction as a couple separate from their interaction as individuals. Triads are complicated.
And they're awesome, when they work! Holy shit, is this fun. BUT, I can't imagine having expected it. What's happening isn't what I expected even two weeks ago. We're on a big web, and when one person moves, the other two move, and all the relationship interactions subtly change. There's no way to predict it or plan for it. The only trick we've got going is plenty of communication and a deep space of trust.
What seems to work for us, and help us move forward, is when the individual (A, B, or C) is spending plenty of time supporting the couple they're not in. If we all trust that we're all doing that, THEN it works out. A complicated bit of game theory, really, and some triad version of the prisoner's dilemma, but for good and not for bad.
I wonder if there's a name for that - not prison sentences but, um, extra kisses or something? Who knows.
From this post...
For all that the Myers-Briggs test tells me that I'm equally intro- and extroverted, I don't actually like being alone - until I really do, and then I don't even notice the people around me.
As my wife is on a date (though she's "not poly," just, you know, on a date with her lover who is also my lover who is also ... oh, never mind, it's simple for us but too complicated to explain), I don't really think about being alone. I have kids in the house, which means I'm physically not alone, of course. Also, I'm writing to my long-distance and long-term love, EL, talking about ... well, lots of things.
Maybe I think about it differently from the mindset of the question or LR's response: I'm not really ever alone, even when I'm sitting by myself. I carry multitudes inside me, have conversations with them either asynchronously (via email/etc) or in isolation (meaning, with the person that I carry around inside me). I have SO MANY people, they're deeply alive to me...
I guess I'm never really alone. I wonder if that's the answer you were looking for - I don't think it was...?
Because when I re-read the question, I see that the question was about independence, not about being alone. Even there, I'm not really independent. Kids, spouse, relationships, these are all a web. They interact, they connect, and each part of the web responds to the other parts, via the connections across one or multiple people. I feel grand, being part of a network. I'm not independent at all - I'm connected. I'm not dependent (though I'd be heartbroken to have my connections break), but I'm not independent. Being connected, even when alone, seems to be the whole point of my poly life.
Huh. That's a new way to phrase it. Not sure if others feel that way.
On moving from cheating to poly
As part of a thread on moving from cheating to poly, the following piece of history... It's a reply, so some of it is focused on the other person. Still, some of what I learned comes to the fore....
Before any relationship started between AM, WI, and me, I started my relationship with EL by cheating. And, though the circumstances are different from what LR describes, the response had the same structure. For the longest time, EL's husband and my wife set rules, asked questions, demanded information, and, in turn, got every kind of support we could give. Our spouses needed to know they were being heard, respected, and loved. We also spent an incredible amount of time turning each other's attention back to our respective marriages. We spent more time talking about our marriages than about anything else, for ages. We needed each other's marriages to be good - without her marriage, she's not who she is, so why would I want her to lose that?!
It took years.
The breaking of trust, the betrayal involved, was huge. My wife needed years to return to a sense of security. She needed my attention, my words, and my full focus, even as that changed and took away from my relationship with EL. (EL was engaged in the same at home, as well.) In the end, EL and I kept something resembling what we'd had, and it's grown as we've grown, but it's not what we originally wanted or dreamed of. But it IS a passionate, meaningful, amazing relationship that has lasted for ages, and our marriages ARE intact and stronger than before.
What's important is that there came a time when... the awfulness ended. The rules of how often we could see each other changed. The need for every detail to be told changed (you did what? how often? why don't you do that with me?!), especially as ... we started doing "what" and "that often" and perhaps much more, at home, as well.
There came a day when I needed a particular kind of help in my life, and WI said to me, "you should talk to EL. She'd be good for you, you need her." And we all realized that things had changed, and WI sees EL as an integral part of my life, and the affair is no longer relevant. "Oh, right, that," is now the attitude, rather than "you asshole." (It certainly helps that WI fell in love, herself... putting herself in my shoes was a big deal, for her.)
The thing is, I'm not advocating going this route. My god, it sucked. But if it's the path you're on, then I can say that it worked out for us.
One last thing: You ask how to stop smothering her with your need for attention. My answer is: insist on attention. SHE is the one who had the affair. If she wants to leave you, she should. If she wants to stay, she needs to respond to your desire for attention. She broke a promise you two had with each other, and now she needs to turn and face you and love you harder than you've ever been loved. She needs to know what you want with her, and you two need to make that happen. If she means it, that she's not leaving the guy AND wants to stay with you, she has to fulfill that desire by convincing you, again, of her love. She has to re-earn your trust. If she's pining about her guy while you're there, you can tell her you're not there to listen to that. She had an affair, she hid the emotions for that long, she can keep them private now, too - not by hiding, but out of respect for you. You need attention from her, you should get it, and it's not about her, it's about you. That's not smothering, that's keeping your marriage intact. If that's what you want, go ahead and ask for it. If she's not giving you that, she's not taking your pain and your place seriously.
Our version of this situation sucked, but it also changed my life and my marriage immeasurably for the better, in the long run. But it's been a long run, and incredibly tiring at times. Good luck.
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