Marcus, Thank-you for validating my feelings...
I have spoken to my wife about this as we always talk about everything so we can get to the bottom of why we're experiencing these feelings. Like me, she's sad that I'm taking a negative from the experience and unable to just revel in the beauty of the moment we shared. We're thinking it's a combination of me being depressed which makes me tend to dwell on the negatives, as well as feeling insecure in our relationship ATM. I'm changing my shrink and looking for a poly-friendly counselor, and hoping as our relationship grows strong again that I'll be able to focus on the positives like I used to before I got depressed and our relationship got shaky...
JaneQ, Thank-you for letting me know others feel this way and there's nothing wrong with me - that's a relief!!
And you totally nailed how I feel with "Here is this newcomer, who barely knows her, and his mere presence can cause her to see her immediate surroundings and relationships in a new light? I've been here the whole time, we have these significant conversations, done all this work, but THAT wasn't enough?!" "Unfair!!" I say (or have been)
It's nice to hear this from someone else. I've felt my wife has been guilty of this "Sometimes we don't see our partners fully because of all the day-to-day crud (bills, laundry, chores, etc.) and past baggage (ongoing fights/disagreements, past betrayals - however small, times of neglect, etc) that many long-term relationships have" quite a bit in the last few years. I'm guilty of it myself, hopefully to a much lesser degree. Feeling like I've made the effort to remember her good points, while it appeared she wasn't making that same effort has led to quite some resentment for me. But hearing it from someone else has allowed me to let go of that resentment.
"Sometimes, it takes a shift in perspective/context for us to realize/see what was there all along" has made me feel a damn sight better about her other relationship, and even grateful.
"THIS man, who has stood beside me through years of my own angst-y shit, who has explored life with me day-by-day-by-dreary-day, who has seen me at my best and my worst - he is still here. Someone I have sometimes taken out my anger on (unwarranted), that I have neglected at times (because he is a fixture in my life), THIS man is here, by my side, through THIS - my exploration of a connection with an "other." Even THIS is not enough to shake his love for me - even though he is uncomfortable at times, even though he is unsure at times, even though he can't predict how things will turn out. Still, here he is, hanging on - to me, to us, to our marriage, to what we have created together. How could I have not seen? How could I NOT love this WONDERFUL man? (Ah-hah! a light - I CAN'T NOT love him...NOW I can really SEE and APPRECIATE this man that is my husband.)" made me cry to hear it from another woman...
So no, your post was not at all too long. I really needed to hear this from someone else, particularly a woman, particularly a woman going through the same experience my wife is.
I'm not totally cool with it all yet, but your replies have helped in a big way. That almost perpetual sick wrenching feeling in my gut is now just slightly uncomfortable, and I'm feeling like the foundations have been laid for me to forgive and heal, and move forward with this beautiful woman I love and want to share my life with. So I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
JaneQ, are you a counselor? If not, you should be...