Advice needed on setting parameters
Hi, I'm new to the forum, and look forward to having a goosey around to see what other people are talking about. I hope to learn a lot about how to make this whole poly thing work. As an introduction, I have a bit of an issue that I would like some advice on.
My husband and I are two years into our first officially poly relationship. We've both been of a non-monogamous bent for years, but prior to joining together, we were always with monogamous partners. A little over nine years ago, I fell in love with him online while living with a monogamous partner, who was surprisingly understanding and forbearing about the whole situation, though I know it was difficult for him at times. Circumstances at the time (including being in different countries with an ocean between us) prevented us from being together, but in 2009 some more circumstances conspired to make us decide that we didn't want to be apart any longer. So here I am, and here we are.
Before I immigrated to the UK to be with him, I had other lovers at the same time that we were interacting online and by phone, some of whom would be in that position again if we were in each other's vicinity. He did not have anyone else on his side of the equation, though there is at least one old friend he would be interested in if she were available to him that way. She's a lovely woman and I would fully condone any association he wanted to have with her, if it were possible. As it stands, though, he has no current local prospects and only a friend online at the moment.
Since coming here and marrying, we have been trying to work out the parameters of our relationship, to figure out the boundaries between rules and freedom that we need to establish in order to be secure and happy. The main trouble that I see is that we each have different needs for boundaries and rules. He says he doesn't care who I'm with, that he trusts my judgement, and that he doesn't need to really get to know any potential partners of mine (or actual, though that hasn't happened yet).
I, however, feel differently. I feel compelled to let him know when I make a new friend, especially if there's any likelihood of it becoming more than friendship, and I would be certain to keep him informed of any such changes in a friendship. My feelings towards his association with others differs from his perspective as well. When I think of him enjoying the company and intimacy (or even just flirting) with somebody I like, I feel all frubbly. When I think of him with someone I don't like or don't know, I feel anxious and insecure. When I think of him hiding someone's existence or the nature of their interaction from me, I feel anxious, insecure, fearful, angry and mistrustful. For this kind of relationship to work for me, honesty and openness are paramount. I can't function if I can't trust my husband and trust that he is committed to me.
So, I tell him that for my comfort, it's important for me to be introduced to any extracurricular women in his life, even if the association is limited to online flirtation (or even just spending a lot of time chatting together). This is important enough to me that in its absence, I have actual anxiety attacks when I see him chatting with someone he has yet to introduce to me. He's told me of her existence and a bit about her, and she knows that he's with me, but I need to have a connection with her myself, even if only limited to a brief "Hi, nice to meet you" exchange by email or something. As it stands, it feels like he's cheating on me with a stranger. I can understand if it might be weird for her, or if she may feel intimidated, but I think that's the risk he has to take. I believe that as partners in a committed relationship, my peace of mind should be more important to him than hers, though I wouldnt want him to lose the friendship either.
He would like to know:
How to broach the subject to another person who's not necessarily on the same poly wavelength. Imagine a scenario where you're trying to figure out whether to invite someone to meet your mother. He says there isn't a relationship as such. I say I would want to meet any friend who happened to take up so much of his time and attention, regardless of the nature of the interaction. He worries that asking her to meet me will make it seem like he's taking the relationship (or whatever it is) to a higher level than it is actually on, or that she thinks it is. It is relevant what she needs as well, and he doesn't want to frighten her off or lose her friendship by making it seem too serious.
He doesn't think she'd be averse to the idea at all, but he doesn't know how to bring up the issue in a nonthreatening way. I think that the very fact that she's chatting up a married man indicates an existing level of seriousness that can only be mitigated by acknowledging and meeting his wife when asked to. That (chatting up a married man) should not be something that is done so lightly that the mere thought of meeting the person into whose marriage she is intruding, however slightly, would threaten her. I am not asking them to curtail their interaction, nor making any conditions regarding the nature of that interaction. I only want to be acknowledged as a member of this marriage and to be properly introduced so that I don't feel like he's spending all this time and attention on a stranger.
Any thoughts on how to set parameters such as these, and how to work out appropriate boundaries when the individual needs for them differ between partners?