A triad is a nice idea but rarely seems to work out in practice, because attraction and connection are rarely equal between all three people. I've read stories very similar to yours where there are two women and one man, they all get involved, but it turns out that one of the women is more straight than the other, and the other woman is hurt. That's not necessarily anyone's fault and it doesn't mean that anyone was necessarily dishonest with their motivations -- when you're exploring a new side of your sexuality for the first time you may honestly have no idea how into it you'll end up being. It could easily have worked out the other way, with H and K becoming very close and you feeling hurt and forgotten. But pushing for them to be closer, just because it was working at one point, may have just strained things more. Between two people, it either works or it doesn't, you can't force it, y'know?
I think that H's hurt here is very understandable. She has a history of being cheated on by you, which is hurtful to begin with and must make trust difficult. Then it happens again, or at least starts to, with K, but she learns a new way of thinking about it, the idea that it can be open and honest and happy. Still, that's a big shift, and a scary thing to open a marriage of 17 years up to. What if it goes wrong? And, indeed, that's exactly what happened.
At first she may have thought that the major thing that made this situation different from the way things had gone down in the past, in addition to honesty now being a part of it (good for you by the way, I commend you for going down that road) was that she was involved as an equal partner. But that turned out not to be true, as it so rarely is (see my opening remark about triads) -- you may have wanted to think it was equal, but it's easy for you to feel that way, since you were in the middle position, with both of the other people equally wanting you. That doesn't mean it was the reality on her end of the triangle. And then, it sounds like you may have gotten majorly sucked into what's known as "new relationship energy", where all you can think about is the new person in your life. As you described, when she asked for one-on-one time with you (it sounds like she was reeling from the huge shift from being your one and only, at least in theory, to being only half of your emotional/sexual world) it STILL ended up being about your new partner. Ouch.
It doesn't sound to me like K is playing with your emotions -- why would you say that, just because she says she wants to just be friends now? Heck, that's what I'd say in this situation... I wouldn't want to be responsible for having driven a friend of mine to being suicidal and for breaking up the marriage of my two lovers! I'd certainly step back and let them work it out, for the sake of their children and their nearly two decades together, rather than stay involved.
And, before you get too wrapped up in the idea that K would be perfect for you, keep in mind that things *always* seem perfect during the "honeymoon period" of a new relationship. I'm sure that that perfect communication that you spoke of between you and K would eventually have revealed its cracks, as no relationship is actually without its flaws... you just haven't had time to find them in this particular relationship yet. That's part of what makes "new relationship energy" so dangerous to an older relationship, is that you're familiar with all of your old partners flaws but haven't discovered your new partner's flaws yet, so it's easy to make unfair comparisons that cast the older relationship in an unfairly bad light.
As for the ideal vision you have of the triad getting back together, you talk about it making you happy when H and K held hands... but, in the end, was it making H happy? It certainly doesn't sound like it. And it sounds like you were so happy that maybe you didn't want to see or believe that. But you need to listen to your partner and respect her feelings. If she doesn't want to be with K you cannot -- you absolutely cannot -- force it and expect things to go well. People have to freely choose their partners, or it's just a disaster.
So, if I were you, I would respect K's statement that she wants to go back to friendship, and I would thank her for her concern for you guys. Then I would do a lot of long talking with H. What does it mean to her that she still wants to be poly? There are basically two options going forward:
- You two could date separately. This is what most poly people end up doing, because it just ends up working better, for a whole host of reasons that I could go into at length. Occasionally a triad still ends up arising from this sort of situation, but no one involved is trying to force things into that shape. The most common shape that things take is a "vee" (like a triangle but missing a side), where two people, the "wings" of the vee, are both involved with a third person, the "hinge", but not with each other. There can be multiple vees involved for a given group of poly folks (some people talk about such configurations with other terms, like "N" or "W", all based on drawing lines connecting people, but I prefer to keep it simple and just use vee, for conceptual purposes).
For instance, I'm dating my gf, Gia, and she's also married to her husband, Eric, but he and I aren't dating (though we do occasionally fool around). That's a vee, with Gia as the hinge. I'm also dating my bf, Davis. He and Gia are the wings of another vee, with me as the hinge. You get the idea. I think this tends to end up being the most common configuration because, as I mentioned, triads just don't form that easily, and because it gets difficult, time-wise, for any one person to be seriously involved with more than two people at once, though of course people do that too.
If you guys choose to go this route, this potentially puts a relationship between you and K -- without H actively involved -- back on the table. You could have a wife and a girlfriend, without the pressure of expecting them to also be involved with each other (though, of course, if they wanted to be, down the line, they could choose to be... it's the pressure, the expectation, that's really the problem). There are a couple of factors that will determine whether or not this is feasible:
1) Is H ok with it? Could she deal, emotionally, with the idea of you dating someone who is essentially her ex? She may just want to move on, and that's not entirely unreasonable. On the other hand, if you're still really in love with K, it may only be fair to ask her to strongly consider this option, for your sake if not for K's. But, if you might want to try going down this road, clear it with your wife FIRST -- don't fall back into your old bad habits! -- and make sure she really is ok with it, and that you're not just hearing what you want to hear. Then you can move on to the next big conversation that would need to happen.
2) Is K ok with it? Could she deal with the fact that she may well be a "secondary" partner in your life in this configuration? You'd still be married and raising a child with H, and it may not be possible for K to, for example, move in with you, if H has a hard time being around her. That would necessarily place at least some limits on that relationship. Which can actually be totally ok! You guys may have been going too fast before, all of those trips and cruises and such when you had really just started dating (this all began just a year ago, right?). Taking it more slowly and casually might be a good plan. On the other hand, maybe she's not ready to move from the idea of a triad, in which she was an equal partner with you, to the idea of being your gf but not being as involved in your daily life, not going on all the trips together. Maybe she also really is just burned out on this situation, and really does just want to be friends -- there's nothing wrong with that.
- The other option, of course, is to continue trying to date people together, seeking to form triads. I really can't caution against this strongly enough. It makes everything more complicated and more potentially explosive, because feelings generally develop at uneven rates and at uneven intensities due to natural variability in people's connections, and because it's impossible to avoid comparisons in that sort of situation, which tends to lead to more jealousy than there might otherwise be. It also puts a lot of pressure on the people involved, because they feel like if they want to slow down or step back they'd be damaging the other relationship involved, not just their own. It just really usually doesn't go well. And I think that considering trying to take things down that route again with K, after it sent your wife to the brink of suicide and caused the separation of partners and co-parents who had been together for 17 years, is completely inadvisable, to put it as simply as I can. It's a lovely dream, but you've got to let it go.
It's not that triads can't happen. They can. But they have to happen naturally, at their own pace, and not as the default. Not in a way that anyone feels any pressure or expects anyone else to feel something or do something or be ok with something when they're not. Don't seek them out, just live your life, love people, and let them happen if they happen... but cautiously, and with a careful eye on the risks of jealousy, pressure, and new relationship energy.
Phew. Anyways, best of luck. If it's any consolation, the issues you all ran into are pretty common for people who are new to poly. There are some great resources out there that may be of use to you guys as you work on finding your way in this new world. www.morethantwo.com
has been a great help to me.