Marriage Slammed Shut
I enjoy reading these boards, even though I rarely post. Usually by the time I read a thread, all good advice has been given. Tonight, I am coming here to share my pain. I am not sure if there can be a solution to my problem, but at least I will give it a try.
My wife and I have been married for eight years and in 2009 we seriously began discussing having some form of an open relationship. There were ups and downs and periods of insecurity in the beginning. However, we always kept it civil and never acted against the wishes of each other.
For about two years already, we have been having the understanding that family comes first, and after that we can each (or together) have friends, lovers, and play partners, so long as there is full disclosure and safe sex practices. Because of work schedules we didn't do too much, but still we did some:
She had a boyfriend who was from a poly couple and who was a great match for her. Unfortunately, long distance and scheduling issues prevented the relationship to progress past the platonic phase and last longer, despite plans for more.
I had a girlfriend for several months, with whom the relationship remained platonic. I also got physical with two women with whom the relationships were shorter.
As a couple, we visited a poly conference, some lifestyle resorts, and a couple of play parties where we engaged in soft swap. We also began frequenting a local dungeon (no sex allowed) where we mingle, play with each other, or with others. It was so much fun to see her happy during play! She started just recently considering getting some play partners who are into light bondage. Also, over the last year we have been getting nude whenever we can and our sex life has spiced up.
It all looks great, right? Also, during the last two years (see the third paragraph above) she appeared quite happy, at least for most of the time, during and after events.
This evening, she told me that she fees jealous and that she is not comfortable with me playing or having relationships with others. She said that her interacting with others (play or relationships) was stressful enough to make the little joys not worth it. In short, it was something like "Honey, for me this doesn't bring much fun and I don't want you to do it." She mentioned that she could do some light version of soft swap if this is what I wanted, but I don't want her to be taking one for the team and for me, being limited to soft is not enough.
Over the past two years, there were a couple of times when she felt uncomfortable with our arrangement, during which times I told her that I'd never do anything to hurt her. A week later she would tell me that she felt happy and comfortable with our general open understanding. Knowing from this and other boards that it is common to have jealousy and insecurity issues in even the most successful poly or open relationships, I believed her completely.
This evening, she told me that she had been feeling jealous and that she was not comfortable with me playing or having relationships with others. And she did it in a manner that appeared quite serious. When I asked "what about all those fun times" she told me "I tried, I really tried but it is just not for me."
I let her know that freedom is extremely important for me and that when we married I tried to suppress my desires in the way our society expect us to do. I reminded her that after four years of feeling it more and more difficult to hide it, I began telling her how I felt and eventually we arrived to what appeared to be a beautiful understanding. "I could live with you like this for eternity" was what I would tell her every so often in celebration of our relationship.
To me, is it not even the frequency in which I can have a pleasant contact with a new lover that matter most. It is the fact that everything is at least theoretically possible, and that who knows, with a little luck such and such nice things can happen. What also bugs me is that numerous times she has been telling me how comfortable she was with me, knowing that I was not interested in "playing house" with anyone else.
She tells me, and I agree, that intellectually she is perfectly fine with open relationships and poly. It is her feelings that she does feel jealous and want to call it off. I know that feelings are feelings, they are there, regardless of whether they are justified or now.
If feel awful. Physically sick. Sometimes on these boards I read the sarcastic version of how the new-to-poly person tells their mono partner "here are the books on poly, get used to it." Today I feel the same but in the reverse "I am closing the relationship, I hope you can cope with it." I do not want to part ways with my wife. We have too much in common and have eaten too much salt together. We have build our lives around each other. But I don't know how I can keep going if she remains adamant. This is very important to me and right now I feel like I just want to shut my brain. The pain is too strong.
So far I see the following scenarios:
1. She changes her mind - Yey!
2. She remains adamant, and
a) I try to cope, remaining miserable for the rest of my life. I know this because I have been trying to stay vanilla mono during the first half of the marriage;
b) I see others over her objections - I don't want to do it;
c) We part ways - I don't want to do it.
Any thoughts are appreciated.
If that's true, how long are you going to deal with option 2.A. before you go ahead and take option 2.C.?
It looks to me like you have a couple of paths in front of you and neither of them are very rosy. However, when I have two equally shitty options like that I try to lean toward the one which allows me to lead the most genuine life I can...
I think those in your position would fare better over the long term if you consider what relationship style is more compatible with your needs opposed to what person. You can think about individuals after you decide whether monogamy or non monogamy is more apt for you.
I see an alternative to 1b. This has just happened. She has just let you know how unhappy she is. It took time to get to this point and it will take time to sort it out.
I see two issues - she just doesn't enjoy the swinging or having other partners herself and wants to stop. Ok. You understand that and support it clearly.
The second is that you having other partners, swinging, etc. makes her jealous and unhappy and she wants you to stop. That is the potential deal breaker of the relationship, not her wish to become mono again. It's that she wants you to be mono.
Here is my suggested '1d'. Some people make mono-poly relationships work. It's not easy but if everyone goes in with eyes wide open and willing to talk and renegotiate it is entirely possible. Could you and she envision the relationship where she is mono, and you poly - perhaps with some restrictions initially (maybe only swinging). If her main issue is that she was unhappy being mono, then perhaps this could work. If you and she agree to try this form of relationship, you are not doing it anyway over her wishes. But if her pain is more about what you were doing/want to do, then, yes, you may ultimately be incompatible.
She has asked you for something hard, something you may not be able to do. There is nothing wrong with offering a difficult alternative. She knows you, you've been upfront about needing openness of some kind from the beginning. She has done the difficult thing of telling you her truth, even though she knows it could mean the end of the relationship. That is someone you give your best effort with (as you know).
How did this come up by the way after a couple of years? Was there a precipitating event?
Thank you all for the comments,
"If that's true, how long are you going to deal with option 2.A. before you go ahead and take option 2.C.?" - Why just 2.C? After 2.A. becomes unbearable, 2.B. is also an option, even though I don't want ever to do it. As we know, the threat is often stronger than the execution - she could see that me having a girlfriend does not change or alter our relationship. Actually, a year ago I did have a sort-of-a-girlfriend for eight months and she had no problem with her. They met and liked each other.
London: If I were single and dating now, I'd keep this in mind. The problem is that when my wife and I were getting together, none of us knew much about the feasibility of open relationships.
"How did this come up by the way after a couple of years? Was there a precipitating event?" - Opalescent, I am pondering over this myself. There was no precipitating event whatsoever. Until just recently things looked fine and sometimes (so long has her tight schedule allowed) she was the initiator for going out to events or reaching to people. I don't remember having such a problem when I had the sort-of-a-girlfriend I mentioned earlier. If my wife were to be afraid of something, then it should have been there because the woman lived by herself, in close proximity to what was then my place, we had parts of our personalities that matched well, and she was quite wealthy.
We are familiar with the mono-poly arrangement, we have discussed it, and we know at least a couple of folks to have been having it long-term.
Under normal conditions, I would always take my wife's word at face value. We (at least I think so) discuss everything and no questions are forbidden. I am a terrible artist when I am under distress and I think that so is she. We can't paint a smile when something serious is wrong. At least this is what I think as of now.
This morning we had a talk. Without going into details, she appears as having a huge internal conflict being torn between opposite poles. In a couple of days we are leaving for a long-planned vacation, which we had been anticipating for months. On one hand, I wish we had never booked it in light of what happened yesterday. On the other hand, I hope that a miracle happens and we come back better bonded than ever.
It was both your decision to become open. It should be both your decision to close n she can choose to be monogamous but that's not really a choice she can make for you at this point.
She has jealous feelings. But it sounds like that instead of confronting her jealousy head-on, she tried to avoid it by participating herself as a distraction or to even out the score.
That doesn't work.
You have to deal with icky feelings by actually dealing with icky feelings; not by avoiding them and trying to play a bait-and-switch game with yourself.
What has she done to actually cope with her jealousy itself?
There's also been some evolutionary research done that seems to indicate that something men often desire is variety, newness... especially when they reach the mid-life crisis range. It's not necessarily that New Shiny Thing is cuter or younger or better in bed. It's that she's new and shiny. So you're certainly not alone in having the desire to, at the very least, have permission to go find new shiny things.
If my above assessment is correct, that she hasn't really done any work to actually deal with her jealousy but rather tried to avoid it by participating, then I would ask her to give it one more shot. I would express that this really is something I need to be able to do in order to be true to myself, and that I'm afraid that continuing to burry it will affect my mental health and happiness, and potentially end our relationship. Then I would give her time, without doing anything outside the relationship, for a certain amount of time, to begin working on those feelings without something "in her face."
Re (from OP):
Anyway, as for your situation I can see you're in a tough spot. I could no more soften that spot than I could solve the dilemma of someone who couldn't take one more flood or hurricane but also loved New Orleans and wouldn't dream of moving away from it.
I will not rule out 2b as an option, I just think it is murky gray area. Technically it is immoral to act in a way that violates another person's reasonable wishes, and it is reasonable for your wife to choose no more polyamory in her own life. She is willing to break up/divorce for the sake of this wish of hers.
On the other hand, you have observed in the past that something she seemingly didn't or wouldn't want turned out to be tolerable/comfortable to her. The only problem is this: How can you know she was as comfortable with the situation as you thought she was? She seems to be good at hiding/downplaying her discomforts. If that weren't true, this marriage closure wouldn't have come as such a shock.
We can be married for eight or eighty years and think we know all one could need to know about our spouse, only to be blindsided with the seemingly impossible. I thought I knew myself better than I really did. I lived with myself for 35 years under the absolute certainty that I'd never leave the church -- and then I left it. It shocked me; you can imagine how much it shocked my poor spouse (of 13+ years -- who was still loyal to the church and was depending on the continuation of our temple marriage).
So while I won't rule out 2b, I think I'd tend to advise against it. At best it's disrespectful to say, "Aw honey, but I know what's best for you." I would say your options are either 1 or 2c. I don't like 2a because if you're miserable, she'll end up being miserable too. I feel certain of that.
Now 2a is fine as a temporary solution. There's no harm in you and her talking and talking and talking this thing to death -- for the sake of your marriage. Don't part/divorce until you both feel 100% sure that your compatibility can't be salvaged. And of course if you must part/divorce, try to do so amicably.
Your vacation won't be what you thought it'd be, but maybe it'll give you an opportunity to communicate with each other on a whole new level. Even if you find yourself facing 2c at the end of the vacation, you might be facing it with more peace of mind than you had thought possible. I think the important thing is that you and your wife need to communicate to each other that you love each other and want the absolute best for each other -- even if breaking up is the only way to show that love. As I've often been quoting from Sting lately: "If you love somebody ... if you love someone ... set them free."
These of course are only my thoughts and only you and your wife can decide in the end what is the best for the two of you. I hope you'll be able to arrive at your decision as a team. You've loved each other for too long to arrive there in any other way.
Re (from SchrodingersCat):
Best wishes man,
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