The tentative initial steps, and finding balance...
Thereís been a lot written about the formation of my relationship with my gf already, and particularly, and more importantly perhaps the effects it had on my wife during the process. Iíll mostly leave it at that, since I think my wife had done an excellent job of speaking to her feelings through the process, and my gfís viewpoint is up to her to keep or express at her own time and in her own place. Iím not sure my perspective would have a lot to offer, and I really donít want to go back to the puppy house again by going against what was already said. Itís also been so long that I think all I can really offer is fragments really.
It took me a few minutes to catch on that things were going well at the first meeting. That the woman I was talking to was actually genuinely interested. Over the course of our initial conversations, in addition to the usual calculations about whether or not we liked each other, there was a lot of discussions about poly, what we thought we knew already, and once we decided that there was a mutual attraction, there came some discussions about what ideals or beliefs we each held surrounding poly and whether it would be compatible for us.
There was a lot of testing...by both of us. We are a seemingly odd couple, who should have some very different worldviews. Iím lean towards carnivorous, having grown up in a town whose identity is shaped by Oil and Beef. Yet OKCupid seems to enjoy matching me with vegetarians...and my gf was a one such example. Although seeing how things turned out, maybe OKCís sense of humour isnít so dumb after all. Sheís a hippy. My profession would be the polar opposite in the minds of most people who grew up on movies about the Ď60s. Both of us did some probing to see if the other would recoil...but instead we ended up just finding out that the differences werenít nearly as important as they might have seemed at first. Before writing each other off at the first sign of conflicting views, we gave each other the chance to look around it, or find something else in common that made the difference not matter. For example, Beef vs. Veg? So what...we both like Sushi!
Beyond the games of attraction however, there was the poly discussions. After all the frustrations of previous attempts, she was a refreshing change. Unlike my wifeís first gf, K knew about poly, it made sense to her, and both her AND her primary partner wanted to pursue it. She wasnít just looking for a FWB fling like one of my other false starts...and more importantly, we were on the same page in terms of practical experience, and the learning curve (read: cliff) that we were both willing to jump off. K was willing to take the risks in the relationship, learn the practical with me and work with both her primary partner, and mine, to make things work.
Talking about these possibilities is where the freshly thrashed threads from the forum came into play, and where I was able to test and validate some of the assumptions and beliefs about poly that I had been holding and arguing. I had taken a lot of heat for some of my views earlier, like ďMy Poly is not your poly, and doesnít need to beĒ, and specifically that married people opening their relationships didnít have to be evil and burn their secondaryís, that hierarchies were possible, and not necessarily bad, and that it when terms were properly negotiated ahead of time, a secondary agreeing to such terms didnít automatically make them a fool, or leave the relationship / poly experience doomed to tears and heartache.
The heat over the discussion on the forum over such things as hierarchies, and the expressions of hurt and angst that was expressed by some people did cause me a lot of concern. I like to think Iím a fairly nice guy, so I wouldnít want to cause anyone pain intentionally, or when I could reasonably avoid it. And for a time, I had to really consider if my views were actually accurate. That anything was possible as long as all parties could be properly informed and aware of the ramifications ahead of time.
My wife and I, being a formerly married couple who were opening up to poly, and still tentatively trying to figure out how it would fit into our existing relationship, had some boundaries, and some ideas about how things should look. Theyíre probably familiar to many who have gone through a similar process, or dated couples, or have read more than 3 or 4 threads on this forum. How was it supposed to look?
We were married...so the marriage and nuclear family concerns needed to remain primary.
As much as non-hierarchical models were advocated, and have a certain appeal, we just didnít feel it would fit with us, and the need mentioned above in order to maintain our individual feelings of security within the marriage.
The example that best expressed our (wife and I) expectations of each other was that given some kind of concurrent family emergencies with both the spouse, and the secondary...the spouse or family at home needed to come first. I know why my wife would worry about this with me in particular...I have a bad case of White Knight Syndrome (WKS), where Iíll run off to help damsels in distress without much if any hesitation. Itís something that an unscrupulous partner could very easy to take advantage of, and without such a specific boundary in place, would I have the foresight to see the picture clearly?
That made certain aspects of the conversation with this new girl very uncomfortable. But poly needs to be based on honesty, and my view was that these terms might be acceptable as long as the secondary wasnít going to be surprised by shattered false expectations of being told she was equal, only to find out at crunch time that she wasnít.
How hard is it for a White Knight to say to a Maiden, ďYou should know that if a Dragon attacks and I can only save you or her, itíll be her!Ē? Yet that was the nature of the initial conversations with K about how poly with me would look like, and again I was braced for the recoil.
But it never happened. She not only agreed to the arrangement, but also that such an action would be appropriate, expected, and proper in her view. And already having her own knight on retainer anyways, she was neither worried about the dragon, and let me know that she would be hauling his ass out of the burning castle long before sheíd be worried about my smoke inhalation! (I may be stealing some of this from someone elseís (*cough*TP) blog in a way, but itís an elegant example and something that I think I needed to talk to as well)
Iíve always struggled with this concept...even knowing that it makes sense, it goes against the grain of the WKS. I donít like the idea of having to make a choice like that, although it makes sense for it to not be a Ďchoiceí. But my greatest consternation about this actually comes from another idea that weíve been blending into our world-view...and while not specific to this forum, itís given us the language to discuss it with more clarity. The concept of chosen family and the support network available through poly tribes, and in a broader sense, communities.
This came to sharp relief a while back when a crisis arose in our poly tribe, and my wife seemed to be struggling with that choice between the home family, and the chosen family as she wanted to help her gf during a time of need. Fortunately the family at home wasnít in crisis at the same time, and my wife is the sort of person who needs to help. Itís beyond WKS. Sheís just a total Nightingale, where she needs to help if she can. So the decision ended up not being so much choosing between families, but convincing her that it was ok to drag people out of burning buildings when our house wasnít on fire. The overall balance of the larger issue however continues to require pondering. Not because thereís anything wrong with the priorities and expectations that our marriage and respective secondaryís & paramours, but because Iím no longer sure what either my wife or I will expect of the other when it comes to a moment of truth. Particularly, Iím not sure I want my wife to hold back on my account, or feel she should, when the larger tribe needs her to act. I think if weíre going to pay more than lip service (<wink wink, nudge nudge, Say no more>) to the concept of chosen family, then we need to be flexible enough to transform that into action...not just a thought.
At any rate, K and I carried on developing a relationship...and we learned. There were mis-steps, and errors in judgement. As much as I tried to not get caught up in NRE such that Iíd be a babbling idiot when talking to my wife, it manifested in other ways, like completely miscalculating how well my gf and wife would like each other when they had an opportunity to meet. Other mis-steps were such blunders that I now wonder if I made them on purpose just to see what would happen.