First Time Poly Spectacular Fail...
....or, what NOT to do when attempting polyamory.
Hello. :) My name"s Merry, and I'm a 42 year old woman, happily married for 9 years, two kids, etc, etc. I have a long, convoluted story to tell and I'd like to offer it up both as a warning to other new people and as a way to "get it all out" to the more seasoned members here. Emotionally, I'm still reeling a little, so bear with me.
Back in October, I re-connected through Facebook (of course) with a very old flame from 20 years ago. We had a brief, tumultuous relationship that ended badly. You'd think that would be my first clue, huh? Anyway, I noticed this man had "open relationship" in his profile. Naturally, I was curious so we discussed it a bit. He informed me that while they have had threesomes, foursomes, and whatever, what they were really looking for was a woman "to complete the circle" and have a triad. Okay, cool. I didn't know about the whole "Unicorn Hunting" phenomenon at that point, so it sounded like a reasonable quest to me. I wasn't entirely unfamiliar with poly, either, so I wasn't shocked. At any rate, I was at that point feeling pretty monogamous at the time and told him so. He seemed pretty accepting of that fact, so for a while we remained facebook chat buddies. At some point, he did mention I was the "finest lover he ever had" and he's "never forgotten about me". Hmmmm.
At some point in December, things started to switch up a bit. He and I chatted on Messenger everyday, about the past, about various stuff. I have depression and I talked about that. He brought up his wife several times, and not in a very good way, either. I truly got the feeling he wasn't happy in his marriage. Don't think this didn't bother me. It did. Because, at the same time, he was chatting me up, flirting excessively, flattering the hell out of me. We discussed the breakup 20 years ago, in which I was the dumped one. He told me he regretted it, that he should have had more patience with me. I was leery, I was skeptical. Did I listen to my gut feeling? Heck no!
After the holidays, in January, we met up for coffee and just hung out. We actually had a good time. Drove around and talked, laughed. The chemistry and the feelings came back, or so it seemed. I don't know, at this point things got really confusing. I asked if he really was free to date other people and he said yes, all he had to do was ask. Okay, cool. We made plans to see each other again. My husband was informed of this, I definitely kept him abreast of everything that was going on, that I met this man from my past who was poly and I was considering the same thing. My husband wasn't too pleased but he said he would think about it, consider it, etc.
In the middle of January sometime, the first blow-up on my part happened. I was convinced that this man was just unhappy with his marriage, wanted a bit of something on the side. I really didn't know what was going on with me emotionally. I tore him a new asshole but we got it "resolved" quickly, I guess. Over Facebook. Whatever.
Take two. We met up a few times again in person. We went to the art museum and again, had a great time. Parked the truck and made out like teenagers. Chatted every day, all day. It all just happened so fast. I started reading up on poly, researching, doing some soul searching myself. At this point, I was finding that at least for me, it seemed plausible that romantically loving more then one person was something I could do. The concept made sense and it was a delightful discovery. My husband and I continued to discuss it as an option. I made sure he knew he was loved, cared for, secure. He said he needed time and I validated that. I kept him informed of my developing feelings for this man. Okay.
I don't know why and I don't know how, but somehow my feelings went from "I want to date/be intimate with this man" to "I want to be involved in his life"as in involve his wife. The way I saw it, I suppose, was that I was falling in love with this man, and that included his wife, because he also loved her. The idea of being in a relationship with a couple, forming an extended family, was so very appealing to me. Believe it or not, it was appealing to my husband as well, but he was having trouble with the whole sex part. That's normal and understandable. I did communicate this to this man, letting him know that I didn't want her to be left out at all. She and I met and it was delightful. I liked her immediately. A charming, sweet, and attractive lady. Good feelings all around.
Until Issue Number 2. See, when you bring up the past, I discovered, you bring up everything, good and bad. He dumped me, and married her. She shared a life with him that I didn't have. Never mind that I had my own separate memories, that I am currently married to a man I truly love. Feelings are feelings, and they overwhelmed me with a vengeance. I didn't want to take him away from her. I didn't want to leave my husband and yet it was painful. She and I were talking on the phone, and it just hit me. I'd never be as important to him as she is. She's perfect for him. Where, exactly, do I fit in all this? The emotions came rushing like a jagged tidal wave and I kind of crashed. As I mentioned before, I do have Major Depressive Disorder and that played a huge part. Over the phone, I told him that I would rather be friends, I'm glad they came into my life, but I had what is technically a mental illness and I wasn't sure I could mentally handle all this. Oh lord, the drama.
He de-friended me on Facebook (oh, noes!) and just reacted badly. Hurt feelings, yes, I know. But he had an extended "talk" over text and he just came across so nasty and spiteful. I was devastated, I was remorseful, I apologized to his wife. It was a mess. The thing is that he knew I had depression. I warned him about it. I thought he understood it. Then again most of our communication was through Facebook, so when it comes down to it, I really didn't know what was going on. The suspicions were rising what was his deal? what was their marriage really like?
During our chats, he told me she was sweet, but not very smart. Not true. He told me she only wanted sex every 4-6 weeks. I don't think that was true, either. He told me he the whole "loved her but wasn't in love with her" deal. Really? She painted a totally different picture. He told me that the intimacy he felt with me was the most he felt in years. He told me he never gets any cuddle time with his wife. He told HER that I stimulated his mind. Something was very wrong here. Apart from my depression, which I'm trying to deal with. His very sweet wife was insecure as well. And threatened. And jealous. All perfectly natural but I don't know, I just don't know. I got the distinct feeling that she really didn't want me in the picture at all.
So, it was decided that we would "chill out" for awhile, cool off. he seemed to understand that I needed to get better first, stabilize my depression, before attempting to tackle anything like this. He assured me (over Facebook) that my mental health was his first priority and my well-being was the most important thing to him. My husband, at this point was less then impressed. I should let it be known that my darling husband has been so, so supportive throughout the whole thing. His first concern was my mental health, the whole time. My husband is an amazing guy. Anyway, ok, calm waters once more. This man and I continued to chat for a few days, flirty flirty. I made amends with his wife. Throughout this whole situation, I was genuinely concerned about her. It was so weird. a 20 year old failed romance, resurrected. How much was wishful thinking over the past? How much was just..online infatuation? I suppose I'll never know. At this point..and this was about a week or so before Valentine's Day. I wanted love and to be loved so badly. I wanted this to work. I wanted to successfully battle my depression. I wanted, I wanted.
There's actually more to this trainwreck, but it won't fit the character limit. Stay tuned..
Thursday the 13th, right before Valentine's Day. I was chatting with his wife and him. I asked them if they were doing anything, etc. They said no. Normal stuff. I had plans to go out to dinner with my husband Friday night. I mentioned to this man that I did want to see him again, over coffee. He said he wanted to get me something for Valentine's Day and I said that wasn't necessary, that we weren't even dating. everything felt right again. Out of the blue, his wife invited me over for the evening. Of course, I was so pleasantly surprised I accepted and brought my 15 year old daughter along. We had a wonderful evening sharing memories, sharing pictures, talking. It was, I thought, a very healing experience. I was, for the most part, ready to put the past to rest. I really liked his wife a lot. It felt like we connected. Everything felt so..right.
After my daughter fell asleep, we spent the night together. In all senses of the word. His wife told me that she never fell in love with a woman before, that she always had to get drunk before a threesome so "she didn't care about the desire and attraction that her husband felt for another woman". Hmmmmm. Not good. By talking and sharing with her, I just got more suspicious. Not of her of him. What the hell was he telling HER? Did she know what he was telling me that he always loved me, that he wanted to "share his life with mine"?
It was a huge red flag that most of the time, this man acted like my husband didn't even exist. My husband was ready for all of us to sit down together and talk, with a few questions of his own. The wife agreed one hundred percent. I wanted my husband involved as well, even though he is monogamous by nature and couldn't see any sexual activity with anybody else but me. But the idea of a "quad" type relationship was something both of us were attracted to and were willing to move forward with. In fact, this meeting was supposed to happen this very weekend.
The beginning of the end. I wanted to spend some quality time with this man, alone time. I suppose I got a bit pushy, although in my defense, this was over Facebook so I was in a constant state of not knowing what the holy hell was going on. This man seemed to be a bit distant to me, but he said he was just exhausted. He's a paramedic so yeah, understandable. We decided on Monday, and he said that if he and I wanted "alone time" we would have to go somewhere else because his wife was off work that day. That took me by surprise, mostly because it was out of the blue. Me and his wife talked about it over the phone, discussed it, she told me she probably never wanted to be around when this man and I were cuddling, kissing, being intimate because she would feel like a 3rd wheel. After some discussion, I understood and respected her POV and agreed with the boundary. Issue solved. I did tell her that I saw that boundary as being problematic in the future, but that her feelings were important and that we were all in this together. Through our conversation, I saw then that she still had an issue with me being in the picture because I was "the lost love from the past". The past, the past. Yeah.
I'll confess that at this point, I didn't handle things very well. I was feeling a bit needy and just overwhelmed. There was a distinct sense of something not right. Things just didn't add up. This man told me, at one point, that "I was probably a better fit for him 20 years ago and today, too" What? I didn't agree with that. He remedied that statement and said that me and his wife were "the two loves of his life". So why did I feel so left out of the equation? I asked his wife at one point if SHE wanted this to work out and she said yes, but did she really? Was he being truthful? I didn't know. By Sunday night, I was trying to desperately recapture the good, right feeling I just experienced. This man and I were chatting and we made plans for Monday. I wanted a specific time but he said he wanted to get some sleep, I made a few jokes about "don't make me wait all damn day" and signed off for the night.
Monday morning, I woke up to 2 messages. From her: "I got home from work, watched the walking dead, talked with J. hi" From him: "Tomorrow's not going to work because my son is off school". I probably did overreact to that, big time. It sounded like a big blow off to me. I sent him a few messages back and they were up and down, all over the place. I felt like my feelings and needs were not being considered at all. Everything just came to a volatile head with me. I was hurt, angry, confused. Did I have a right to be? I don't know.
To wrap this up, there was a brief spat over Facebook. Some of it might have been a big misunderstanding. I was feeling kind of done and told him so. He responds with "I'm tired of your threats and manipulation. Don't contact me again. goodbye".
And that's it. I sent a message to his wife, apologizing and assuring her I was completely out of the picture. I'm left with trying to sort everything out, analyzing my actions, feeling like I just got chewed up and spit out. Was I really being a manipulator? What could I have done differently? The whole thing has felt both surreal and horribly painful at the same time. I desperately would like to sit down with both of them and just hash it all out but that's not going to happen.
For those of you patient enough to actually read this cheerful little story, thank you. I truly needed to get this all out. My husband and I have put poly on the shelf for the time being until we're in a better place to move forward. And when I say "better place" I mostly mean my emotional and mental state. But after talking, we decided it can definitely be an option in the future. We'll do it together. My husband said that it was just the wrong time, with the wrong people. He's absolutely correct.
I'm also offering this up as an object lesson to anybody who needs it. Ignore red flags and warning signs at your own peril. There is more then one heart at stake, and the emotional prices are incredibly high. Take heed, and I apologize for the length of my first post.
Yes you were being manipulative but so was he.
I read your post twice. I'll call your husband Steve, the other man Paul and his wife Sarah.
You and Paul have a codependent relationship. Your emotions steer the relationship you have with Steve. Paul's emotions steer the relationship he has with Sarah.
If the 4 of you formed a quad, the emotions between you and Paul would steer everything. That means Sarah and Steve would be pulled along for the very unpleasant ride between you and Paul.
My guess is Sarah and Steve would bond. They wouldn't do it out of love for each other. They would do it out of the desire to seek emotional shelter from the big waves you and Paul create.
Codependent highs are higher than the highs of healthy relationships, but also very short lived. Codependent lows are much lower than the lows of healthy relationships.
This means codependent emotional waves (comparing to ocean waves) are taller (drama/instability) and move faster than healthy waves. You are attracted to him because he easily moves your emotions.
The quad you want will not work with Paul and Sarah.
I hope you feel A bit better writing that out. I agree with your husband ... Not the right time, not the right people. I am glad you are out of it and taking the time to heal.
I understand questioning whether someone is being truthful (although I don't believe people set out to consciously lie; more like they are not honest with themselves or hope the can live up to what they are saying). That said, given the depression, I wonder too if your insecurities caused you to doubt when there wasn't any valid reason to. I ask this because I was in a relationship with a couple in which the wife's feelings skewed her perception of reality. As an example: the husband and I would decide a walk would be fun. We'd ask her to go. She would decline - and then accuse us of excluding her. I bring this up because you seemed to have trouble accepting their assurances, choosing to doubt when their was nothing obvious in their behavior or words to indicate they were being less than honest.
Secondly, "blowing you off because their child was home from school." Seriously? A kid's needs, that parent-child relationship is going to come first. Always. Yeah, sometimes it is disappointing to have to reschedule plans, but the fact that you got angry about it - I can see why he was put off.
Nonetheless, I understand that this was traumatic. I am sorry. I hope you feel better soon.
I agree that getting your mental health under control before dating other people is a good idea. At the very least, you would need to date people who truly understand mental health issues. Few people do.
For example, Auto is bipolar. If not for the fact that my mother is severely bipolar and I spent 25 years living with it, I would never understand half the stuff Auto does. Even with my now 31 years experience as the daughter of a bipolar person, I'll never truly understand what it's like. I just know how to recognize their episodes, and I know not to take things too seriously when they're in the middle of a mania. If they start freaking out, I offer support and compassion, but I don't take what they say personally or as expressions of their true selves.
I don't see the codependency between OP and her husband. We only have her side of the story and not his feelings and reactions. It's impossible to diagnosis a psychological condition based on hearsay. Being married to someone who has depression does not automatically make someone codependent. Neither does worrying about your wife's feelings and wanting to support her when she goes on a journey of self-discovery. Please.
In regards to whether you're a manipulator, we don't really have the right info say. You said you freaked out a lot and got upset over things, often when you didn't get your way. So it's possible. But manipulation often comes down to specific wording and tone of voice. The same feelings and needs can be expressed as manipulation or as compassionate requests. Without being there or having a log of the chat, it's difficult to say.
... Then again, chances are, if you believe you're being manipulative, then you probably were. If someone accuses you of being manipulative, then it's definitely worth taking the time to analyse your interactions and find out what made them think that and how you can interact differently to avoid leaving people feeling manipulated. Even if you didn't intend to be manipulative, there could be certain phrases that you use that inadvertently trigger these responses.
Thank you all for your replies. It really does help to hear people's objective opinions. :) I've definitely done some soul-searching on the matter along with some good healthy introspection. I truly do not feel I was intentionally being manipulative. However, I did have a lot of unanswered questions and suspicions that never got aired or resolved because most of my correspondence with this man was through text and Facebook Messenger. It was fully my responsibility to communicate more effectively with both of them, I just didn't know how or if my concerns or issues were even considered important to either one of them.
All in all, it was a huge communication failure. I'll own my share and learn from it. The truth is that despite my past relationship with this Man, none of us really knew each other very well at all. Personally, I don't feel that a few months of Facebook messaging is enough to plunge into a complicated, emotionally-charged poly relationship like the one we were attempting. The poor wife must have felt steamrolled.. having spent 18 years with this guy and all of a sudden, I show up, his "lost love from the past". I'd feel threatened and anxious, too. There were a bunch of mixed signals. At no point did all of us sit down and have a good, long talk. It was just a mess.
I'll take personal responsibility for my part of it, as well. It was not a good idea to attempt any of this while battling major depression. The next time I attempt poly, I'll be in a healthier, better place.
My one regret is having to walk away from this after things ended so badly. I wish we all could have just sat down face-to-face and hashed all this out but that's just not going to happen. Live and learn, I guess. Again, thank you all for your advice.
This reminds me a bit of my situation, getting involved with an old flame and having his wife freak out. This forum has taught me a lot about open communication and some about paying attention to red flags. My guess is that it takes quite a while (if ever) for things to really work with an old flame and a spouse who is taken by surprise. Takes a lot of work and communication.
Good luck going forward.
M - Me female, 59 - _trying_ to figure out if I'm poly
B - 56 - my husband for over 34 years
JP - 58 - my high school boyfriend, newly appeared in the picture after 38 years; very long distance; haven't actually seen him
A - 65? - JP's wife of over 30 years, who's not cool with things
You are not the only among us to have experienced an epic poly fail. My attempt at opening my marriage in midlife was totally with the wrong person, and we moved way too fast, and I steamrolled my husband, etc., and it went down in flames.
Let's reframe the situation: that first passionate, messy, disastrous relationship was meant to shock our systems into CHANGING. They were meant to make us reboot our relationships and ourselves and get ready for a new life.
I used the aftermath of the breakup with my lover to work on strengthening my marriage, work on my own personal issues, and to start explore non-monogamy SLOWLY. No one really special has come along so far (though I've had some fun looking ;) I can't wait to find the right person/people at the right time so I can use what I've learned.
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