Part of my confusion with all of this:
I don't know how much of my overwhelmedness is coming from the fact that I broke up with her because I didn't trust her OR from the fact that J and I have yet to experience either one of us "falling in love" with another person. We have certainly had separate relationships and felt love toward others, but neither of us has experienced any kind of intense romantic love (falling head over heels) for anyone else. And I anticipate that J might experience that with D. Which makes me feel anxious, nervous, and fearful. It is an unknown experience and while I have done a lot of work around the ideas of sexual nonmonogamy and emotional nonmonogamy, combining the two is harder for me.
Also: I did not trust D when I knew her and when I broke up with her. Because I was having so many confusing and overwhelming thoughts surrounding what happened, when I look back on the experience, it is hard for me to think about it clear-headed. Sometimes I am unsure whether I simply imagined or fabricated all of the emotional manipulation and drama that I perceived to be coming from her. Could it be that I was the overdramatic and freaked out person and she wasn't at all? In which case maybe she's not that bad of a person to have in J's life? (Most likely, we were all having issues not communicating well, not being as honest as we each should have been, etc). Does this change the fact that I feel overwhelmed and a bit pained by the possibility of having her in our life again? Not really.
I talked about this with my counselor this week, and she offered some similar advice, as you did, GG. She emphasizes a lot to me that I need to consider my own needs first, because only I can ultimately take care of me (duh). My tendency to put others before myself is something I have been working to correct, but I also don't want to be irrational or close-minded in this case. I don't want to keep my eyes shut to how I played a part in what happened with D, and keep them shut unnecessarily and make a hard limit about J's relationship with her.
Thank you, GG, so much again for providing insight into my situation. You really know how to break it down!! I need to take some inquiry/introspective time to really define my wants, needs, and limits.
I am grateful because this conversation about D happened organically with J. This is not an urgent desire/request on his end. I feel like I have some time to really sort through my feelings before I lay everything on the table.
[I wrote everything above before going to bed last night. J ended up reading my first post, and then came and talked to me, saying that he had no idea how overwhelming it had been for me and that he doesn't even want to see D if it so overwhelming. He emphasized that a secondary relationship can only work for him if it does not throw us out of whack, and that it seemed like one with D definitely would. I told him that I hadn't yet talked with him about all of my feelings, because I wanted them clear in my own head before I tried to communicate them with him. I feel like at this point, even if J doesn't want to see D, it seems really important to me that I still define wants, needs, and limits for myself. I also still really need closure around what happened with this relationship. She pops up in my head pretty much every day still, and it causes me anxiety.]
Now on to the other two responses:
Anneintherain: Honestly, I feel like cheating is a really complex behavior. I haven't ever really judged D for what she did. It was the implications of that behavior, because for me, it spoke about her willingness to be trustworthy and honest with me, her new partner. She has since broke up with her BF (J found that out a while ago- maybe 4 or 5 months ago), but I don't know anything else about her life, including what kinds of partners she has had. I really appreciate that you shared your perspective and way that you would approach it. I have similar feelings.
Cleo: Wow, thank you for sharing. I think it is super impressive that you are able to make that kind of relationship work. I can't tell you how helpful it is to read a similar story where all of you make it work. Thank you.