"Couples who turn to a therapist hoping for guidance on ways to loosen -- but not break -- the bonds of standard monogamy are likely to be offered little but defensive condemnation and stilted bromides. ... [It is] the rare therapist [who is] willing to publicly consider that heterosexual couples might find alternative arrangements that can work well for them -- even if they find themselves outside the bounds of what mainstream society approves," write Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha in their excellent book Sex at Dawn.
In Polyamory in the 21st Century, Deborah Anapol references a 2002 study "that found 38 percent of polyamorous people who were in therapy chose not to even mention their poly lifestyle to their therapist. Of those who did reveal it, 10 percent reported experiencing a negative response. Even when a therapist was not judgmental, some clients ended up using their paid session time to educate therapists who knew nothing about polyamory."
I suspect DingedHeart is correct that the issue of polyamory may be moot if the more fundamental problem with which an unhappy married couple is seeking therapy is bad communication. In such cases where one spouse wants the other to accept either her desire for polyamory or a breakup while the other one wants to save the marriage, I suspect it would be unfairly stacking the deck for the poly-leaning spouse to insist on a poly-sympathizing therapist.
As it happens, the couple I'm connected to via my poly-leaning wife is now in therapy. However, my wife's GF and her husband are seeking therapy separately just as they are also now days into an actual separation. She has moved out. He is despondent. And their two teenage sons are now dealing with that, as well as can be hoped for so far.
I'm no therapist, but the separation appears entirely necessary. They have been unable to speak to each other with civility or with both able to hear the other. He's still begging her to come back, as early as this weekend. She's trying to get him to understand that to her their marriage is over.
After she had moved out, he reached out to me in a long meandering email about how he didn't blame my wife but wished she and I could help his wife see the importance of keeping their family together. And although he briefly acknowledged that their marriage had been on the rocks "for years," he claimed he never saw coming her willingness to leave him.
I wrote back. I told him about my breakup years ago, followed by three years of zero communication between my then GF and I. Only then, when we had stopped taking each other for granted, did we fall in love again, marry and start a family. I told him I would be forever grateful for those three years in the emotional wilderness.
I admitted our situations were not analagous, given that my breakup occurred prior to the intertwining of our lives. But I told him that the only real option for him was to accept and respect his wife's wish to no longer be with him. I cautioned him against believing that they, like my wife and I, could get back together. I channeled my inner Dan Savage by bluntly advising him to give up the ghost that is their marriage.
I also urged him not to conflate his marital problems with our wives' romantic interest in one another. The marriage was in trouble for years before our spouses fell for each other just 2-3 months ago. This new relationship was not causal but probably helped clarify what his wife had been feeling/not feeling for him for quite some time.
Although he thanked me for my brutal honesty, I know it is unlikely we will correspond again or that he and I can or will see the situation the same way. He's looking at his life as he's known it disintegrating, while I'm reaping the benefits of a life partner who is exploring her love for two people with their full knowledge and encouragement.
My wife, I should add, has had her moments of insecurity, too. She has expressed fear that her GF may no longer need her once the trauma and drama over the failing marriage runs its course. And if the GF were to decide to reconcile with her husband, my wife fears she will get and accept advice from her therapist to give up their relationship.
To her credit, the GF has consistently reassured my wife that their relationship is nonnegotiable.
As they had done a few weeks ago, which prompted me to start this thread, they have again arranged to spend their first night together this weekend. They are very likely to follow through this time, however.
I'm at a place now where I could ask them to imagine not having to get a hotel room, but cuddle together on our couch watching a movie. Before heading to bed together, my wife would give me a kiss, leaving me to tell them in the morning how the film ended. They both expressed amazement at the suggestion, but I wasn't overtly trying to impress them with the advanced state of my compersion. I just look forward to a time when we are all just that comfortable with this arrangement.
I'm really happy for them. I really am.
But I'm sad for him. I'm less sympathetic, however, as I've learned more about his resorting to threats, manipulation, arrogance and utter deafness. One example: Within 24 hours of asking his wife not to tell their friends of their troubled marriage, he told several of them about the separation AND the affair, thereby outing her in the process. He did so to seek allies among their mutual acquaintances, obviously, but I think it was a recklessly insensitive dick move.
He probably will never know nor appreciate how our wives delayed the full potential of their affair out of respect for him and hope in the possibility, only glimpsed at, that he could understand and accept their love. His inability to see the "affair" in any way but in a negatively conventional sense is unfortunate and disappointing, but not surprising -- or without justification. At least they told him before it became physically intimate. He needed to be told when he was.
So it's still a mess, with both increasingly ugly and beautiful aspects. My wife and I are still relating very well, but I know that's a fire I need to stoke much more regularly than I used to. My wife says she hasn't felt so in love and loved the way she does now since we got back together 12 years ago. I'm thrilled for her and I'm thrilled for us, the three of us.
Should there be four of us? Apparently not. I will not say his loss is anyone's gain. I prefer to believe that eventually he, too, will find love again. The breakup with his wife may just be the first thing that has to happen to make that possible.
Last edited by BraverySeeker; 10-17-2012 at 05:56 PM.