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Old 02-16-2013, 03:56 PM
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vmsmith vmsmith is offline
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Question Should I still be friends with her?

So, before I explain the question, I need to provide the obligatory backstory. My wife (S) and I had been talking about opening for a couple of years, but progress was frustratingly slow. In the meantime I met and fell in love with someone at work (M) and it turned into an affair. We both discovered that we were poly and became quite supportive of each other trying to improve our relationships with our monogamous partners. It was one of the happiest times of my life and I discovered the joy loving more than one (albeit dishonestly). But, of course, it couldn't last. Her husband discovered our emails and he forced her to cut off communication. I tried to maintain distance out of respect, but eventually we began speaking again at work, trying to be supportive and help each other as we had before. My depression did not go unnoticed by my wife, especially when contrasted with prior months. I restarted the dialogue of opening up and she gave me an ultimatum, forget about it or divorce. I love my wife and it was painful, but 1) I don't like ultimatums and 2) I had glimpsed the happiness that was possible outside of monogamy... so I muttered "divorce".

After many tears and many hours of talking, I knew I had to be completely honest. I confessed the affair, but more importantly I told her everything I had been feeling but not saying for so many years... feeling disconnected, restricted, frustrated. Obviously there were many more tears and many more hours of talking, but honesty is an incredible thing... we connected on a whole new level and are closer now than ever. She finally took the time to seriously educate herself about polyamory and concluded that a poly/mono relationship could work (though she's open to the idea of being poly as well). We're taking it one step at a time, but we've already connected with a local poly community and our relationship is as strong as ever.

But back to M, and the question... we continue to talk (online chat, since we work in separate office buildings) and occasionally meet for coffee at work as well, even though her husband has forbidden communication. She's been in therapy with her husband now for a couple of months and has gone from totally checked out to sticking it out for the kids. I want to remain friends with her at work, and she does likewise, but I'm struggling with the ethics. I've talked about it with my wife and she's fine with it (I know, she's awesome), but I feel like I'm enabling M to cheat, even though the cheating in this case is just friendly conversation. What should I do? Am I being too much of an idealist? Is it worth wrecking the friendship for the risk of mucking up an already troubled marriage?
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Old 02-16-2013, 04:23 PM
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Marcus Marcus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vmsmith View Post
but honesty is an incredible thing... we connected on a whole new level and are closer now than ever.
First off, good for you. That could have been a bloodbath but it sounds like everyone is coming out a winner.

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Am I being too much of an idealist? Is it worth wrecking the friendship for the risk of mucking up an already troubled marriage?
There comes a point when you need to decide how much responsibility you are will to take for other peoples decisions. How would you personally feel if your continued friendship with her somehow ended her marriage? Could you live with that? Would you be a tortured wreck because of it? If you think of it this way you are making the decision for yourself, not for her. I'm of the opinion that choices made with our own self preservation in mind are always more honest.
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Old 02-16-2013, 06:24 PM
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vmsmith vmsmith is offline
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Thanks, Marcus, that's generally where my head is at.

There is a selfish part of me that sorta hopes it doesn't work out because then we could be together again, but outwardly I try to be very supportive. I know that my presence has an effect, though she constantly reminds me that I am only one of many variables. At one point I cutoff communication for what I thought was her own good, but later realized I was only making us both unhappy.

Similar to your advice, I have heard others make statements like we're all responsible for our own happiness. I need to let her make her own decisions, what risk she's willing to run for her own happiness, and I need to do the same. Ask me again tomorrow, but today I think I could live with having some small part in the end of her marriage. I hate seeing her so confined by her husband.
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Old 02-17-2013, 05:22 AM
GalaGirl GalaGirl is online now
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Let me lift this up to you.
  • You have come away from a cheating affair. Burden lifted. (good)
  • You have told your wife everything you had been feeling but not saying for so many years... feeling disconnected, restricted, frustrated. That's a burden lifted. (Good.)
  • You are enjoying renewed connection with your spouse and greater understanding. Joys shared. (Good)

Why deal in messy then? This is you looking out for your own best healths how? (Mental health, emotional health, physical health, spiritual health.)

Quote:
I feel like I'm enabling M to cheat, even though the cheating in this case is just friendly conversation.
You are. You are aware of this agreement existing and cannot "unknow" what you already know. What is your behavior here? Clean ethics or not? Not.

If her agreement with her husband is "no communication at all" with you, that you communicate and have coffee dates is helping her to break one of her relationship agreements. (Whether or not the agreement is rational and reasonable is another story, but she would have to go to him to renegotiate that limit. The agreement is with him not you. )

You could encourage her to finish with the old thing (no communication agreement changing to a new agreement that allows her to communicate with you) before starting a new thing (friendship with you.) Demonstrate that YOU are worth being treated nicely and worth the bother of straightening up her ethics for.

You could let her know you are open to friendship, but don't want any truck with "messy" or "weird" and like your OWN boundaries and limits respected. If she's needing aid to LEAVE a bad marriage, that is one thing. But skulking in the shadows all "cheaty" again? No, thanks. You are done skulking.

You could tell her it was hard work with your spouse, but you did it anyway and came out the other side. You could encourage her to do same with her spouse -- break it clean or work it out clean. But clean, hot ethics. Not dirty ones, please.

You could tell her you don't like feeling yucky, so you choose not to engage in behavior that brings you this yucky feeling.

Could tell your ex-cheating partner where you stand, and where your updated boundaries are. Then let her sort her life and come to you for friendship once she's gotten to the place where she too can keep her own nose clean. Then you don't have to feel yucky about being an enabler. It bothers you on some level or you would not be posting.

So... let's just move it forward then! Play ethics ball right. Get it back in bounds. Everyone holds their own baggage.

My 2 cents,
Galagirl

Last edited by GalaGirl; 02-17-2013 at 05:40 AM.
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Old 02-17-2013, 06:44 PM
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Ditto to everything Gala said.

I just finished reading a book that revolved around infertility and infidelity. The message I saw in it was how a woman ultimately caused a lot of pain and destruction all around her, the ripples spreading out to a number of people, because she wanted what she wanted and was determined to have it at all costs. (And there was nothing wrong with what she wanted; what was wrong was the absolute unswerving determination to have it at all costs, the attitude that she should and must have whatever she wants in life, regardless of the cost to herself or anyone around her.)

I will add, too, you are learning something about her. You were willing to come clean to your wife and live honestly. M is willing to lie to those closest to her. Are you going to be surprised when one day you find she's not honoring her agreements with you? Or that she's lying to you?
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Old 02-18-2013, 05:16 AM
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vmsmith vmsmith is offline
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GalaGirl and WhatHappened, thank you for your replies.

I know it sounds messy, I guess details have a way of being that way. I'd like to take your advice, but its very hard to let a good friend go. I honestly have no other friends with whom I have been so close. We have had conversations about all of the points you raised and she acknowledges their wisdom. She has come out as poly to her family, which is more than I've been able to do, and she did attempt to renegotiate the communication agreement, but failed. My wife and I had been working on this for years, I can't expect her to make the same progress overnight. If we measure our ethics by what makes us feel least yucky, well... I would prefer to remain a messy and imperfect friend than cause us both to loose a friendship on principle.
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