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Old 08-04-2011, 03:15 AM
Hardison Hardison is offline
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Question How does one know?

I have been reading about Polyamory and wondering for close to 15 years if it could ever be something I'd be happy in.

Back then when i first learned of it's existence I was a "clean slate" as it were, never dated, never had any romantic attachment to anyone beyond a crush.

In my early 20s I met a younger woman who would become my first girlfriend. At the time she was in an "open relationship" with a much older man. I don't think it was much of a relationship at all though. He aspired to be a musician, and I think he saw her more as a groupie than a partner.

We dated, she began to see faults in that relationship and broke it off with him. We became a monogamous couple, but after some time I discovered that she'd cheated and the relationship fell apart.

Later on, I had a couple of nights with another woman I knew who was in a sort of swinging relationship. It was not anything lasting, just a short-lived fling. ...so i am not a stranger to non-monogamy, but my current relationship of 9 years has been monogamous from the start.

My wife (whom I'll call Erzulie) though, came to terms with her sexual orientation (bi) last year, and the possibilities of opening up were raised.

Meanwhile, we have a close friend (let's call her Brigit) who has many common interests with both of us, and whom we tend to spend a lot of time together with. I've had a crush on Brigit for some time, but being in a monogamous relationship, and not wanting to hurt or lose either my wife or friend, I confessed my crush to my wife and hid it from Brigit, and had placed emotional barriers between me and Brigit, not allowing myself to get as close in some ways (such as friendly hugs hello/goodbye) as i do with other friends, despite Brigit actually being closer to me than any of my other friends (with the exception of Erzulie).

As Erzulie and I live in a different city from Brigit, when we spend time together, it is often for a weekend. Erzulie and I keep some blankets and an air mattress in the car in case we find ourselves at Brigit's late one Sat. night. Often we travel to visit friends together who live in yet another city again, and Brigit's house is an overnight stop on the way back home.

When Erzulie left the country for a temporary work placement, she and I discussed the what ifs of either of us finding ourselves falling for someone else. it was agreed between us that while we are apart is not a time to be looking for others, and that we would maintain our mono status during that time. I was told, flat out not to spend the night at Brigit's, and I haven't.

I am not sure if a poly relationship is in the cards for our future, after conversations with my wife, it's not a possibility that we've ruled out, but it is something that we are both very skeptical about it ever working out. But I really do wish that I knew if my crush was anything more, if poly was a realistic possibility, or something I am just hoping for to make me feel ok with having such a long lasting crush on our friend. Most of all I wish there was a magical way to tell if Brigit felt similarly toward me. It's scary to feel like your life is teetering between a possible turn toward greater happiness, and utter disaster. How do you know before opening Pandora's box, as it were, if it will bring peace or pain?

I am scared of the idea of opening the door and then finding that one of us cannot handle it. I am also scared that we open up and find that one or the other of us cannot find what we thought we would. If Erzulie decides she wants to explore that newly acknowledged part of her sexuality but doesn't find a suitable lover, or she does, but it turns out that Brigit is not interested, or worse, scared away from even being friends... then what?

Then it's too late to go back. How do you know when you are ready (if you'll ever be ready) to go from mono to poly? How do you know if a friendship could become more than a friendship without risking that very friendship?

If Erzulie and I decide to stay in our mono state, I would be happy and could never cheat. I would of course always wonder how things might have been different, but that will always be the case with many of life's twists and turns.
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Old 08-04-2011, 04:05 AM
MorningTwilight MorningTwilight is offline
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[...]

I am scared of the idea of opening the door and then finding that one of us cannot handle it. I am also scared that we open up and find that one or the other of us cannot find what we thought we would. If Erzulie decides she wants to explore that newly acknowledged part of her sexuality but doesn't find a suitable lover, or she does, but it turns out that Brigit is not interested, or worse, scared away from even being friends... then what?

Then it's too late to go back. How do you know when you are ready (if you'll ever be ready) to go from mono to poly? How do you know if a friendship could become more than a friendship without risking that very friendship?
You don't know, and you don't know. You're ready if you find you're willing to take the risk. As you say, once the door is opened, it's opened.

These are all things to discuss before taking the plunge. If you and your wife are both open to the idea of opening up, then it pays to discuss beforehand the what ifs around one of you not being able to handle it. If the other has fallen in love, then breaking that off is going to hurt more than one person.

There are no guarantees.
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Old 08-04-2011, 07:10 AM
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redpepper redpepper is offline
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You're ready if you find you're willing to take the risk.

There are no guarantees.
Well said. In the mean time, prepare. Read, learn, understand what is behind poly before taking that risk. There is lots to read here for starters... do a tag search, find interesting topics that help you understand what you might want to take on and then let it go and jump in when the water is ready.
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Old 08-04-2011, 08:01 PM
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I really do wish that I knew if my crush was anything more, if poly was a realistic possibility, or something I am just hoping for to make me feel ok with having such a long lasting crush on our friend. Most of all I wish there was a magical way to tell if Brigit felt similarly toward me. It's scary to feel like your life is teetering between a possible turn toward greater happiness, and utter disaster. How do you know before opening Pandora's box, as it were, if it will bring peace or pain?

I am scared of the idea of opening the door and then finding that one of us cannot handle it. I am also scared that we open up and find that one or the other of us cannot find what we thought we would. If Erzulie decides she wants to explore that newly acknowledged part of her sexuality but doesn't find a suitable lover, or she does, but it turns out that Brigit is not interested, or worse, scared away from even being friends... then what?
We never know what the future holds. All we can do is weigh the risks and ask ourselves if we're willing to accept those risks.

I think you are making the situation much larger, more overwhelming, and a bigger deal than it needs to be. You can enjoy a crush without ever acting on it; invest in the friendship with Brigit. Your crush on her will either fizzle out or morph into something deeper and more satisfying. As for Ezrulie finding a lover, you will deal with it as it happens. Just be real and honest. If Brigit doesn't want that, it doesn't automatically mean she will take her friendship away. I think you are dwelling too much on what-ifs. Better to stay in the here and now and be as present as possible. Opportunities only happen in the present moment, anyway, so better to get out of your head and be with what is.
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Old 08-06-2011, 10:52 PM
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Phantessa Phantessa is offline
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I am scared of the idea of opening the door and then finding that one of us cannot handle it. I am also scared that we open up and find that one or the other of us cannot find what we thought we would.
I've had these same thoughts and worries. I wish there was some way to know, but that's why we only tiptoed in the door and now we've tiptoed back out for now. Polyamory has so many changes within our marriage we didn't want to take a giant leap all at once, but make sure we were both ok each step of the way before taking another. So, we discovered for the time being it wasn't working and stopped, but it doesn't mean we won't ever consider trying again. Our relationship wasn't impacted negatively at all, because we took our time with it.
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Old 08-07-2011, 04:00 AM
RunawayJim RunawayJim is offline
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I'm in a similar situation. My wife and I decided to open up our marriage after some discussion and some reading (The Ethical Slut, I found it quite helpful) and talking to poly friends. Poly, or at least non-monogamy is something I've thought about for a long time. In fact, I think I've always been this way, just never realized it until it was brought up because of what society says is the norm. So when my wife brought it up, it made me a bit excited.

Anyway, the similarities are that I have a friend, a good friend, who I have feelings for, fairly strong feelings. My wife knew there was something between me and this other woman for a while. My wife has also become friends with this other woman. After the poly discussion with my wife, she mentioned the other woman (I had already been thinking about it). I decided that it would be a good idea to fill her in on how I was feeling. For the first time, I could be completely honest, and I had a feeling that she had feelings for me as well, based on our interactions. So I did what any guy would do... I wrote her an email explaining everything and waited. I chose email because I could write out my thoughts over time and then form it to a coherent message. It would also give her time to read through it, digest it, and think about it.

Anyway, ultimately, she turned down my suggestion, not thinking it would be right for her based on where she is in her life, but she more or less admitted to the fact that I was correct in assuming she had some interest in me as more than a friend.

She and I are still great friends. I wouldn't want anything less. In fact, I stressed to her that our friendship was more important to me than a romantic relationship with her. She agreed. Where it gets a bit hairy is the fact that she and I are flirty together. It makes it hard on me. I still think there is the possibility of more, but it has yet to be seen. I am not going to push the issue.

Ultimately, though, my wife is on board with all of this (she helped me edit the email a bit). Me and this other woman are still great friends (I consider her one of my closest friends). And everyone is happy. So if the opportunity to go poly every does come up with your wife, be honest with everyone involved, including that other woman. It's best to be honest. It felt like a huge load taken off my chest when I could finally be honest with my friend about how I really felt about her. It was even better when I realized I didn't screw up our friendship.
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Old 08-08-2011, 12:43 AM
Hardison Hardison is offline
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Thanks everyone, especially RunawayJim.

[From here on this post is mainly just stream of consciousness... me thinking aloud on the forum.]

My situation is especially complicated by my wife's absence. She is home next week for the rest of the month, and I've taken as much vacation time as I can to spend as much time together as we can, but then she has to go back overseas and we will not see each other in person again till Xmas. She and I will have to talk some more about this during our August vacation time, but I feel I have to keep my feelings for Brigit bottled till something definite has been worked out between my wife and I. I'm not one to keep secrets from anyone, but this is complicated, and I feel ill-equipped at the moment to deal with it.

My feelings for my wife are as strong as ever, and perhaps I spend too much time alone lately, but I find myself thinking and wondering a lot about what a poly future for us might look like.

I look at photos of the 2 of them together, and at first I am happy. (as I am looking at any photo of my wife, or of close friends) but then an overwhelming tide of emotion hits me, I'm not sure what to make of it. I feel that happiness, but also a wave of sadness, frustration, ...
In part it's the loneliness for not being in the same place with my wife for months at a time, but it is also the frustration of not having a definite plan of how we want to proceed, and my having unexpressed feelings, that I'm not really sure now how to deal with them.

It is going to be an interesting, hopefully, mostly happy month for me. I hope that Erzulie and I can figure out where we stand with the possibility of opening up the relationship. It's been left up in the air for months, with the only definite being that we would not do anything while we are apart. Just having a definite agreement between us will make things easier for me.

Having some time to spend with all 3 of us together is also something I'm very much looking forward to. I want a chance to re-connect with Brigit on a friendship level. We've been hanging out in larger groups of friends, often with Erzulie skyped in to join the group, but the only "one on one", or smaller group time I've had with Brigit lately has been while driving back from such gatherings, and I am not good at conversation while driving. My attention is much more focused on the road.

I am really uncertain how things are going to go with re-initiating the "should we go poly?" conversation. Given that Erzulie is going to be heading away for another extended period of time, I worry that she will feel like I am trying to replace her if I am the one who brings it up first. I have to do my best to be a good communicator and reassure her. The last thing I want is to have her hurt, or worried that something she doesn't approve of or isn't comfortable with might happen in her absence.

All I think I really want is for it to be ok for me to drop my emotional barrier and just let whatever happens happen with Brigit. I'm not even talking about sex, just that I want to feel like it's ok to be a little flirty, and if that leads to an unexpected kiss, that's OK.
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Old 08-08-2011, 01:23 AM
RunawayJim RunawayJim is offline
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I am really uncertain how things are going to go with re-initiating the "should we go poly?" conversation. Given that Erzulie is going to be heading away for another extended period of time, I worry that she will feel like I am trying to replace her if I am the one who brings it up first. I have to do my best to be a good communicator and reassure her. The last thing I want is to have her hurt, or worried that something she doesn't approve of or isn't comfortable with might happen in her absence.

All I think I really want is for it to be ok for me to drop my emotional barrier and just let whatever happens happen with Brigit. I'm not even talking about sex, just that I want to feel like it's ok to be a little flirty, and if that leads to an unexpected kiss, that's OK.
I would have the conversation with your wife if you're really feeling this way. Being completely honest and open is life changing. I had it all bottled up inside before my wife brought it up. You never know. If you've never had a good long discussion about it, it will be good to do. Buy the book I recommended now. Read it together. Talk about it as you go through it. That was the best thing she and I ever did. She's still a bit wary about the whole thing because she's not sure how she'd feel if I was with someone else (I have yet to be with anyone else).

Then there's the whole thing about the friend... explain to your wife how you feel. One of the things I told my wife that made her understand a bit better what I think of the whole thing is this (it came up after talk about "what if we're not meant to be together in the long run?")... I love my wife dearly. I do. I know that. I can't explain how I know it, I just do and she has to trust me on that. I have more love than I can give to just a single person. She cannot, nor do I expect her to be able to, fulfill my every need/want/desire. I think it's unfair for to expect one person to do that for the rest of your life. I said that I don't know if she feels that way about me, but I would totally understand. It's ok to feel that way. I think that helped her a bit. She couldn't give me an answer as to how she feels that way about me right away, but I don't know that I can. That's a lot of work. Now... I did reassure her that if all she wants is me, that's fine, too, as long as she understands my side of it as well and can accept that. Our relationship is far better than it has been since we first met each other and our "honeymoon period" ended. Just being able to be completely open with each other and think freely about other people and knowing that we could be with other people has made our relationship better. We made some agreements for when the time comes that one of us does find someone else. Those made us both a bit more comfortable with the whole thing, but we did it with the understanding that they can always change as we change. The book I recommended has some sample agreements, and I can share ours if you'd like, too.

And as for bringing it up with your friend, you'd have to do it your own way. The way I did it worked for me based on the relationship I already have with my friend. It may not work for everyone, but it might.

I wish you the best of luck and feel free to ask any questions. I'm still very new to this (we only decided to go poly about a month ago, and while a friend of mine who is poly says you're not poly until you've had sex with other people, I consider it the ability to date and be with other people, whether or not you've met or been with someone else).
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Old 08-08-2011, 02:06 AM
Hardison Hardison is offline
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... and while a friend of mine who is poly says you're not poly until you've had sex with other people, I consider it the ability to date and be with other people, whether or not you've met or been with someone else).
I actually have had that book out from the libarary a few days already. I'm about 1/2 way through it, and frankly, while it is full of good advice, I find it concentrates on sex far more than I feel is helpful in a book such as this. Reading it feels like a conversation with a person obsessed with the topic of sex, every topic the writers go into eventually comes back to sex. I suppose that's to be expected in a book titled "the Ethical Slut" trying to reclaim a word with a negative connotation attached to sexual habits, but I feel that there is more to relationships than sex. Sex eventually can come from all the other stuff, but to me loving != sleeping with. I'm afraid I disagree with your friend. Though i do see their point at the same time. The real test for a couple switching from strict monogamy to polyamory would be: is everyone involved still ok after there has been sex in the secondary relationship?
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Old 08-08-2011, 02:12 AM
RunawayJim RunawayJim is offline
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I actually have had that book out from the libarary a few days already. I'm about 1/2 way through it, and frankly, while it is full of good advice, I find it concentrates on sex far more than I feel is helpful in a book such as this. Reading it feels like a conversation with a person obsessed with the topic of sex, every topic the writers go into eventually comes back to sex. I suppose that's to be expected in a book titled "the Ethical Slut" trying to reclaim a word with a negative connotation attached to sexual habits, but I feel that there is more to relationships than sex. Sex eventually can come from all the other stuff, but to me loving != sleeping with. I'm afraid I disagree with your friend. Though i do see their point at the same time. The real test for a couple switching from strict monogamy to polyamory would be: is everyone involved still ok after there has been sex in the secondary relationship?
Agreed. While I know sex will change things, I also know that one of us having a relationship with someone else will also change things, even if it doesn't involve sex. I already have really strong feelings for this friend of mine. My wife has "known" it for a long time (since I met this other woman), but never had confirmation. It felt good to confirm it, and it would feel even better to be able to allow those feelings to be realized in the form of a relationship, though I don't know that will ever happen because of the friend. If it did, it would change things with my relationship with my wife, but it would be that much more important for me to show my wife the affection and attention and love she deserves... even if I don't ever have sex with the friend.

I did find there's a lot about sex in that book, but if you can read through it, there's a ton of great advice about relationships in general. And when the book talks about sex, it's not strictly intercourse.
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