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Joy 02-28-2014 05:13 PM

Don't know where to turn
 
Hi, I'm new here, and not sure I'm in the right place, but I just feel so lost and frustrated.

Here's my story. I'm a mostly straight woman in my late 30s, married with two young kids. I have had a number of relationships over the years, and I'm ashamed to say that I cheated, many times, when I was younger. I don't excuse or forgive it, and I disliked myself for it even as I did it. I have learned as I have matured that I am not monogamous by nature (not that I think cheating is an acceptable form of non-monogamy - I absolutely do not) but for many years I didn't know that "non-monogamous" was a valid thing to be, and thought I just needed to suppress it and "behave" and just be "normal". So that is what I did. I married a wonderful man and we have wonderful sex and two wonderful children. But I don't feel wonderful.

Early in our relationship, I floated the idea of opening it up. He was open to talking about exploring things like threesomes and swingers clubs, but ultimately when the kids came, he wanted to "settle down", and we never did any of the things we talked about (which were the bare minimum of what I'd like).

Once my youngest was no longer a baby and I started to feel human again, I broached the idea again. This time more confidently, with a better understanding of who I am and what I want. It was met with a sorry, no. I continued to bring it up over the next couple of years, and after much reading, therapy (together and solo for me), unrealistic compromises, discussion, and honesty, we're still in the same place, and I just don't know how to cope with my feelings.

I love my husband, I love our family. I love the way we run our home and the way we co-parent, and we have a lot of fun together. I've chosen to stay and give up my desire for additional relationships and sexual freedoms. But even though I know he's the "normal" one, I have a hard time truly understanding his position. I genuinely don't see how us dating other people takes away from what we have together. People tell me that I'm selfish and unrealistic - that I want to have my cake and eat it, too. Well, yeah! I do! And I struggle constantly with what seems like an arbitrary limit we put on ourselves with the perception that we can't have a happy marriage *and* a boyfriend or two. But I have accepted that I can't have it all, and have chosen my marriage, but although I haven't and won't act on it, the longing just doesn't go away.

PolyinPractice 02-28-2014 07:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Joy (Post 260822)
People tell me that I'm selfish and unrealistic - that I want to have my cake and eat it, too. Well, yeah! I do! And I struggle constantly with what seems like an arbitrary limit we put on ourselves with the perception that we can't have a happy marriage *and* a boyfriend or two. But I have accepted that I can't have it all, and have chosen my marriage, but although I haven't and won't act on it, the longing just doesn't go away.

Sorry, pet peeve of mine, but I don't see how poly is "having your cake and eating it too." Maybe it's "having lots of slices of cake"? But unless you want the freedom to date and sleep with others, and forbid (either explicitly or passive aggressively) your partner from having other relationships, I don't see how there's anything hypocritical or impossible about it (which is how I view that phrase, like, I want to be really thin and fit, but I want to eat McDonald's every day.)

Joy 02-28-2014 07:31 PM

I agree that it's an inappropriate phrase, and to clarify, it's not how I'm looking at it - it's what's been said to me by people I've sought advice from (including a therapist I no longer see). I don't think it was meant to tell me I'm hypocritical - I would absolutely love for my husband to have a girlfriend or flirt ir anything in between. I interpreted it as them thinking I want more than I'm realistically entitled to, and that's what I have trouble understanding. It seems like such a false dilemma to me, the assumption that you can have a happy marriage OR be non-monogamous but that both is unattainable. I don't believe that to be true in general (though because my partner is unwilling, I suppose it unfortunately is for me). I just wish I could get my head around what it is that seems so impossible to people (including my husband who has tried to express it but it always comes down to "it's just not how it's done")

YouAreHere 02-28-2014 07:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by PolyinPractice (Post 260832)
Sorry, pet peeve of mine, but I don't see how poly is "having your cake and eating it too." Maybe it's "having lots of slices of cake"? But unless you want the freedom to date and sleep with others, and forbid (either explicitly or passive aggressively) your partner from having other relationships, I don't see how there's anything hypocritical or impossible about it (which is how I view that phrase, like, I want to be really thin and fit, but I want to eat McDonald's every day.)

For many people, being in a committed relationship means eschewing others. The "have your cake and eat it too" refers to wanting to have a committed relationship but still wanting the ability to have other relationships.

You can't still have your cake if you eat it.
You can't be in a committed relationship if you're dating someone else.

Not saying the last statement is correct, but it's definitely a change of mindset for someone who is monogamous, and can be extremely difficult to Grok.

YouAreHere 02-28-2014 07:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Joy (Post 260835)
I just wish I could get my head around what it is that seems so impossible to people (including my husband who has tried to express it but it always comes down to "it's just not how it's done")

In monogamous relationship, you only tend to have multiple relationships if you're in the "dating around" stage. Once you've decided you're committed to someone, you stop dating around. You "settle down".

For monogamous people[*], this is really a difficult thing to accept. If your SO now wants to date around, it feels like a demotion. That you're not a "partner" anymore, you're one of many, and you're back in that "dating around" phase again, which doesn't mesh well with being someone's spouse or partner. It is a struggle to understand the way a Poly person thinks and feels when you think and feel very differently


[*] Whether this is hard-wiring or societal, I won't really get into. It's easy to conflate the two, and like the old "nature versus nurture" debate, I think both influences are valid.

I'm mono. I had a LOT of mental and emotional wrangling after I got into a relationship with Chops, and that was knowing that he was poly (and thought I knew what I was getting into). I didn't "get" the way he thought and felt, and my feelings got hurt a few times. Conversely, he had no idea why he'd stepped on a land mine when he did, since he just doesn't get the way I think and feel, either. It took a lot of reassurances, talking, introspection, time and experience - for both of us. As the time and experience grow, the need for the others is diminished, but not gone.

PolyinPractice 02-28-2014 08:24 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by YouAreHere (Post 260836)
For many people, being in a committed relationship means eschewing others. The "have your cake and eat it too" refers to wanting to have a committed relationship but still wanting the ability to have other relationships.

You can't still have your cake if you eat it.
You can't be in a committed relationship if you're dating someone else.

Not saying the last statement is correct, but it's definitely a change of mindset for someone who is monogamous, and can be extremely difficult to Grok.

Totally get it. But I think it's worth pointing out to the people that DO say it. Every time I point it out like that (the way you have it written out), the person realizes that, when they think about what it is they've said, it makes no sense.

snowmelt 02-28-2014 08:59 PM

Stop going to therapy. There's nothing wrong with you. The truth is, you're the only one who can figure out what works for you.

My suggestion is to keep talking to your husband. I'm not suggesting you keep asking him "hey, can we be poly now?". I am suggesting get to know him on a deeper level.

He sounds like he has a very rigid, set in stone view of you, himself and his world - a very role centered view. This helps him feel emotionally safe and valuable.

Keep talking to him anyway. Get to know each other again. Over time, see what happens with these conversations. At some point he will either start to snap out of his rigid ways, or he won't.

These ongoing conversations, and how both of you feel about having them, will eventually show you some things about him and yourself.

Everyone changes over time, which causes changes to happen in the relationships they are in. See where your changes take you.

Eventually, you will know what your options are, and you will have to make a decision for yourself. Have these conversations with him. Take your time with it. See where it takes you.

GalaGirl 02-28-2014 09:27 PM

Would you feel happier in the marriage if he would talk to you about your poly side? Not (open up the marriage.) But (open himself up to hearing about that side of you)?

Galagirl

SchrodingersCat 02-28-2014 09:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Joy (Post 260835)
I just wish I could get my head around what it is that seems so impossible to people (including my husband who has tried to express it but it always comes down to "it's just not how it's done")

Do you think you would be any more successful explaining what it is that seems so impossible about being fulfilled in a monogamous relationship? Will the falcon ever understand why the trout likes swimming so much?

Don't underestimate the power of socialization. "That's just how it's done" is the reason humans do a lot of things.

The reality is that transitioning from a closed to open marriage is a crap ton of work. It means lots of uncomfortable, icky feelings for your husband. It means giving up something he's grown accustomed to. Some people just don't like change. So, from his perspective, why should he do all this hard work for something that isn't really going to benefit him, other than by having a happier, more fulfilled wife?

In case you're interested, the reason monogamy caught on is because agriculture forced people to stay in one place and start fighting over finite resources (farmland) where previously there was abundance (nomad foragers). With land ownership, the concept of nuclear family and known heredity made sense, and then some idiot wrote it all down in some big book and pretended it was divine law, and the governing bodies realized this would make it easier to control people (since cultures who share freely are far less likely to accept domineering leadership) which was nice because then they could get those people to do all the labour while they lived the good life. More or less.

SchrodingersCat 02-28-2014 09:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by snowmelt (Post 260846)
Stop going to therapy. There's nothing wrong with you. The truth is, you're the only one who can figure out what works for you.

Yeah, that's a bunch of bullshit right there.

Going to therapy doesn't mean something's "wrong" with you. Indeed, in my experience, there's a strong correlation between people who are generally "fucked up" and people who flat-out refuse to even consider going for therapy.

People who go to therapy are those who realize that no matter how smart or happy you are, professional help can get you through tough times with a whole lot less headache and heartache than banging your head against the wall, alone in your little corner.

It's like... getting a tune-up doesn't mean something's wrong with your car. It's a strategy for ensuring that your car runs better and is less likely to give you problems when you need it most. Now, some people have the knowledge and experience to do their own tune-ups, but some people have different strengths, and so they get a professional to help out. It doesn't mean they're stupid or inept or incapable of dealing with their own problems. It means they're smart enough to acknowledge their own limitations and get help when it's appropriate.


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