Transitioning into a triad
I’ve been following many of the threads (including many on triads) on here for a little while now but haven’t really joined in the discussion. That being said, I’ve hit a rough patch in my current relationship and wanted to put it out there to see if anyone’s encountered this situation before (I’m sure someone has :-) and how you moved through it:
I joined a polyfi triad back in October with two people with whom I’ve been acquainted (but not been close with) for about 10 years. They have been dating on and off for those ten years and are getting married this May. They had been searching for a third for about a year-and-a-half when we began spending time together.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it – it’s been a rocky road these last 5 months as we’ve struggled to redefine what a relationship is supposed to be and have dug up and dealt with a lot of social conditioning. We’ve learned that one of the things that makes a triad (or any plural relationship) so difficult is that instead of one relationship to nurture, there are four. Each of these needs attention and time and each evolves at a different pace. It is very challenging keeping everyone’s needs met, all of the relationships tended to, and also have a job and a life outside of the relationship.
However, I have never been in a relationship that is as caring, honest and communicative as this one. There is a lot of love on all sides and fun and very real moments as we each become vulnerable and share fears and hopes for our lives. I am very committed to making this work if it is possible.
So, after a short period of relative harmony, we’ve hit a rough patch again:
As commonly happens, the man and I are very much in love, and although I adore the woman, my relationship with her has been more difficult to build. I was a lesbian for 10+ years, so that aspect is not an issue for me (although it might be for her, as I’m her first, but I don’t think that’s it). The primary cause for strife at this stage is that she and I have seemingly opposite needs that we can’t find a comfortable common ground on:
I feel the need to be an equal player in the relationship. I want the right to be involved in decision-making. I feel resentful when they make plans to throw a dinner party or to go to a friend’s wedding in another state without me. I feel threatened when their relationship becomes “primary” as is happening more often as the wedding approaches. I want equal time with him and her during the week. They live together, and although I live close by, it still makes me feel marginalized because lots of conversations and decision-making happen when I’m not around.
She needs to take things slowly and open up gradually. She says she can’t divide up her week evenly between him, me and us. She needs a certain amount of “him and her” time or she begins to feel that she is losing him and feels threatened. She has mentioned several times that she is not comfortable with him having a “girlfriend” on the side. I also don't want to be the "girlfriend on the side". But I feel that she is acting as the gatekeeper to the relationship – she is the slowest to adapt to the changing dynamics. It makes it difficult for me to feel lovingly toward her because I feel she is holding me down from having an equal position in the relationship. My relationship with him has developed much more quickly. He feels comfortable integrating me to the extent that everyone is comfortable with.
Truthfully, I understand where she is coming from. It has only been a short time, and she doesn’t know what she’s getting with me. She is deeply in love with him (and he with her, of course), and while she is very fond of me, I think she is just generally one of those people that moves slowly in relationships. It takes a while for her to build trust.
We have talked about our visions for the relationship in the future. Both of them have expressed the desire to have equal roles and equal commitments.
I guess my basic question is: how do you balance the transition from a long-term two-person relationship to a three-person relationship while meeting everyone’s needs for equality and for security? Is it best to start out as everyone being equal as much as possible or is it better to transition gradually?
I recognize that it is still early in my relationship with them and a lot of these intimate kinds of things generally come later after trust and closeness has been developed (as she pointed out to me). That does not negate the fact that I feel hurt and left out. I wonder if starting out unevenly makes it more difficult to transition to equality later because patterns of interacting have already been established?
Not to mention the wedding. They have assured me several times that the fact that they are getting married does not mean that I will have a secondary role in the relationship. I can’t get past the fact that in our society, that’s exactly what that means. Legally and culturally, they will always be viewed as the “acceptable” relationship. How do you get past that?
A little background on my history that affects how I feel about this: the relationship I was in prior to this one was a poly relationship of almost 2 years where I was the secondary partner and had no influence or rights in decision-making of the primary couple. I was very much in love with the man and was heartbroken when we eventually moved apart and he became exclusively involved with her again. I never was invited to meet her. In my defense, I was not at all informed on poly relationships at the time and kind of fell into it. If I had done a little research I might have acted differently and not have gotten so attached or been a little more assertive about how the relationship evolved. You live and learn ☹
So, should I just try and relax and trust that what they say is true – that the relationship will eventually become an equal one? I'm willing to accept that my insecurities are just getting in the way of a natural relationship progression. Or is there evidence that the relationship that starts out more equally is the one that generally survives?
Thanks in advance for any help and advice. I am definitely seeing why triads are so notorious for not working out! It is very challenging to integrate into an existing relationship, especially one that is so committed and long-standing. It brings up lots of insecurities and worries and fears. It’s definitely not for the fainthearted!
Thanks for reading and Happy Valentine’s Day!
It sounds like this is all very new and perhaps just needs time. Either that or expecting too much is not the best idea for you. Maybe you should look at what you could do to move on with other things right now and let her take the time she needs. Perhaps you could find an additional partner that has time and is willing to be more invested in you.
It sounds like the two of them had their fun and are now thinking of other things and moving in other directions. Thats fine but what's in it for you? Its fine to keep at it and remember you have your own life to live and you can be interested in other things. This seems like a good indication that the nre is over and things are settling for them perhaps. Maybe you should settle a bit also?
Going through the same thing, long term mono -> Triad. I think it depends on the people involved. For some of the women we tried with it was harder and some were easier. Some women made my girlfriend more jealous, others not so much, and it's not just how "hot" they look. It mostly comes down to how receptive they are to her and compatible with her.
We haven't had any big issues so far and ours has been going on some months now. Now when I think about "problems" others have I think there must be some incompatibility there. That doesn't mean it can't be worked out.... but it just means something needs to be done. As to what needs to be done, in your case sounds like this woman isn't as receptive to you for some reason and it's putting a road block on the triad. Maybe he is feeding back into her wishes, who knows, as the outsider you probably have a distorted view of the actual going ons.
Maybe there is something you're doing that is setting off her jealousies? I would focus on her for a little bit, show her, at least for a little time, that you want to be with her more than the man. Maybe make it subtle, ignore some attention he is giving you and focus on her while he is doing it? Probably lots of little things you can do that I have noticed the new girl in our relationship does to me time to time. It's good sometimes for bonding to have "chick power" combined against a common enemy "the man".
Well, FWIW, I'm going to say your expectations and plans may get you all in trouble. There's a 'scent' of control in there and if there is, it's going to spell some difficult times ahead.
There IS NO equality ! Ever. Anywhere. Life just in't like that. But what it's sensible to seek is BALANCE. A totally different thing. I think if you looked at the relationship much like you would 3 (or more) people running an office or business together the natural dynamic might seem clearer. Some days certain people are tight on a project, communicating and making decisions together and the other(s) are off on something else. It's just how life flows. COULD you feel 'left out' ? Sure. You could. But life isn't going to wait around for decision by committee. No different in relationships.
And now the 'marriage' thing.
Why ? What's behind that ? What's the driver ?
Because it IS going to effect a 'pair bond' to some degree regardless of what everyone intends. It's the nature of the institution. And when you have a 'pair bond' you are going to have anyone else outside that contract take somewhat of a 'secondary' role. How much would depend on the people of course, but that's what the contract is intended to accomplish ! So if this 'marriage' is necessary for some reason I suggest you get used to a new role. It's ok - really. But YOU have to accept it as 'ok'. Otherwise there's going to be resentment and trouble will ensue. Decisions WILL get made by the pair, time will be spent together etc etc. Can you be ok with that ? If not I think you guys better get talking before this contract gets signed ! (marriage)
Good luck - keep us posted.
I'm with GS on this one. I don't see marriage as a contract or simply a function "of the state" but I certainly do see it as a higher level of commitment. They could be doing it to take advantage of government perks but it will definitely make their relationship a priority in my opinion. I base the concept of "secondary/primary" on the impact each partner has if removed from the relationship. When you have the type of financial integration and government/employer benefits that marriage can create you ultimately have a greater impact on the relationship....in that maintaining that relationship will likely become more of a priority to keep stability in the big picture of life.
If the non-married partner leaves, the overall impact will be less; no paperwork, no forms to fill out with the government and probably very little social pressure normally associated with ending relationships.
So the question is, to repeat GS, will you be healthy in that situation? You can't expect to be treated equally but you do have the right to be treated fairly…and those are two very different things.
Here come the 2 cents from someone who shouldn't offer ANY cents...but...
Your post worries me. We're about to step into the warm waters of a poly relationship and are still working out all the kinks. Our situation is much different...BUT...we've been looking for 13 yrs and have been married for 10. We would WANT HB to be a part of EVERYTHING - the family, the house, the mortgage (and the deed) - hell...health care coverage if we could swing that! HB is stuck in the "play" mentality - and is worried about overstepping boundaries and intruding on our "real life" and all. I'm wondering if this is a fantasy come true...and reality isn't as...well...fantastical for your lady friend.
The marriage seems to be like a slap to your face, honestly. Is there a reason for them getting married? Was there a financial commitment to the wedding prior to the onset of your relationship with them that they can't afford to back out of?
I guess I'd feel more at ease if you were being included in decisions, plans AND the wedding (as a bridesmaid perhaps?) and that following that ceremony there could be a ceremony held for all of you. In my stratosphere, we have collaring ceremonies instead of "weddings" but when undertaken with the right air of solemnity, it is just as binding.
Again..not even sure I'd listen to me at this point - but that whole post just gave me a weird vibe.
The only point I would make is that a collaring ceremony won't get you a health plan or death benefits..or even be enough for banks to see you as a financial collective to increase your buying power. Marriage for love is beautiful... marriage for the "state" is beneficial.
Absolutely, Mono. Unfortunately marriage was never about love historically. It was EXACTLY about lands, funds, goats, offspring. Originally meant to simply chart who was doing who to determine proper paternity of children to prevent incest (except of course..in the royals....why should the leaders have all their mental faculties?? lol j/k) There have been examples of polygamy and polyandry throughout history...until certain religions decided their God wanted things done a certain way. Marriage at that point became more about assets and religion.
That's why I was asking if there were financial commitments to the marriage PRIOR to her advent into the relationship. Or children involved?? I'm originally from Canada where same sex unions have been recognized in terms of health benefits, etc long before marriage itself was legalized for gays. I do know that you cannot claim benefits for more than one partner of any gender.
But Mono?? How would I LOVE to see the look on the person's face who reads my benefit update application to include HB where it reads: relationship check box and I type in "Well..s/he's COLLARED. Where is that?? Don't tell me it's not a legitimate relationship! She's locked in my basement quite happily right now!" hehehe
Thanks for the morning smile :)
I'm in a polyfi triad similar to what you're in. I'm the married lady in a relationship with my husband and girlfriend. I was married for 10 years before my relationship between my girlfriend, husband and I started. My triad started over 3 years ago.
The feelings you're having sound familiar to me. My girlfriend said very similar things in the beginning of our relationship, they're completely valid, and some will continue to be with you as your relationship develops. All roles in the relationship have their challenges for sure, but yours without the solid legal commitment I feel for a lot; it would be very hard. I see that sadness in my girlfriend - and my only help for it is to continue to be loving.
On that note... Why are they getting legally married right now, if you are at the beginning of your triad relationship? Especially since they were looking for a third actively for a year and a half. It seems... at the least, impolite, and insensitive to you. It sounds like a good round of communication is in order.
I want to be clear that I don't have an opinion on the rightness of them getting married now, I sure don't know what's best for your relationship. I don't even know what's best for mine sometimes! but it sounds like a lot more communication is in order for you and each of them. The only way through the rough patch is to talk about those feelings, you did a really good job of expressing them here. I invite you to take something similar to them.
One thing that helped us a lot is counselling. I hear that advice a lot on the boards and it's good. We found an excellent poly counsellor, I've learned a ton about communicating and feelings since then. It's been quite the learning and growing process, indespensible. For my relationship and my own personal growth.
Triads are hard, and there aren't a lot of obvious models to work from. But one consistancy is communicate, communicate, communicate.
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