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Old 06-21-2012, 09:37 PM
nyjm nyjm is offline
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Default How do you know you're poly?

It may seem like an obvious question to someone on the other side of the looking glass, but I've been wondering lately.

So, let's have some background and context, and then more questions.

I learned about the sheer existence of polyamory about a year ago, and I've been lurking about these boards and reading up on it ever since. I suppose at the moment I would identify as "poly-curious." From what I understand, the core belief of many polyamorous people is that you can love - or at least care for deeply - several people at once, and that one relationship does not detract from the other(s). Indeed, quite the opposite, they can all create a positive synergy.

I understand that, and even feel very comfortable with that. I've always been a generous person. Making people happy makes me happy, and this is one of those situations where more really is more, for me: making more people happy makes me happier.

So, that part I get. I suppose my quandary really is this: I'm married, monogamously, for more than a decade now. It hasn't all been ice cream and puppies, but it's a healthy, comfortable relationship that benefits both of us a lot.

Especially over the past year (but even before then, I've come to realize), I've been drawn to people - mostly women. It's part physical attraction, part intellectual, part... well, we're drawn to people for all sorts of reasons. For a long time, I would tamp this down, or I'd let myself become playful and flirty for a little while, then feel guilty about it and then pull away. And, you know, it's mostly a mono world out there, so that was usually the path of least resistance.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about my motivations for this. For a while, it was clear that my marriage was going through a rough patch: my wife's work became ever-increasingly stressful, our sex life had become boring (and then almost non-existent); after ten years of married life and 15 of living together, it was a pretty natural lull. And I pulled away, emotionally, for a while. I sought emotional fulfillment in the attentions of another woman.

Fortunately, my extra-marital attraction at the time had the good sense to swat me on the nose. I picked up my ego, kicked myself in the ass and went in to talk with my wife about the things that were making me unhappy. We hashed things out and lately, our life together has been good. Despite continued work stress, we've decided to try and have children. And if she's not as affectionate as I'd really like (I'm a very touchy-feely person), she's more affectionate than she had been most of last year. Our sex life has increased in both frequency and intensity.

So, things are pretty good at home, but I still feel this attraction towards other women. I've been doing some hard thinking about my motivations lately, and I believe I can reasonably rule out "I'm looking for others to fulfill my need for affection and attention that I'm not getting home." Because I am getting it at home.

I refuse to believe that there's anything wrong with me, inherently. I feel attracted to women who are not my wife; I wish them well; I like to help them. I like to laugh and talk and geek out and - occasionally - flirt with them. It's not 100% innocent, but it's not harmful, either.

Except that my wife, to this point, has not really been a part of any of these relationships. The other women know I'm married; at least one of them is poly and has drawn a crystal clear line about "No cheating," which I respect and appreciate. I've mentioned the other women to my wife in passing, but I haven't been open about my depth of feeling towards them. Partly because I'm not sure what those depths or feelings are; I haven't let myself explore that much because it just leads back onto the slippery slope towards the land of emotional infidelity.

Nonetheless, I feel like I've broached that point where it would be harmful to not talk about this with her. And here - thank you for reading this far - is my great big question:

How do I talk to her about this? I honestly don't think she's poly-leaning, -curious or -anything, and I'm afraid that I'm going to come off as that asshole who's just asking to be able to sleep around.

At my deep, dark shadowy core, I'm afraid of losing my wife. She is a tremendous light in my life. On the flip-side, I have a responsibility to be true to myself. I've been prepping myself with versions of this story for about a week now, but I'm wondering about the balance of honesty and accessibility. I've learned that full-bore, brutal honesty can be counter-productive.

Accessibility is the prompt for my thread title. Can I be sure? If I'm sure, how can I explain this?

It's good have some things that you want and points to negotiate, right?

1) I want her to be aware of how I feel. (That's somewhat easy to accomplish.)
2) I want her to understand how I feel. (That might be harder; I'd like your help.)
3) I want her to approve of how I feel. (That I have no control over; but this is a wish list as well as a to-do list.)
4) I want to be able to pursue relationships with other women (sorry guys, I've looked, I've considered, it just ain't my thing.) It would be great if she wants to pursue these relationships with me.
5) I want her to know that she will always be my priority. Should we have kids, they will be the priority, followed by her.
6) I want her to have the same freedom as she's willing to grant me.

I'm rambling at this point for the sake of getting it all out. This seems like a wonderful community and I look forward to hearing your advice - and your questions. I appreciate gadflies.
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Old 06-22-2012, 12:07 AM
ThatGirlInGray ThatGirlInGray is offline
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Have you ever talked about various types of non-monogamy (swinging/open relationships/etc) in a theoretical or hypothetical way with her? If not, you might want to start there, before you hit her with, "I think I'm poly." If she's aware of your friendship with the poly woman, that might be a way to bring up the subject. Something like, "You know how *blank* is poly? She and I were talking the other day about *insert some poly topic here* and it was really interesting. What do you think?" That was you can get a feel for how she'll react to the idea of poly in general and maybe even a chance to express how "theoretically" you see how it could work and be a good thing. Then later (since you're in no rush, right? It doesn't sound like you're at a "I HAVE to tell her because I have feelings for this person and if I don't do something I'll BURST!" place mentally, which is good.) you can work up to, "You know, the more I think about poly and how it works, the more I think it might explain why I keep creating these other friendships. It would be something I'd like to explore, if you wouldn't mind going through the reading and research with me."

This would definitely NOT be full-bore, brutal honesty. It might even skirt some white lies, so you'll have to decide for yourself if it looks like a path you'd like to take. Usually I'm a big fan of total honesty, but I knew I was bi and interested in non-typical-relationships when I met my husband, so I was able to be upfront from the start. The closest I've come to your situation is trying to find a way to tell my mother, and I'm still working on that, so I'm hardly in any position to judge! It's really hard to balance being honest with avoiding being hurtful. I wish you luck.
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  #3  
Old 06-22-2012, 12:41 AM
nyjm nyjm is offline
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We've had a pair of threesomes, but that was more being horny and exploring our sexuality than the more all-encompassing lifestyle that I understand poly to be.

The gradual approach is probably a good idea. You're right, I'm in no rush. My wife is pretty sharp, so she'll probably connect the dots of "Hey, turns out So-So is polyamorous, and we were talking about XYZ; what do you think of that?" with "This interests me," but it's still a lot less dramatic than "I think I've discovered a completely new part of myself; we need to change our relationship."

Thanks!
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Old 06-22-2012, 04:11 AM
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NovemberRain NovemberRain is offline
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While I support the being in no rush thing, I think it would be awesome to have some discussion about this prior to any pregnancy. 'Trying to get pregnant' is a different state than 'ordinary relationship as usual.' If she's actually pregnant and you haven't had the discussion, it takes on a whole new meaning.
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  #5  
Old 06-22-2012, 06:58 AM
GalaGirl GalaGirl is offline
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I'm down with KISS -- Keep it simple, silly!

If poly, just tell her you want to talk to her about something you are not great at talking about yet because you are confused and in the sorting it out place.
And you want to let her read something, and agree to let her digest it and try to talk about it at a later time when she's digested. Maybe in a week?

And what you most like to hear when she reads it is "Ok. New thing in our relationship to deal with. I love you and we will navigate this as best we can as a team here" and not just launch into crazy at you.

Because you are having a hard time trying to sort yourself out, nervy, and want to turn to your beloved for aid, not abuse.

Then just print the post you wrote above and hand it over for her to read. Take a deep breath and be brave. It is clear enough about your fears, wants, anxieties.

I guess I'm amazed that in a marriage, Life hasn't already thrown you toughies and you don't have a system in place for communication during the toughies?

"Write it out /print out to tape on bathroom mirror / just email it "

tends to work for us. Gives the author time to collect thoughts, gives the reader time to collect thoughts and write back. Meanwhile, spoken word life goes on as usual and we try to be extra kind to each other.

Hang in there!
Galagirl

Last edited by GalaGirl; 06-22-2012 at 07:03 AM.
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  #6  
Old 06-22-2012, 12:16 PM
nyjm nyjm is offline
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The K.I.S.S. approach has appeal. I'll think that over.

Communication about sex and feelings is the weak point in our marriage. I don't think either of us grew up in an environment where we learned either the skills or vocabulary to do so easily. We're both intelligent adults, so we manage, but it often begins to approach the critical stage before we begin talking and there's a lot of groping about to express ourselves clearly and then to create an action plan.

I, in particular, have difficulty telling her "I want X," because it feels selfish. That's my own hang-up. The acknowledgement of the need to communicate is something that impresses me about the poly community. It's a skill that I know I have to work on.

And oh, yes, this discussion must certainly happen well before pregnancy. One paradigm shift at a time. But something will begin tonight.
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Old 06-23-2012, 05:39 AM
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kdt26417 kdt26417 is offline
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Hi nyjm,

The others have gave plenty of useful food for thought already, so I won't say too much. Just welcome you to our forum.

I would say it's okay to take it at an easy pace with the communication, but like the others said just don't expect your wife to know something (or connect the dots) until you spell it right out. Polyamory's too big of a topic to risk any potential unclarity.

As for how you "know you're poly," I'm more from the school of thought that most people are probably potentially monogamous to some extent, and potentially polyamorous to some extent. It's a slider type of a situation. So you know you're probably somewhat poly, but you don't know exactly how much. Mainly for now you know that you're poly-curious.

Since it's hard to be 100% certain about these things, you just have to be honest with your wife about what you do know, and admit that you're still in the process of figuring out the rest.

Hope I didn't actually add to the confusion ... Those are just my initial thoughts.

Anyway, glad to have you aboard.
Sincerely,
Kevin T.
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Old 06-23-2012, 12:43 PM
nyjm nyjm is offline
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So, first, thank you all for the advice and the welcome.

I took the plunge this morning, edited my long post into a letter, read it over several times and then handed it to my wife: "I want you to read this; it's hard for me to talk about, so I wrote it down."

She sat on the bed and I took a seat and patiently (but inside anxiously) waited. When she was done I asked if she wanted to talk or wanted to take some time. She started slowly asking questions.

...

Crash and burn. I won't recount the entire discussion because it meandered a lot, but by and large not a good reception. Here are some highlights

1) We've had a cogent discussion as two adults about our relationship. This is very good.

2) I've hurt her feelings, which is bad. I didn't intend to, but I completely understand. She's interpreted my desire to pursue relationships with other women as "Something is wrong (with me?). My husband doesn't love me; I'm not providing enough XYZ for him."

I tried to address this as directly as possible; I love her. A lot. More than anything. It's not about her not giving me something, it's about the possibility top bring more love into our life.

3) She does not not not understand polyamory no matter how many ways I try to describe it. She's barely receptive to reading more about it. She put it into internet terms, "I don't understand how you can have so much bandwidth." And this, I think, is the crux of the disconnect: she is a hardcore introvert. Relationships don't fuel her; quite the opposite, they drain her. She keeps her rapports to a minimum, friendship, family and otherwise. And with the possibility of a child, that's another relationship, which, in her mind, is another resource drain. Good relationships for her are about comfort and stability rather than energy and possibilities.

(In hindsight, I feel that should have exercised my empathy a little more to foresee this. I'm quite aware of my wife's introversion; it seems silly to think that she would see polyamorous romantic relationships any differently.)

There was lots of crying involved. :-( I feel a bizarre mixture of guilt and relief. (I hate hurting anyone's feelings, especially my wife's; but we finally had a good discussion, even if it was hard and a little painful). I did my best to reassure her that I love her, that she is the priority, that I wanted to talk and not issue ultimatums.

This is going to take some time. I think I've dropped a really big rock in the pond and the water may be choppy for a while.
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Old 06-23-2012, 09:43 PM
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NovemberRain NovemberRain is offline
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Congratulations on taking the plunge. Sorry it kinda hurt.

May I recommend the blog (on this site) of Jane Q Smythe? She is also an introvert. She started her blog at the beginning of her story, in childhood. It's most excellent reading, she's brilliant. And introverted. It's possible it could add to understanding.
And you may have to wait a while before offering it. But you could read it.

Know that we're all here, cheering you, and your lovely wife, on through the chop.
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Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own...
Robert A. Heinlein

Me: female, bi, (formerly hinge of a vee)
with FirstBoyFriend (FBF)(moderately long-distance)
and no longer with CurrentBoyFriend (CBF)(who lives in the apartment building next door)
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Old 06-23-2012, 09:45 PM
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NovemberRain NovemberRain is offline
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Ah, here it is, The Journey of Jane Q Smythe
http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=20799
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Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own...
Robert A. Heinlein

Me: female, bi, (formerly hinge of a vee)
with FirstBoyFriend (FBF)(moderately long-distance)
and no longer with CurrentBoyFriend (CBF)(who lives in the apartment building next door)
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