In a standstill at the crossroads and need to vent!
I don't spend much time online but find myself coming back to this forum now and then, usually when I'm in a tough spot with my relationships. It's nice to know what other people are going through, as the only person I know in a poly relationship lives on the other side of the world! Right now I feel almost ready to "give up" on relationships period, I am so conflicted about how I feel vs. what I believe in and want for my life. One of the hardest parts is that I have absolutely no one I can talk to about this outside of my husband and his girlfriend, and at this point communication between any of us has become extremely strained, so I guess I'm looking for advice but also just a place where I can say all of this honestly...
My husband and I started out "poly" when we fell for each other while he was in a long distance relationship. After some time alone together and some time spent as a group, we went our own way but kept our relationship open. My husband has been the only one to take advantage with a series of casual sexual relationships, primarily because of the difficulty the girls he med had with the idea of dating someone with a family (same situation for me, who has had two kids in the meantime).
Eight years later, my husband has been dating and getting progressively more serious with a young woman (let's call her K) for a year and a half. She has been a regular fixture in our home the entire time we've known her, and two months ago moved in. I have been vocally supportive and encouraging throughout, but continue to experience intense jealousy, especially when exposed directly to the physical aspect of their relationship. Due to K's previous living circumstances this activity has always happened in our home, and while I don't mind so much what happens when I'm out of the house, asleep, etc. having to hear, see, or be asked to remove myself from their presence in order for them to be physical with each other is 9 times out of 10 a source of minor or extreme discomfort for me. I don't have the option of removing myself from the situation because my second child is still sleeping with me and nursing, which makes me feel trapped a lot of the time (we don't even have a car, and I can't exactly go wandering the streets at night!). We occasionally engage in sexual activity as a group, but more often than not I find myself wanting to isolate myself from them or find some way to punish them (even if it's just avoiding eye contact, etc. the next morning) for their intimacy.
While our relationship had been doing better than ever before this all started (providing the situation for it to happen, in a way!), our fighting has now become a totally disruptive force in our lives because I just can't get my emotions under control and either cause an upset intentionally to get attention and drive them apart, or try to distance myself and get called out for it by my husband, which usually just makes me defensive and even more hostile. In between I usually end up pouring love and affection onto my husband and arranging for us to spend as much time as possible together, leaving me feeling great until K. inevitably makes her way back into the picture (example: we recently went on vacation just me, him, and the kids and had a totally peaceful, wonderful a time together, ending with a nuclear fight the night we all came home).
At this point I guess it would be pretty obvious that this is something I don't have my heart in. But the only reason I'm still here at all is because of the days when things aren't like this (that 1 time out of 10!) the friendship and love we find in one another is the greatest thing I've ever experienced in my life. I love her to death and I love their love as much as I love my husband and children, and the days where we can spend all day and night together without even the slightest twinge of jealousy make me feel like I understand what life was meant to be. We are completely compatible as artists, friends, lovers, and human beings and I feel like if I could just get over this b.s. nothing would lay outside of our grasp. I know that all my feelings of hostility, resentment, and abandonment have nothing to do with how they are treating me. I've had sexual issues all my life- really repressive upbringing, infidelity that broke up the family, a string of pretty awful sexual experiences as a teenager before meeting my husband, and only had my first orgasm when I was 23. In between having my two babies I also had a really low sex drive and for about a year we fought intensely about it. These issues had more or less cleared up in the year or so previous to my husband meeting K., but seeing the open affection they share, how easily and comfortably he approaches her compared to me (he always references all the previous times I "refused him" as the reason for this), and hearing all about K.'s comparative sexual "health" pushes all my buttons and then some. Still, they are completely forgiving of my "outbursts", often do what they can to help not trigger them, and are generally very understanding. There is definitely distance between me and K., but given how I've treated her as a person and her and my husband's relationship, I consider this understandable. She says she loves me and I believe her, but she's also very frustrated and threatened by my disruptive behaviour and at this point just "checks out" when it's going on. When it's not, I'm the one that has to make the effort for us to connect, though she's usually responsive to those efforts.
For reasons I won't go into, our relationship has been a tightly guarded secret the entire time. At some point this will no longer be necessary, but the secrecy just adds to the burden since I can't talk to anyone about this and since it's become such a big part of my life I honestly feel as if none of my friends even know me anymore.
So here I am now. I feel like I can't even be in my own house without being completely overwhelmed with negative emotion. My children see us fighting all the time, my husband doesn't understand why I'm punishing him for living exactly the way I think we should, and has no idea how to make me feel secure enough in our relationship to honour his love for someone else. He gives great advice on how I should build a better relationship with myself, between me and K., and does what he can but I can tell he's really buckling under the load. He says he will always feel married to both of us, but I'm sure if I said it was the only way I would stay with him he would give up at least the physical aspect of their relationship. And despite the fact that K. is probably a better match for him (she's never expressed any jealousy herself, they share all their interests, and have far less conflict between them than me and him do even at the best of times) she's never indicated anything but belief that our marriage comes first. Again, I really have nothing to complain about.
But I'm so worn out from feeling alternately on top of the world or like my life is a living hell I have no refuge from because of how awful I feel every time I even anticipate seeing them together. Then I feel guilty for keeping them apart, for how I've acted. I feel less and less worthy of love, period. I'm too exhausted and depressed to be as good a mother as I want, to be the person I know I can be. But I have no idea how to proceed. I know everything I need to do to make this better, but I can't bring myself to face the challenge except on the best of days, which are fewer and farther between. Every time I talk to my husband about how it was probably a mistake for her to move in or how I don't think I can do this at all, he just says I'll change my mind tomorrow or the next day, and he's usually right– after all, how can I bring myself to go against everything I've believed in for so long? But for the first time in my adult life I find myself looking at mono couples with their kids at the park with such envy, even though I've spent years thinking about how many ways mandatory monogamy impairs the development of people as individuals, as couples, as families, as a society. It's not what I want for my children. Love, freedom, a stiff upper lip, fighting and sacrificing for your beliefs runs through everything I believe in and have built my life around. But I don't want to go home tonight. I don't even want to go on a date with my husband to the movies that we have planned because time alone with him or with K. feels increasingly dishonest, like when I'm nice to her or to him it's just because I've put out of my mind the reality of our lives together and when faced with that reality, the truth of my "love" for them comes out, and it's not a pretty one at all.
I hate sounding like someone who refuses to see the light at the end of the tunnel, because that's so not me! But right now, I'm feeling so down and out, I guess I just need any encouragement I can get...