I'm happy to report that we had a very positive talk last night, bringing us both to points of much better understanding and compassion, and a kind of resolution, while recognizing of course that things could change over time.
One thing we made sure to include when we wrote our wedding vows, was that we would cherish not only the people we were on our wedding day, but also who we would become, because we knew we would continue to grow and change in our lives and we knew it would hurt our relationship if either one of us expected the other to always stay the same. I know it has been a "game changer" for me to realize my polyamorous tendencies, but loving others is part of who I am. What I do about it is a choice, but I have felt judged for the feelings I have in spite of the consistent fact that I have not had sex with them, and I have continued to reiterate that I will not have sex with them if he doesn't feel ok about it. After a couple of years of this, I've been trying to uncover where the "not ok" feelings come from, and we actually made some headway on the subject for the first time last night.
SchrodingersCat, I agree that it is unhelpful to try to fix a relationship by adding more relationships. For years I've been telling him that while I love the attention I get from other men, what I want most is to get it from him. We've talked about it over and over, and sometimes he'll make funny contrived attempts to flirt, but nothing sticks. Last night I suddenly remembered how awkward I felt the first time his mother came to visit, and she would never say "good morning" or greet me when I entered a room. Then he explained that people don't really do that in India, where he grew up. I guess he acted a little more effusive when we were first together, but shifted back to his cultural status quo, and only as of last night became aware that my feelings are hurt when he wakes up each morning and leaves the bedroom without speaking to me, or comes home from work and goes right off to walk the dog without checking in with me for a minute or two. What a difference today, when he kissed me awake!
So yes, I know it's important to fix our relationship first, but beyond that I have a need for more intimacy (especially emotional intimacy) in my life, and I have feelings for the other two men, and those feelings don't go away when I have marital trouble, but those relationships do tend to start feeling awfully good in contrast. If I feel more affection, sex, warmth, etc. at home I won't feel as starved for it, and it will become easier to keep the limits on these other relationships. Just as it is easier to pass up junk food when your tummy is full of dinner than when you are hungry.
As for the kids (age 5 and 9), they have always known that Mommy is the social one, who has all the friends and invites them into our lives, does all the emails and manages the social calendar, and Daddy is the quiet one who likes to cook for big parties and enjoys it when people come over, but doesn't seek out friendships on his own. They know one of my loves as a man who has always been part of our lives, who comes visiting sometimes and is a lot of fun, who has a really fun house to go visit, whose teen and grown kids are also our friends... and because my husband is comfortable around him, I don't see that there is any negative effect at all. As for the other love, it's a newer relationship but they have spent time with him now and then and they like him. I don't see any reason why they would be bothered by either of these, just as they aren't bothered by the other friends I spend time with. They don't know about sex so it would not occur to them to wonder whether that is going on or not. There is no sneaking around, and I'm not kissing anyone in public.
Naturally they are effected by the dynamic between their parents. I don't think my husband had really considered the lack of demonstrated affection as a problem. I asked who his role models for marriage were, and he mentioned his parents. Their relationship included ongoing physical and verbal abuse, but it was a "successful" marriage because they raised a doctor, a lawyer and an engineer and stayed married until death parted them. But now I think he's starting to understand that for me, love and happiness are priorities right up there with making sure the kids have every educational opportunity. As of last night I think more warmth is going to show.
As of last night, I have come to a much better understanding of what he means when he loves me. It hurts that it is not the emotion that I associate with love (for instance, he doesn't think he'd feel heartbreak if I left him) but it's ok. It's his brand of love. Within that I think we can find happiness. We talked about how there are things about us that align (political views, values) and things that complement each other (my extroversion, his introversion) and he mentioned a friend who enjoys his mind for they way the two of them think similarly, in an area where he and I don't. Both are good -complementing, or matching. I mentioned that some aspects of my personality that contrast with his, are very similar to the personalities of the other two men, so for me they add another element to my life. The passionate romantic in me likes to discuss life with passionate romantic people, but I can appreciate that our relationship benefits from the fact that his emotions aren't as all consuming as mine can get. I think he accepted that.
The upshot: I feel less judged now and more loved. He's ok with me spending time with these guys, as long as I'm giving enough time to my family first. He's ok with me kissing them, as long as it's not in our home and as long as no one sees. He's not ok with me having sex or any other STD-risky activity. He's leaving the gray area in between up to me, with discretion and keeping it out of our home of utmost importance. I am very happy with this. It's not terribly different from what we had before, but this time I feel like I understand him much better, and he understands me. And wow, I love him for it.
Last edited by AnotherConfused; 11-09-2011 at 05:19 PM.