8 years in, wife wants an open marriage.
Hi everyone. I am glad I found this site. I have been reading through a lot of the posts here and find a lot of the information to be great. I wanted to give my story that began all of 4 days ago. Also, as with many of the people posting here, I need advice.
There were certain circumstances that led to my wife and I have a conversation in which she told me she wanted to consider the prospect of us opening our marriage. I have been in a bit of a rough spot lately but have been seeing a therapist which has helped me a great deal. Now, my wife and I have been married for 8 years and the subject of polyamory only came up when some friends of ours came out to us as polyamorous about a year ago. We had a pretty in-depth conversation about it and both of us agreed that we are glad that it works for them but that it is something that neither one of us were interested in. In fact, she was the first one to say it, it wasn't like she was following my lead.
On Monday night we had a very serious conversation about our happiness levels. In short, she told me that she is completely happy with me and that I am her center and she loves unconditionally and that I have a place in her heart that could never be touched. BUT, (the dreaded but which I am sure brings many people here) over the past year she has felt that, in her own words, she has an extension of herself that is not happy. A small part of her brain (5% in her estimation as if that means anything) is curious about what it would be like to be with someone else while still being with me (not a sexual encounter, but having a honest poly marriage). To her credit, she didn't want to tell me about it until I was better and had my issues and medication worked out (not overly crazy, just some anxiety issues that got a little out of control). However, due to certain extenuating circumstances I found out how she felt and drug it out of her.
I cannot tell you in words how I felt when she told me this. The first thing I felt was anger that she didn't tell me when she first started having these feelings. I felt like she had lied to me because we have talked about it a few times since our friends came out and we both were, at least in words, on the same page. We have always had an honest relationship, sometimes perhaps too honest. The second things I felt was sadness because (as most people tend to do) I felt that it was about me not being enough for her. She assured me that it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with her. However, you can understand my confusion on that matter because, as a family, what one person does effects the other person. The only analogy I could come up with (and I am not equating polyamory with a crime), if I go out on my personal time and have a few drinks and get a DUI on the way home, it is squarely on me. I will shoulder the burden of the fine, the night in jail, the loss of my license, and the stigma of being a drunk-driver. However, that doesn't effect just me because I have a family to consider. I have a wife and a 10 year old daughter at home that expect me to be somewhat stable.
There have never been any outward signs that she felt this way. She is very good about hiding certain feelings and it usually takes some work to dig them out of her. But this was completely-out-of-no-where, blind-siding material. She said that she hadn't told me yet because she was scared that I would a) hate her and b) leave her. I thought I was the only one with abandonment issues (not really). I told her that I would never hate her for her feelings. No one can help where their feelings bring them. My first reaction (the wrong one) was that I told her that I couldn't do it and that if she needed that in her life then I couldn't be there with her to go through it. I don't think that anyone should be unhappy in a relationship. I also told her that I am not 100% happy in our relationship. Anyone who says they are 100% happy in their relationship is a goddamned liar in my opinion. There are always places that could use improvement or curiosities that go unfulfilled. I (being bisexual) have wondered what it would be like to have a relationship with another man again now that I am more mature and financially and physically stable. However, I am fine with not fulfilling that curiosity because she makes me so happy that I can do without it. Not 100% happy, but close enough for me to round up.
Eventually I told her that I would do all of the research that I could possibly do into the subject of polyamory, including asking my friends questions about how they live their lives. I will keep an open mind and give it true consideration (I am an engineer and a physics student, I have to be open-minded), but that she must also be open to the fact that I may come through this and realize it is not for me, that polyamory isn't something I can deal with in my life. So I started my research here and at Modern Poly, I subscribed to Poly Weekly, and I have a few books coming to me (Opening Up and Ethical Slut). I can honestly say that I am terrified. I haven't been this scared about something since I was in the Marines and found out we were going into Afghanistan and then on to Iraq. There are so many outcomes that could happen that give me pause. I am a planner and I know there is no way to know the outcome of every situation, but it is possible to be educated on 95% of the possible outcomes. I could share some of my concerns, but I think I need to do more reading to see if some of these books and articles help with those concerns. I am sure they are concerns that many people new to polyamory have.
All in all, I have always been monogamous. I may not have stayed with some people very long, but I have been monogamous none-the-less. Honestly, and I feel that I can be honest here and get honest answers in return, I feel that her asking me to have an open marriage is the same as her asking me to not be attracted to men and to be completely straight. It is so against my nature that I don't think I can do it. Then she tells me that she can't do it without me. So do I go against every fiber of my being and open our marriage to make her happy? Do I become bitter and resentful of her because she "forced" me to do something that I would never ask of her ( know this is up to me, but like many have said, feelings are valid if they effect your life that much)? I made a promise to myself a long time ago that I would never stay in a relationship that made me unhappy. The kicker is that I have fallen in love with her so hard and deep that I am not sure I would ever be happy without her. A Catch-22, as it were. Do I tell her I can't do it and then have the knowledge that for as long as we are together that she will never be completely happy? She has said that she could never leave me, but she also told me that she could never be poly.
I am stuck and I don't know what to do. Help me.