Hard to Explain...
I put up a post in the Introductions section, in case anyone wants a little background about me before reading this. Any advice, words of encouragement or even a good slap in the face should I need it (metaphorically speaking) would be welcome. And I apologize because it looks like this is going to be a long post, I'm hoping that plenty of backstory will help to explain where I'm at and help anyone else to personalize their advice...and of course I'm happy to answer any questions as they come...
My husband and I have been married for 3 years, together for five and a half. He is my best friend and we get along beautifully in so many ways...but we've encountered a serious roadblock. About a year and a half ago, we had been discussing things we may be interested in to spice up our already great sex life...with the idea of bringing in other people being at the forefront (yes, I know this is swinging, please bear with me as it's been a journey through the gamut of variations of non-monogamy). We'd been monogamous until that point, though I always figured adventures/exploring would be an option, because of our openness with each other and previous generalized discussions on the topic. So, at my husband's suggestion and with discussion and agreement from all involved we had a same-room swap with a couple we are friends with. From my perspective, things went great! And that night afterwards, everyone was doing well with the whole situation...we'd all had a good time. However, the next morning, my husband went into a funk and had a hard time processing his feelings. Together, we took some time to process and eventually things were really good again.
About 6 months later, my husband decided he'd like to give the swapping another shot...we chose the same couple, but went into separate rooms. Again, I had a good time, no difficulty/guilt on my end regarding emotions, jealousy, etc. The sex itself wasn't actually all that spectacular, but this did not lead to any negative emotion on my part. My husband also had a mediocre experience in terms of the act itself, but again had a bit of difficulty processing the emotions. Again, we took some time to allow the feelings to dissipate and I assured him that I loved him, supported his right to his feelings, etc. Things were good again.
In the meantime, my husband went into therapy for other issues and was making amazing progress, and feeling better about himself than he ever had. He had been taking various steps to bring closure to various aspects of his life that had been troubling him (talking to family members about the past, etc). One night, he came home and announced to me that any addition of other people to our sex life ever again was absolutely out of the question. My reaction was one that neither of us expected...I freaked.
We fought, we went into couple's counseling, I tried some individual therapy...and went through a whole host of reasons the idea of absolute, nonnegotiable monogamy was a problem for me. At first I thought it was the ultimatum presentation of the concept, then an urge to not limit my experiences, and on and on.
Over the next year, we decided to try a few more things...my husband said he wanted to try to find ways he might be ok with some form of non-monogamy. In that time, we swapped twice with a different couple we were friends with (both times were separate rooms and at my husband's suggestion) and I again had a great time, no difficulty with jealousy, guilt, etc. And again, my husband had an ok time, but ultimately hated the feelings that would crop up. We also gave entirely separate openness a try, in which I slept once with a friend of mine (again, a positive experience for me) and my husband positively freaked out...despite having agreed to it, and even suggesting it. We almost separated that day. He talked about wanting to have his own separate encounter (which I have had a non-wavering policy that he has my blessing to do as he'd like as long as "he is safe, has fun and let's me know"...I have not taken this statement back at any point). But his motivation was so that things would feel "even" or "equal" though he admits he'd really rather not go through with it.
So that all brings us to now...my husband has finally been able to understand and convey the reasons he has such difficulty, personally, with practicing non-monogamy. They are incredibly valid reasons and I don't hold any of it against him. I can't go into detail on it, but it boils down to a very understandable position that although he sees nothing wrong with non-monogamy in general, it is not something he wants or needs for himself. It is also not something he wants or is able to tolerate in his marriage (though under the right circumstances, he suggests me may be able to continue swapping with couples, which I worry will still present a ton of struggle).
I, however, through all of this have realized that this is huge to me. I've realized that it isn't just a rebellion against an ultimatum, or a purely sexual urge for variety. I've been reading threads on this forum for months, and so many things that people have said ring so true to me. I've realized that I'm absolutely capable of loving more than one person at a time (I'll admit I've developed feelings for the friend I slept with individually, though neither of us has an interest in creating our own monogamous relationship together) and that I, in fact, long for and welcome this concept. In fact, I can look back at many points in my life and recognize early signs that monogamy may have never been the right road for me, but that I didn't know at the time that there was another option. The feelings I've experienced anytime my situation with my husband suggested that I would be able to feel true to myself were of contentment and peace. The only negativity I've experienced at any time was the pain of knowing my husband was in pain....but I've not experienced any jealousy or guilt for the actions themselves (only guilt in that my husband has experienced pain in trying to adjust to this lifestyle).
I find myself with another ultimatum though, find a way to live without this aspect of my life...or live it without my husband. He wasn't mean or harsh either, and in fact, has told me that sometimes we just are the way we are...and, like oil and vinegar, sometimes you just can't mix. It wouldn't be a matter of anger or resentment. But it is up to me to take that step to say whether this is something I absolutely cannot live without. And therein lies my problem. How can I choose between my husband and myself? I don't feel like I would be choosing sex or other people over him...but that I'm choosing the joy of an authenticity to myself or the joy I have sharing my life with him. He's also asked me to try to figure out the big "why" of this part of me. In some of our harder moments, it was angrily suggested I was addicted to the behavior, which I feel is wholly inaccurate and he now agrees. But is this a result of issues from my own past? Or a cure for them? Regardless, it feels healthy and wholesome and right for me to share myself romantically and sexually with others, to let relationships and friendships develop organically and be expressed in whatever form feels right. To follow my own heart and beliefs rather than shove them aside to appease those around me (which I have done pretty much my entire life).
I guess my question is, is how can I be 100% sure of my decision either way? And what if I'm wrong? How do you choose one joy over another? And how can I possibly gather the strength and courage to leave a relationship and a man that I want to spend my life with if it turns out that's the only way I can feel authentic and prevent resentment? Or to sum it up...what should I do? I am so terrified of leaving but I'm also afraid to stay.
Thank you to anyone who read this entire novel and for any words you can send my way. Please feel free to throw any questions my way as well.