I'm so sorry to hear that you are having such a hard time. It is completely understandable. I know that 'Pandora's Box' feeling very, very well.
This is going to be extremely long.
I'll start with some of my 'foundation level' thoughts... I'll just put them out there:
- emotional connections can definitely be much harder to cope with (as a partner) than just swinging/sexual play
- it is perfectly ok not to want to be in a Poly relationship
- on the other hand, it's also NORMAL to feel pain. Poly can take years to become comfortable with
- you've acknowledge a gap in your relationship: sex
Swinging can work to fill a sex gap, but there are two reasons as to why this can stop being fulfilling. a) if the person no longer wants to have sex without an emotional bond / if sex feels unfulfilling that way / if it feels 'icky' b) if it's not *just* sex that is missing: it's emotional/erotic/affectionate/romantic/sexual intimacy
If you are suffering from depression, there may be long periods of time where you are very closed down with your wife. Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to be poly can be related to whether or not you can cope with someone else helping to fulfil that need for your wife; especially during those times that you cannot. If you cannot deal with it, it doesn't make you a terrible person. You are completely entitled to live by whatever relationship model you prefer!
From the outside, looking in, I can see some obvious issues here that have made this problem worse.
1. Overshare/oversee - sitting and watching them together (too aggghhh)
2. Pacing - planning a sex date the very first time you both met him in person; with the very first person you are exploring poly with (too soon)
3. Lies of omission - you feeling betrayed, that she was hiding feelings from you (too unclear/private)
Do you guys have any poly guidelines? When I became poly for the first time, we hated the idea of guidelines. We were all about freedom and love. A right royal mess that turned out to be. We now have about eight or so guidelines and we review these every 3-6 months. They are actually written down. We do not have guidelines to restrict each other - we have guidelines to *remind ourselves* to behave in a considerate manner.
If you have guidelines, it means that you have expectations. If you have clear expectations, it's easier to appreciate them being met.
Guidelines, in my opinion, are there to help manage specific issues. For example:
First meeting to be in a public place; not at your home?
No major PDA until primary expresses comfort at seeing this?
Avoid sex in the home altogether - go to their place instead?
No sex on first meetup / second / third?
Work out a 'warning' system? (I'll explain this in a minute)
Lies of Omission:
No saying "I'm falling for you / I love you" until primary has been spoken to? (i.e. to avoid that feeling of 'emotional affair' secrecy?)
What needs to be shared and what doesn't?
Traffic Light System (will explain more)
Reading, Learning, Research
How much reading and research have you done so far?
Have you seen the MoreThanTwo website? It's brilliant. (google it)
Have you read about NRE? (New Relationship Energy)
The following links are the two things *I* have found more useful than anything else I've ever read:
This one talks about why we feel those painful pangs. Pages 5 and 6 are a very useful starting point in terms of nurturing each other:
This theory really made sense to me. There are so many different kinds of love. If you know the love between you and your wife is one type; it can be easier to understand how she could get another type from someone else, without needing to leave you:
Timescales and Pacing:
Something like... "For the first three months, (x) amount of dating activity"
It's about expectations and balancing.
For example, the two of you agree that seeing her other lover once a week/fortnight/month is reasonable. Flexibility is obviously really important - but the idea is that you know what to expect. If you're not ready for, or happy with, him coming over twice a week and she's not happy with once a month, you can strike a compromise. She can learn self-control and prove your importance to her by slowing herself down - you can learn to accept and prove her importance to you by compromising.
My girlfriend and I use a number system and this has helped us immensely. Before this, one of us would get carried away with a new partner and the other would just sit there freaking out, not being heard effectively.
0 - no problem whatsoever
1-2 - usual poly pangs, uncomfortable, but can deal with it ok
3 - an orange flag for more communication/work/slow down
4 - a red flag: very uncomfortable, unhappy, too fast, treading on very dangerous ground
5 - a potential relationship dealbreaker or guideline crossed
If you feel a '4' about seeing her on someone's lap, in your home, the first time you meet, she can assess this as your wife and decide that this isn't a good option. If you keep feeling '4 4 4 4 4', it's a big sign to slow down. If she suggests something you simply, flat-out, cannot deal with yet that would effect your comfort in your marriage .... i.e. she says "I want to go away for a weekend with boyfriend" and you say "that's approaching a 5 for me", it should help her to see if she's moving too fast.
It's completely ok to have 4 and 5 feelings. The idea isn't to restrict behaviour, it's to express what you're comfortable with and try to do work to get to that stage. If you cannot get there, after working on it, you cannot get there.
Level 5 warnings for me used to be:
sex on first date
girlfriend dating someone I strongly dislike / disrespectful person
girlfriend dating particular people in my life
pushing level 4 stuff and not pacing / listening / paying attention
Level 5 things now are:
girlfriend dating particular people in my life
pushing level 4 stuff
The rest have moved to:
weekends away = 3-4
sleepovers = 3-4
sex on a first date = don't care when
gf dating someone I don't like = don't care who she dates
It's taken me two years to get to that point - it didn't happen quickly and I definitely wasn't sure poly was 'right' for me. But, these days, I am comfortable.
Emotional Traffic Lights
Red is very basic casual attraction.
Amber is really like this person, care deeply, comfortable where we are at
Green is in love
This could be a very clear way of your wife expressing how she feels. She could also use Sternberg's descriptions of love. If she said to you "I'm amber on this guy... green is a potential" it's very, very clear that she is, or could soon be, falling for him.
What Works For You
I've given these only a suggestions. I'm not saying you should have a million 'rules' and codes for explaining things. Just to start thinking about how the two of you can help each other.
If this helps at all, after two years and a lot of change, this is what currently works for me (alongside lots of talking and nurturing):
- Using number system to communicate comfort
- Using Sternberg's theory to describe new love for someone
- Understanding NRE
- Weekly dates in the house and monthly dates out of the house *with* girlfriend (so that all the fun isn't just happening with our other lovers!)
- Not being required to meet her partners (sometimes it helps me not to meet them)
- Outlining expectations of 'how much dating time' given to new people
- Outlining long term expectations and foreseeable goals
- Accepting that love happens
- Not seeing my GF with others: dating outside the home
And finally, if this helps you to feel reassured at all:
I'd freak out, after two years, if I saw my GF on her boyfriend's lap, if they had sex in our home, if I was there during some part of that process. I don't want to see that stuff. I'd freak out if she planned
sex with a new person the first time I, or she, met him. I don't like hearing details. No two people are the same - these are things *I* don't like. Some people are totally cool with all of that. It's your right to decide what *you* are comfortable with and when.
Wife and Boyfriend
I think it's time for a big chat to get some things outlined. What does she want from him in the future? How does she feel for you? Is she poly-educated? Does she realise she's going through NRE? Is she being respectful and pacing? If so, are you appreciating this? If not, can she change that?
Nobody here can tell you that you should be poly. It's completely and utterly your choice. All *I* can tell you is this:
- is poly painful for me? much less than the start, but some things are very painful
- why am I poly? because I don't believe in possession, I don't believe in control, I don't believe one person can be completely fulfilled by one other person, I don't trust monogamy/cheating/affairs
The less I try to restrict behaviour, the happier I have become. I 'let' my girlfriend work out her own attractions. If I try to put a stop to something, it only increases her desire for this forbidden person, and lessens her warm feelings towards me. Your wife is pining away for this new guy, because she's going through her first poly NRE. If she can have him all she wants, it might fade out. Or, through him, needs are being met that will *keep* her in your marriage, because she doesn't need to go off and have an affair, or stay completely monogamous but unhappy. Regardless of poly, relationship holes exist.
I'm sorry this was so long. I really hope you find some of this useful. And I genuinely wish you all the very best of luck... please keep us updated, if you want to.