Need advice, husband is in love with my best friend
I could really use advice. I'm very sad and I feel very alone, and since I'm new to this and I don't want to come out of the closet I don't really know who to turn to.
Here's the backstory. The names are all changed of course. I apologize that it's so long, but so much has happened.
My husband John and I have been monogamous and together for the better part of a decade now. We have friends, Sarah and Mike, who are also married but have been polyamorous from the start. They have two lovely children, and have been together for more than a decade. Sarah was a lesbian for over a decade until she fell in love with Mike, and now she self-identifies as bisexual. Mike and Sarah have had three female polyamorous partners in the past, but never a male partner. Sarah is my best friend, and my husband John and Sarah have always flirted, though we have a very flirtatious circle of friends. I've never minded the flirtation. The four of us were very good friends, and shared several hobbies and interests.
About nine months ago we all attended an adult themed convention together. Inspired by a joke that I actually made, Sarah and I made out topless on a hotel room bed in front of our husbands for fun. I'm completely straight but I love Sarah very much as a person; she says she's attracted to me but knows we're just friends. Then our husbands joined us on the bed and the four of us had fun making out a bit with the ladies in the middle and our husbands on the outside. That was the beginning, though none of us knew it at the time.
Afterwards we talked more about what happened and what we were comfortable with happening in the future. John and I approached this as a fun thing that we as a couple could do with our friends as a couple, sort of like have another couple as friends-with-benefits. And I thought this would be nice for Sarah because she had never even kissed another man other than Mike, and she and John are attracted to each other. Also, John has expressed a desire in the past to do a threesome with another man and woman. He would have preferred for me to be involved, but I'm not into threesomes myself. I like to concentrate on one person at a time.
So, naively I suppose, I thought all of this was a perfect opportunity to meet all those needs without much complexity - especially since Mike and Sarah already had experience with extra partners. The four of us talked about it, and I made it clear that, to me, John kissing another woman isn't in and of itself that big of a deal as long as I agree to it, and as long as I am the love of his life. I likened it to a female friend of ours who acts in a community theater group - her husband never gets upset if she kisses another actor on stage because it's only a physical act. Emotional content, and trust, make all the difference in the world.
I made it clear that I didn't know for sure what I'd be okay with because this was all incredibly new to me, but that I'd be as open and honest about my feelings as possible and share any hesitations or issues as they came up. And the four of us agreed that if any one of us felt uncomfortable, we would all take a step back and re-evaluate. The best laid plans...
Though I'm writing on a polyamory board, I myself am completely monogamous by nature, and between the four of us that had been known from the start. I've had friends-with-benefits in the past, and even those relationships were monogamous. When one told me he thought he was falling in love with someone else, I was extremely happy for him, and we had great good-bye sex and then became simply friends so he could pursue someone else. So I wouldn't say that jealousy is a thing for me. I'm very self confident and I don't tend to feel envious of attention given to others in general. However, I absolutely do expect a level of exclusivity from a romantic relationship. If someone can't give me that exclusivity, they just can't be in a romantic relationship with me.
I don't think monogamy is the only right way to live your life, and since I thought polyamory had worked for Mike and Sarah (more on that later) and they seemed happy I had no reason to think it was any more prone to drama. Hell, half of monogamous relationships end in divorce. As far as I was concerned, John and I were still monogamous - we were just having physical fun together with others. But I'm posting this on a polyamory board because the last thing I need is advice from people who say the problem in all of this was the poly aspects.
As it turns out, Mike and Sarah didn't have all their ducks in a row. Most of that had to do with Mike's abandonment issues from his childhood (and he was in fact abandoned). Also, Mike and Sarah had a Dom-Sub thing they did for years when having sex, and when Sarah no longer wanted to do that anymore, Mike didn't know how to handle that. He viewed himself as the Goblin King from Labyrinth - "love me, fear me, and I will be your slave." If Sarah wasn't his sub anymore, he didn't know who he was anymore. It was devastating to him. They had had fights for years about various things, but focused on raising the children and getting by day-by-day, instead of really digging down and solving the roots of their problems as they came up (as so many of us do). Mike was afraid of conflict - because in his experience it lead to abandonment. And Sarah was afraid of conflict - because in her family it lead to divorce. So as John and Sarah got closer, it was like a match in a tinder box for all of Mike and Sarah's other issues.
Within a month of things starting, Mike started showing signs of anxiety. When the four of us were talking together, he'd become quiet and sulkily walk away, and later accuse Sarah of wanting to be with John more than she wanted to be with him, even though she wanted us all to be together. Passive aggressive things, like watching them smiling at each other in front of him and then accusing them of stealing glances when they thought he wasn't looking. Ridiculous stuff like that. She'd ask him if he wanted to end things with us and just be regular friends again, and time and again he'd say no - because above all things Mike hated to view himself as a hypocrite who got to have sex and emotional relationships with three other women but couldn't handle his wife merely flirting with, talking to, and sometimes kissing another man. He insisted that the relationships go on, and even initiated things - like us being on the bed with them as he and Sarah had sex, but afterwards he said he was just trying to push himself into situations he was uncomfortable with because he was trying to get over his growing anxiety.
As all this happened, Mike and John became closer as friends, believe it or not. John has difficulty developing closeness with people other than his significant others - probably because his family of origin was never particularly close. The bond that grew between them was so incredibly important to John. He loved Mike - really loved him - and that's important.
And I love Sarah. Her friendship is so important to me. I also have difficulty getting close to others, after a lifetime of moving from place to place and being a oddball to begin with. And I saw Mike as like a brother to me, who I literally held while he was drunk and crying and talked him through tough times.
From my perspective, I was okay with all physical things in the beginning. During the first night of making out I had to go to sleep at some point on the couch because I had work the next morning, and actually handed the others a towel from the bathroom in case sex was to be had. We were friends, I was involved and always in-the-know, and I was the only one John was in love with. That all made it okay.
Then one night about four months in, that changed.
We were staying over Mike and Sarah's place after a party, and at some point in the evening John told Sarah that he was in love with her, and Sarah said she was in love with him as well. Later that night in bed, John told me about the conversation. My first reaction as he told me what he said to her was fear that she wouldn't return his affections and would break his heart, because that is a heart I am very protective of. That was followed by relief when he said she loved him back. But it hurt me deeply that he didn't tell me he was in love with her before he told her. My perspective is - it isn't wrong to feel whatever you feel. You can't control who you love. What you can control are your actions.
Even then, though I was hurt that I wasn't told first and felt that was a break of trust between us, I still wasn't against the idea of sex between John and Sarah being possible (to this point it has never happened). Though it became quickly clear that with Mike's rising emotional breakdown, it wasn't exactly an option. Mike continued with the passive aggressive tactics, and continued to say no when Sarah asked if she should end things.
I felt frustrated on my friend Sarah's behalf - because I thought a hypocrite and a coward was exactly what Mike was being, by refusing to say she should end things but then punishing her whenever she showed a sign of happiness that didn't come from Mike.
Last edited by redpepper; 10-26-2012 at 02:18 PM.