Heartsick--need to hear from those who've been through it
New to the site, and relatively new to an open marriage--about two years at this point. Forgive me for errors in terminology; they are not intended to diminish or offend.
I'm a mid-40s bisexual cisgender male, married for more than 15 years (together for more than 20) to a "straight" cisgender woman. She knew I was bi before we married, and when we married, we'd both been serial monogamists in our relationships until then, and monogamy was right for us at the time we married. I thought it always would be, especially since I wasn't hiding my bisexuality from her, and we allowed space for it in my life and our lives, in terms of my identity and erotic imagination, porn, etc. so that it wasn't some big toxic secret.
About five years ago (hello, mid-life crisis cliches, yes, I see you there, thanks), my feelings about being bi and, eventually, about being monogamous, really began to change. I wanted, after more than 20 years since my last intimate contact with men, to have that in my life again. After stumbles and false starts, about two years ago we decided to open our marriage, for me to see men (only) outside of it. My wife is free to see other people (any gender) if she wishes, but has thus far not pursued it.
All was going well--some less than great encounters for me, sure, but I had also begun to establish one or two regular outside partners with whom I had good connections, even friendships, and good m-to-m sex, but who otherwise didn't violate our "don't fall deeply in love with someone else" rule.
(We understand we can't "control" who we fall in love with, ultimately, but have promised each other to keep each other as primary, not to leave each other, and to keep the deepest emotional connection and fidelity to each other. Infatuations and crushes, we felt, could come and go.)
For the most part, it's been working fine. We process a lot, and keep checking in. I've kept no secrets, though I have shaded some details, either through a mutual sense of TMI, or respect for others' privacy, or for a feeling of needing to explore these sides of my sexuality without always calibrating them against her reactions, positive or negative.
Many months ago, after one partner had pulled away after not wanting to have to be "the man who vanishes" due to the fact that we are not really open about being in an open marriage, I met a younger guy. He's great. We clicked: intellectually, temperamentally, and sexually. Cue mutual infatuation. Add in some D/s roleplay and cue intense mutual infatuation.
My wife noticed, and I was relatively forthright about, this new aspect. I was feeling NRE big time, and we processed. (All three of us, actually. He continued to impress me with his maturity and understanding, and has never wanted to be a threat to our marriage.) I expressed a desire to make him "a very regular thing"--and she agreed, but with the condition that I not see anyone else.
I had my doubts about that, at the time, but agreed to give it a try. Over the months we tried this, the intensity of my attention to him for all of my m/m sexual energy obviously increased, and since he was returning it in kind to me, it felt pretty great, even though I knew it couldn't last and was setting us all up for a fall. But for my wife's part, she's least comfortable with "the unknown"--which includes when I'm in a "finding dates" mode, getting to know new guys--her sense of threat (emotional, health, social, etc.) to me and to us is understandably much higher during those times. So the appeal, for her, of my having a single regular partner on the side who seemed to more than happy to satisfy all of the sexual wants that I had looked to other guys in general to fulfill--well, perfect, from her perspective.
In recent months, what I knew was inevitable has happened: though he's still interested in seeing me (sexually) and considers me a good friend as well, his ardor has obviously cooled. The emails and text messages have slowed, and mine to him go longer and longer without a reply. It's been a really wrenching change in frequency and type of communication. Explained in part by changes in his life (he's much busier, and seeing someone very casually--a fuckbud), but it....hurts. And it's compounded by the fact that he lives several hours away, so at most we saw each other about once a month...and now, again totally understandably, that may not be possible for quite some months.
I find myself mooning like a lovesick teenager. It's...pathetic. And embarrassing, and feels stupid and awful. Sure, it's oxytocin addiction or whatever, and I know it'll pass. And he's been nothing but kind and honest, though also is clearly deliberately dialing back the type and frequency of what he used to send to me. In the early months, I used to be able to "count" on a text exchange with nearly every day, and a few emails in a week, with some email chats. Now I can't count on a reply to an email for up to a week, or a text for a day. And that's...fine. Really. And also feels (temporarily) pretty sucky. Not knowing when I'll see him again is really difficult.
And, of course, my wife sees all this. I try not to talk to her about it too often--who wants to hear their primary partner acting like a lovesick teenager all the time?--but when I'm particularly sad or when she's particularly aware, of course I share.
And then she feels awful for hearing it. And I feel even worse for saying it. But, more importantly, for feeling it in the first place. For having let myself feel it.
Don't misunderstand: I don't LOVE him. I don't want us to try to imagine setting up a life together, either in a triad or alone or in any configuration. And I'm committed to my wife, our love, our sex life, our life together. I'm not going anywhere, and happy not to be.
But another relationship I'm in is changing. I'm losing something in that change. Expressing that sense of loss is hurting the person I care for more than anyone in the world. Not having anyone else to express it to...is incredibly, incredibly hard. (We're not part of any open or poly support group. A very, very few friends know. All of them monogamous; none of them interested in hearing about this, pretty clearly.)
[Pity party mode on]: I have often felt isolated, unwelcome, and invisible as bisexual man. There's an added sense of that that comes from being in a mixed orientation marriage. And, now, being in a basically "secret" open marriage, I feel I've pushed both of us deeper into closets, and that no matter what community or relationship I'm in, I'm somebody's problem or source of anxiety. I'm a chaos-bringer.[Pity party mode off]
Thanks for reading my rambling. I guess what I hope by posting is to hear from others who've been here, been through this, and come out the other side intact, who've figured out how to deal with the emotional impact of changes in their "secondary" relationships without placing too much burden on their primary relationships nor without keeping too much inside.
I'm sorry you struggle. :(
Your sense of emotion isn't just another sense that gives you feedback to you? Like your sense of sight or smell or hearing or....?
You are coming off NRE high and the thing with the BF is cooling a bit. Might not be anything other than NRE high calming down. It might be the start of other changes. At this point in time, your feelings are appropriate for the situation. Nothing wrong with your sense of emotion.
Your sense of emotion seem so to be working just fine. So why beat yourself up for having feelings? Just cuz they aren't the FUN ones to feel? :confused:
How is beating yourself up for seeing she feels blue on your behalf helping lift yourself up?
You do not expect support/nurture from your wife? She doesn't expect herself to be there for you in times of need? Or only in certain situations? :confused:
Joys shared are multiplied. Burdens shared are reduced.
I'm sorry you have not created community before this. :( Either anon online forums like this or RL friends that you can be emotionally open with. Having a layer of "I have nobody to confide in" at this time? It stinks. But there it is.
I'm sorry you have not articulated with wife what you expect of each other in terms of spouse support/nurture. It stinks to not have solid footing there at this time. But there it is.
So the next time you have to deal with one of the UGH feelings, you are better prepared and not in isolation?
If you haven't been doing much to create larger community or deeper connections with those you already commune with -- feeling isolated is sometimes the result. :o
Hang in there. You will be ok. Do your self care, breathe, and take it one thing at a time.
I suppose what I mean to say is that I had not expected to "allow" myself to get as invested in any outside relationship's changing or cooling or ending to the extent that it would have me feeling this sad/insecure/wistful. Silly, I know.
My only prior similar experience was about 6 months or so back, when I buddy I had decided he wanted us to stop seeing each other after I expressed a (joking, I thought at the time) concern about what our "cover story" would be should we be seen together in public, what our answer would be to the "How do you two know each other?" moment. Since my wife and I were not and are not comfortable with being generally open about being open, a cover story or protocol seemed warranted. But from this guy's perspective, that was asking him to be invisible when he was inconvenient. I respected that, and him, but was unwilling to move from where we were and are on the issue, so we went our separate ways. At that point, I was a bit blue, but not really. He was a friend I enjoyed having sex with occasionally.
This new guy, The Boy(Friend), with whom things got very intense very fast, and are now cooling/changing (maybe ending)--well, this obviously feels a lot harder with him.
And that wasn't "supposed" to happen. So that's why I feel bad about having allowed it to. So there's self-blame involved on being in the emotional situation in the first place: I thought I knew better.
And then there's the issue that seeing me upset over someone else is hard on my wife at this point in our open experience, which I get: it raises all the issues of insecurity, of "not being enough," that, of course, the mood I'm in makes me least currently equipped to assuage.
I realize, reading your whole reply, that in all our setting up agreements and all our processing, we really missed this crucial step: what are our expectations around "spousal care" when something's going wrong, or ending, or changing, in the outside relationship. It's not that we were naive enough to not even think of these issues; I just don't think we knew enough to talk through those specific expectations. I think I/we thought I'd just somehow effortlessly, gracefully glide from partner to partner in some perfect emotional choreography, with nary a missed or painful step.
That's a conversation we'll need to have. Thank you.
And, yes: I/we need to seek out and build community around us of those dealing with these issues. It's intimidating in its own ways, but necessary and I know it will be helpful in ending the sense of isolation. And we are blessed with plenty of options because of where we live.
We also need to let some (more) friends in, perhaps chosen carefully, but, yes. I just did, in fact, in a helpful phone conversation with someone I've known for a long time, whom I knew would be helpful and judgmental. It took a ton of courage, but I feel a bit better already for having let someone else in.
And for reading your reply and finding this community. Thanks.
That sucks. I hate when people backtrack in relationships, and I have been in a similar situation where I was heartbroken over someone and my spouse didn't want to hear it. Also sucks. When it got really bad and I really needed my spouse's support, he gave it to me, though I knew he found it uncomfortable. I'm sure your wife would help you if really feel bad. Otherwise, you can talk to us for a support system.
And yet you also seem to indicate that you have this idea that you "shouldn't" feel so bad now that it's cooling off. That you made a mistake by letting yourself feel so good that now you feel poorly. I don't think this assessment is wise. When you open the door for joy and pleasure, you also open it to grief and pain. And if you close the door to grief and pain, you also close it to joy and pleasure.
Only you can say for sure, but on your deathbed, I doubt you'll be thinking that you should have had less joy and pleasure in your life. You've made some good choices, you've communicated with honesty and integrity, you're living your life in a genuine and "lifey" way, and you have a woman who mostly "gets" you. I have to say, "Well done." Sucks right now, but still... well done.
I am sorry for your grief.
While your wife is a fantastic person for being understanding and open to you exploring your bisexuality, I think there is work to be done in coming to terms with the idea that people are not interchangeable. In your situation, it's particularly obvious, because there is no way she can provide what a man provides. You mourning your loss is no reflection on her at all. I mean if you have two kids and lose one, you don't say, "oh well, I've got another."
And I have experienced much of what your wife is experiencing. I was part of a MFF triad - a married couple plus me. The triad didn't fly. I left. A year later, they separated and started divorce proceedings, and the husband and I eventually reconnected. But our reconnection in no way ameliorated his grief over the loss of the marriage with his wife. Why? People are not interchangeable. Doesn't matter how great we get along, I am not her.
"Backtracking" is a good enough word, I guess, for what I feel is going on with him, though it's also (as others have pointed out) perhaps a less-deliberate, more "natural" fading of NRE--happening sooner and to a greater extent on his part than on mine. Ah, if only all relationships were perfectly synchronous, right? :-)
He's got good reasons: much busier in his professional life than he was when we met, also now casually dating someone else so less one-directional focus of erotic energy to me only, has (I suspect) scratched the itch of some things we've tried that were firsts for him (and for me--which he enjoyed--we both did--but know he knows, so the urgency to find out is lessened, as is the fantasy value), and has had some things going on in his lives with friends and family that have taken more of his emotional time and attention. Had this all started happening after a more gradual diminution of our level of contact, I think I would have been much more sanguine about it--but from my perspective it felt, and feels, more abrupt than I'm comfortable with.
I've asked him point blank, in person, as recently as our last get-together, to "end things cleanly whenever they stop working for him for whatever reason," and he agreed, and I trust him. He's a decent person. We've both talked in the past about the mistakes people make, how much worse things get, when trying "let someone down easy/slowly."
But I think I also need, now, to be even clearer in what I'm expecting of him: if he merely wants to take our relationship into a different mode, I need him to be really explicitly clear about that, too. As is always the case in such situations of vulnerability, it's the not knowing, and thinking the worst, that is the hardest part to deal with.
My wife and I had much better conversations about all of this last night than we had previously, so there's some improvement/support for me there, as well.
I think I am still carrying "guilt" at being open, in some senses, from my background, from the cultural norms, from the negative reactions of some friends, and from the struggle that it can sometimes cause for me, my wife, our marriage. It's easy to lose site of the fact that anything good does come with the risk/price of some sadness as well. The lines from The Little Prince get quoted a lot in such moments: “Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.”
My wife and I both knew, and continue to affirm, that we don't want me to have "merely" NSA/casual sex relationships--I'm not wired that way, and she feels more threatened by those for reasons that make sense to me. We wanted me to find friend-lovers, though not to fall in deep love. I still don't think I've done that latter part, but I forgot how much losing (or evolving) even a deep friendship could hurt.
Live and learn. And be open to it again. Thanks, again--you're helping.
So it might be useful for me to frame some of our conversations a bit more that way for her, while recognizing of course that apples are not oranges, and that The Boy has been more than "just" a non-sexual friend. We're still relatively new to this, after all, and I think, as she said to me last night, "The first time we hit everyone of these new bumps is going to be the hardest, but we'll keep going."
thanks for your share
I'm brand new to this forum, so still pretty excited to see people sharing experiences I often feel alone in having. I just want to say how much I appreciate your openness, and courage. I imagine it's not easy to be a bisexual male in a poly relationship - you are *violating* two major social norms. (It's funny, my lesbian sister has a trans boyfriend, and my liberal open-minded folks are totally ok with that. But my having a lover? SO NOT OK!) I feel for you. It's so hard to have intense feelings for someone and not have…anywhere for them to go (in terms of a *future* like marriage or living together), or anyone besides that person to share them with. And then to have to process your grief alongside your guilt at having the feelings in the first place. ROUGH. I hope you are getting a lot of support on this board. Good luck. Thanks for being a pioneer.
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