How should I talk to my wife about me seeing other women?
I'll try to keep the background as brief as possible, but I should give a little history before I pose my dilemma.
I've been married for 18 years (me 38/her 40), and although we'd enjoyed a good bit of "pillow talk" over the years about including other men or women in our sex life, that's as far as it ever went. Then, about two years ago, my wife had a hot and unexpected encounter with a female FOF, and it awoke new feelings in both of us, not all of them sexual. We talked it over - a lot - and we decided to try a full poly relationship. It lasted about a year, and although they shared the deepest involvement, there were a few nights we all went to bed together. Since that relationship ended, my wife has not actively looked for another female partner, but is open to another experience and sometimes brings it up. She says she has no interest in men and that's ok with me, but I'm open to trying that as well.
So after all the background, here's my problem. For the last 20 years I've told my wife that she is the only woman I'm really interested in, sexually or emotionally. For the last 18 years, I believed it with all my heart. I'd messed around with a couple girlfriends before her, but she was my first - and still only - sexual partner. Now I am thinking more and more that I'd like to try relationships with other women. Not necessarily on only a sexual level, although that's often my focus. (Hey, sorry - I'm a guy.) To complicate the situation, she has pretty severe self-esteem issues, mostly due to weight. We talked briefly about whether I wanted to see other people back when her fling started about 2 years ago - which I didn't, not at the time - but we haven't really talked since then.
I want to bring it up, but I've known this woman for a long time, and I think it would be uncomfortable at best. She may say "okay" or even think she herself is fine with the idea in theory, but at whatever point I started seeing someone else, I think it would be extremely hard for her to handle, whether she was honest with me about that or not. I could be wrong, but I've seen her react to situations for 20 years and I know her very well.
If I've omitted anything relevant please let me know. I love my wife but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience of watching her fall in love with someone else. I hope she would have the same feelings if I saw another woman, but my knowledge and history with her tells me otherwise. I never thought I would want to give it a try myself, but it's been on my mind more and more.
There's nothing you can do but try and talk to her. Just reiterate that having feelings for others won't affect her feelings for you.
There's no known magic words for this kind of a conversation. You just have to talk to your wife, with an emphasis on being very honest and candid about your feelings, and sensitive and respectful toward her feelings. There's no guarantee she'll consent happily or even at all. It's her right and privilege to be the one who decides what she herself is or isn't okay with.
I would recommend having a "Plan B" in mind for if she says "No." Is that a dealbreaker for you, or is staying with your wife more important to you than exploring these poly inclinations you've been experiencing? Can you be monogamous for her? Do you want to?
You might have to have more than one discussion with her to arrive at a certainty about how she feels. It sounds like there's a chance she'll say "Yes" just because she wants to tell you what you want to hear. But you need to hear the truth. Maybe you'll even proceed to see other women, but if you do take it slow and check in with your wife often.
You sound like you have a deep compassion and understanding for your wife.
I think that what you are going through is perfectly natural, given your/her exploration with poly for that one year and the fact that you have never fully experienced another woman. I have been there and I understand the desire to explore others.
How to talk to her... As others have said, the conversation will go as it goes, but there are perhaps some things you can do to help.
Firstly, just take the time to remind yourself that it's ok to raise the discussion. That's all it is. A discussion. You want to share something that's on your mind.
This is a good angle to come from. If you express that you want to share something with her and explore your feelings with her through a discussion, it will help her to feel involved. If we feel part of the same team, we naturally feel less defensive and more involved in our partner's life and thoughts.
It could also be a good approach to say that you have been thinking about the joy you felt for her when she was involved with someone else, and that you would like to have her insight into what that feels like - what she enjoyed about it and what she didn't.
Having the conversation will be the first step and the rest will naturally follow from there. If she does seem open to the idea, my advice would be to give her the opportunity to build her own strength and self-esteem. My advice would also be to pace it and, most importantly, ask what she needs. I'm really a big fan (in these situations) of setting 'review dates', i.e. in 3 months, we'll revisit. During those 3 months, you don't date, but you read polyamory books, research, work on your marriage, work on your compassion while she works on her confidence, etc. It could be that you agree to check in every 3 months, but agree that no dating will happen for 1 year. Whatever arrangement works for both of you is the best arrangement to make.
Good luck with your discussion - let us know how it goes!
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