I need some help getting my thoughts organized. I suspect that by the act of writing this, I will find some catharsis, but I’m interested in hearing what experienced polyamorists have to say. Note, this is the Cliffs Notes version. The full story would go on for pages and pages.
I am a 32 year old married man. About six months ago, my wife Michelle (33 years old) approached me about the possibility of opening our marriage. We’ve been married for ten years, together for almost 15. We have three sons, all under age 5. I have never been against the idea. In fact, I have to admit, the “other man” situation has been a turn-on for me for a long time. Additionally, having started dating Michelle when I was 17 and getting married at 21, I always felt like I missed out on "sowing my wild oats." We decided we were secure and trusting enough to move forward with our new, exciting relationship.
She got to know a long-distance friend of mine (let’s call him Ralph, a 38 year old widower) from a video game forum we both frequent, and they hit it off. They got to be good friends, and she flew out to meet him a few months later. They had a lot of fun together, watching TV and having mind-blowing sex. I was happy for my wife, but a little jealous that my own situation wasn’t going so well.
You see, while Michelle and Ralph were building a strong friendship (actually, I’d call it love, but they don’t use that term), I too had been working on something similar with a girl, also long-distance, from the same forum (I’ll call her Bree, a 24 year old grad student). Bree really has so many qualities I admire in women: She’s smart, sexy, educated (working on the first of two planned masters before moving onto her PhD), a big believer in self-improvement, and she thinks I’m great. Things about me that Michelle doesn’t care for or doesn’t appreciate, Bree relishes.
Bree and I spent months getting to know each other. IMing all day from work, Skype chats on the weekend, and more. Bree knew, of course, that I was married, and she expressed some misgivings, and even freaked out a couple of times (as if she wanted to break it off). The common themes that came up were:
- She didn’t feel like she could share me with Michelle, that she loves with her whole heart and feels like she needs the same
- Her family upbringing and education (strongly Christian, though she is somewhat socially progressive and open minded)
Each time, we talked it out and I got the feeling she was fine with where we were again, that she was working toward reconciling her religion and morals with our relationship, and that she knew I wanted to commit as much time and attention to her as she wanted and I was able. I did commit to Bree that she would be my only relationship outside of Michelle.
The first week in August, Bree told me she was finally ready to meet in real life. We started making plans, and then once we had settled on plans, I booked them for mid-September.
Sometime shortly thereafter, our relationship cooled significantly. I pointed out that I felt like there was something wrong, and the dam came crashing open. She admitted that she was completely in love with me, and that she had been living in agony for some time. She said that she wasn’t able to accept that she would never be able to marry me, and that she wasn’t able to reconcile her beliefs with what she wanted. She had hoped that these feelings would get better in time, but they hadn’t. She wanted, again, to break it off.
Of course, I was crushed. I love her too. Michelle knew I was falling in love with Bree. She encouraged it, just as I encouraged her relationship with Ralph. As I spent the next several days riding the rollercoaster of the five stages of loss, Michelle approached me with a suggestion: That I should just go see Bree in her hometown that weekend. The rationale was that neither of us had actually met face-to-face yet, and that it wasn’t fair to us or the love that we thought we shared to walk away without meeting face-to-face. I held my breath and closed my eyes as I booked the airline tickets...
Bree was somewhat upset at first, but she soon warmed, and we had a lovely dinner, after which I kissed her goodnight. The next day, we spent the whole afternoon together in my hotel room just being together. We shared a somewhat tearful goodbye. This was just this past weekend.
Since returning home, I’ve been a wreck. Bree admits to me that she’s very glad I came, even though things have been complicated even more. She’s right, of course, but I'm more sure than ever that I do love her, and it’s mutual. We’ve spent some time talking about what we enjoyed about our time together, and what we’d like to improve on. Unfortunately, she’s also expressed some depression again at our situation.
This up and down is tearing me up. On the one hand, I love Michelle and our kids and our life together. On the other, I do love Bree too, and Bree has awakened things in me that I didn’t know I had (like, for example, a new-found respect for Christianity). Of course, I understand New Relationship Energy (NRE) and the rose-tinted effect it engenders, but still, Bree’s feelings toward me have left me longing to build something with Bree, questioning myself on what I want out of a relationship now with Michelle. I still believe in the poly lifestyle as a positive choice for many people, but I feel like I could be mono with Bree and be very happy.
Bree’s difficulty with the poly lifestyle is driving me to subconsciously resent Michelle, because if I weren’t married to Michelle, I could move forward with Bree uninhibited. Of course, 10 years of marriage have to count for something, and I don’t want to hurt Michelle or damage my children. I love them all. Editing to add clarification
: I love Michelle, and do not truly resent her. This is just my subconscious trying to absolve my guilt of questioning anything I have with Michelle. It's stupid, and it hurts Michelle. I hate that the thought even crosses my mind. Bree would definitely hate it too.
Michelle and I live in the midwest, and we've been planning on moving sometime over the next year to the east coast, which is closer to both Bree and Ralph (Our primary motivation is to get out of the midwest, we're tired of it
). Michelle and I have talked many times about what that could mean for me and Bree, that Michelle would be comfortable with Bree and me building something long-term, including possibly letting Bree become primary and building a family with her while continuing to support my family with Michelle, if that's what we wanted.
Bree wants the traditional white picket fence, husband, and 2.5 kids. I suspect, to some extent, she fears telling her parents and friends that she’s in love with a married man, to say nothing of what that would mean for her soul and God.
Michelle just wants me to be happy.
And me? What do I want? I guess my ideal would be building a new relationship (even a family) with Bree and being able to keep my existing family together and happy. I don’t want to lose Bree. I love her and want to try to build something with her, and hopefully give her everything she wants out of life. However, I don’t want her to feel like she sold her soul or disappointed her family to be with me. I also don’t want to hurt Michelle. She loves me, and I love her, and I’m fairly certain that the resentment I feel at this moment is a subconscious defense of what I have with Bree. And of course, I worry very much for the effect it would have on my sons if I broke our home. This is assuming that Bree could live with herself if I left Michelle and the boys for her (I’m not sure that she could).
So suffice to say, I’m losing sleep.
Has anybody else had a similar situation? A secondary that didn’t feel like they could be part of a polyamorous family? Did they adjust? How did you help them?
Please be gentle to all involved - it’s likely I’ll share this thread with Bree when we (hopefully) keep the original travel plans we made for September.