New to poly and dealing with a complex setup
I apologize in advance for the wall of text; this post will be necessarily lengthy, but I will be as succinct as possible. I am a married man brand new to the concept of polyamory, and I'm in the early stages of a developing situation. I already know the first three rules of polyamory: communicate, communicate, communicate. My wife and I touch base almost every day and so far things are going well on our end. I'm collecting advice from those older and wiser than me and taking everything slowly and carefully; any input on my current situation will be greatly appreciated. I'll break this post into three parts: introductions of myself and the people involved, a summary of the situation thus far, and my specific questions. Obviously, all names are fake. Thanks again for reading!
Me: 25 year old bisexual male, usually about a 3 on the Kinsey scale. Been married to my wife (next entry) for 4 years; I'm very happy and consider her my primary. I know the primary/secondary classification method carries a generally negative connotation in the poly community, but as a n00b I don't know a better way to describe it.
Claire, my wife: 23 year old mostly straight female, maaaaybe a 1 on the Kinsey scale. Her initial reaction when I proposed opening our marriage was a predictable mixture of shock and confusion, but I'm actually blown away by how well she's adjusted to the idea. At this point, like me, she's completely open to exploring a poly relationship, slowly and carefully.
Chris, my (potential) SO: 19 year-old bi male, Kinsey 3. Currently engaged (see next entry); I've known him for 18 months and in that time we've developed a very strong friendship and a mutual desire to take it to a friends-with-benefits or secondary relationship level, provided the logistics all work out.
Jill, Chris' fiancee: 19 year-old female. I'm assuming she's straight but I don't honestly know. She and I cross paths on Chris' facebook, but we've never met in person and I don't know what, if anything, she knows about the nature of my relationship with Chris. Read on for further details...
I'll summarize the whole situation as briefly as possible. Chris and I met 18 months ago when he joined my game group; we immediately hit it off and became fast friends. Once I found out he was bi, casual flirtatious remarks began to spring up here and there in our conversations, but nothing came of it - our relationship remained mildly flirtatious but platonic until about 6 months ago, when a discussion arose seemingly out of nowhere regarding the possibility of talking to our respective spouses about a poly arrangement.
Here's where things get a little more complicated than usual. Chris is now in the Army training his ass off, and as such we have little time to talk. When we can talk, it's almost always via text message and he often only has short windows of free time. In a way, I think this is good: his training keeps him focused on his priorities, and since he'll be spending 90% or more of the next 4 years in another country, it gives all of us plenty of time to talk and investigate.
It's possible some of you may be concerned with the fact that there's such an age gap between "us" and "them." For one, I'm not typically attracted to 18-20 year-olds in a romantic sense, for exactly the reason you may be thinking - they tend to be less mature or less capable of handling complex relationships. The only reason my situation has developed as far as it has is because, in that sense, he's very much not a typical 19 year-old. I believe he understands what's at stake and that it needs to be handled carefully for the sake of all involved.
Here's how this web looks currently:
I know my wife very well (obviously), I know Chris fairly well, I haven't met Jill in person.
My wife has not met Chris in person, since she too is active military - the two of them have not yet been home at the same time. She also has not met Jill.
Jill knows of me, but I have no clue what she knows or what she and Chris have talked about.
Now for my questions:
1) Jill knows Chris is bi, but I don't think (although I don't know for sure) that he has directly proposed an open relationship to her yet. I know Chris well enough to assume, knowing full well that I may be wrong, that he's somewhat mortified of bringing up the topic of a complex relationship. He knows I won't proceed with him until and unless Jill is informed and on board, but I also don't want to pressure him about it, especially since he's still in the middle of some hardcore training. Can anyone offer some suggestions on how and when to talk with him about his conversation with Jill, and perhaps how I might assuage some of his fears about her possible reactions? Answers such as "it's none of my business, so stay out of it and see what happens" are perfectly acceptable if that's likely to be the best route.
2) The distance factor is also going to complicate things in some fashion, almost regardless of how things develop. I physically see my wife about once every two months, and I now see Chris perhaps 3-6 times per year, for a few days at a time. Any insight on special considerations in light of the fact that most of our communication for the next 4 years will be phone calls and text messages?
3) If all parties are willing, might it be a good idea for Jill and I to meet and get to know each other, since she and I are still physically in the same town and will be for the next 6 months or so? Or is it probably better to save those kinds of introductions for a group setting?
4) Ideally, I'd like to maintain at least a platonic friendship with Chris; I absolutely want to make sure I don't become a point of contention between he and Jill for any reason. That being said, what role is most appropriate for me here? I can't think of a better way to phrase the question, so let me break it apart: his life is his business and ultimately his decisions, good and bad, are his to own - same goes for me, of course. If this situation ever starts to look like it could be damaging to his primary relationship or mine, it has to stop, he and I both agree on that. But for me, where is the line between "due diligence" (asking questions or having conversations with Chris about what Jill knows and what he's talked to her about) and overstepping my bounds as a third party? To be clear: Chris has never done or said anything to give me reason to believe that he's cheated, or is lying to Jill, but it is fairly clear that he's reluctant to directly raise the question of a poly arrangement. After 18 months he's earned my trust, but what degree of "nosiness" is appropriate for me? Because I genuinely care about him, I don't want to see him ruin his marriage because he suppresses his feelings or does something dishonest, whether it's with me or with someone else. Like I said, I'm not a relationship cop and his decisions are his alone, but I want to do what I can to help him find happiness and stability, whether that involves me as a romantic partner or not.
Well, there it is. Sorry for the crazy-long post, I hope it made enough sense to decipher. Thanks again for reading all this and anyone who can offer some insight has my deep gratitude, and possibly cake.
Discard the protective rags of that vice which you call a virtue: humility—learn to value yourself, which means: to fight for your happiness—and when you learn that pride is the sum of all virtues, you will learn to live like a man.