Thank you erato and anotherbo for your posts, I feel they both capture part of what's going on in a useful way.
But before I respond in any way, I must laugh at having this thread moved to "new to poly". The first explicit consentual extramarital romantic involvement we had was in 2003. From what I've seen of this site so far, folks who have been poly for scant a year don't consider themselves new. By that count, and the fact that I have been with 5 partners outside N during the 9 years we have been married, I find the noob label touching. It is good to know that I can ask my questions with a freshness that comes off as naivete. Like being carded getting into a bar - at my age I consider that a compliment.
The previous 3 times N went ballistic on me, I was still very optimistic. There was still a lot of passion and a lot of love to bounce back on. Some of that optimism cracked when I got involved with K.
Winter 2008 to Spring 2009 - dating K
In the winter of 2008, we were very happy and also monogamous and at the end of a long process of couples therapy and anger management therapy that started in the summer of 2006. We already knew we were going to move across the continent in the summer of 2009, and that any romantic involvement would, perforce, become long-distance -- which N finds a lot less threatening. We had been reading about poly and open relationships, and decided to take the plunge.
On the face of it, it seemed we were doing everything right. I met K, a poly-activist who pulled my heart-strings as few ever girls have, and after a few coffee dates we invited her over, and N gave the all-clear to get romantically involved. K has some intimacy issues that mirror and complement issues that I had -- and we consciously decided to work out our issues with each other, which made for a lot of relationship drama.
Turned out N could handle me being infatuated with K, but could not handle me being hurt by K. As I was wrestling my inner demons with K, N was getting more and more uncomfortable -- and at the worst possible moment, when I was wrung out and hurting from the dynamic with K -- she laid it all at my feet, and re-started the bad relationship pattern that we had gone to therapy for.
There are a few lessons to the reader here:
- Don't get into new relationships when you're time-limited by an impending move. There is going to be enough drama without new partners.
- Don't assume that poly-activists have their issues with poly (or relationships) sorted out.
- Compersion is rare and precious. Often your partners hurt more when you're happy with others.
- Despite the previous item about compersion, your partners may be even more disturbed if a new partner makes you unhappy and you don't immediately dump him/her.
But the most important lesson is that N, in off-loading all her pain and hurt on me when I'm are down, and then trying to force me to break off my strongly emotional relationship with K, which she initially condoned -- that took a real bite out of the heart of our marriage. The consequences of N's actions, and my actions in mending my relationship with K despite N's wishes, may have ended up destroying our marriage.
So - to erato's question: is she (N) the Queen of the relationship? - I spent 6 of the last 7 years thinking about the good of our relationship, and slowly getting ground down -- because assertive, respectful and clear statements of my emotional needs were ignored, at best, or met with intolerance and derision, at worst. I have a great deal of emotional flexibility and toughness, I grind down slowly, and I express clearly and in a respectful way that I am being ground down, with the expectation that my partners engage in finding a remedy. So at this point I am mostly done looking out for the good of the relationship. I am looking out for me, for N, for our kids and for G - and staying together with N only makes sense if taking all these interests into account it is among the best options.
As for anotherbo's comment: that's a good point. Right now there are blocks in the plumbing of my love for and with N. This why we're giving it a few more months (until my next meeting with G in the winter holidays) to rekindle our love. If we can, there is a chance to try and sort things out together; if we cannot, it is surely time to part ways.
The big question (again)
A big reason for my being on this forum is trying to work my way around the following question:
How much poly is enough for me? Where do I draw the line and say with integrity: without this I won't stay in this marriage? Is it at N being friendly towards my paramours and inviting them over for dinner on a regular basis? if so, she tells me I may as well call it quits right now. Is it at seeing G twice a year for two weeks? if so, I'm home free because I truly think N has come to terms with that (of course, G won't stand for this much longer, so it isn't really an option).
So how do I draw the line regarding future relationship boundaries with a wife that is very bad at predicting her own future feelings? How can we set up a process that ends up with everybody being reasonably happy?