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Old 03-10-2012, 11:24 PM
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Default Advice needed on setting parameters

Hi, I'm new to the forum, and look forward to having a goosey around to see what other people are talking about. I hope to learn a lot about how to make this whole poly thing work. As an introduction, I have a bit of an issue that I would like some advice on.

My husband and I are two years into our first officially poly relationship. We've both been of a non-monogamous bent for years, but prior to joining together, we were always with monogamous partners. A little over nine years ago, I fell in love with him online while living with a monogamous partner, who was surprisingly understanding and forbearing about the whole situation, though I know it was difficult for him at times. Circumstances at the time (including being in different countries with an ocean between us) prevented us from being together, but in 2009 some more circumstances conspired to make us decide that we didn't want to be apart any longer. So here I am, and here we are.

Before I immigrated to the UK to be with him, I had other lovers at the same time that we were interacting online and by phone, some of whom would be in that position again if we were in each other's vicinity. He did not have anyone else on his side of the equation, though there is at least one old friend he would be interested in if she were available to him that way. She's a lovely woman and I would fully condone any association he wanted to have with her, if it were possible. As it stands, though, he has no current local prospects and only a friend online at the moment.

Since coming here and marrying, we have been trying to work out the parameters of our relationship, to figure out the boundaries between rules and freedom that we need to establish in order to be secure and happy. The main trouble that I see is that we each have different needs for boundaries and rules. He says he doesn't care who I'm with, that he trusts my judgement, and that he doesn't need to really get to know any potential partners of mine (or actual, though that hasn't happened yet).

I, however, feel differently. I feel compelled to let him know when I make a new friend, especially if there's any likelihood of it becoming more than friendship, and I would be certain to keep him informed of any such changes in a friendship. My feelings towards his association with others differs from his perspective as well. When I think of him enjoying the company and intimacy (or even just flirting) with somebody I like, I feel all frubbly. When I think of him with someone I don't like or don't know, I feel anxious and insecure. When I think of him hiding someone's existence or the nature of their interaction from me, I feel anxious, insecure, fearful, angry and mistrustful. For this kind of relationship to work for me, honesty and openness are paramount. I can't function if I can't trust my husband and trust that he is committed to me.

So, I tell him that for my comfort, it's important for me to be introduced to any extracurricular women in his life, even if the association is limited to online flirtation (or even just spending a lot of time chatting together). This is important enough to me that in its absence, I have actual anxiety attacks when I see him chatting with someone he has yet to introduce to me. He's told me of her existence and a bit about her, and she knows that he's with me, but I need to have a connection with her myself, even if only limited to a brief "Hi, nice to meet you" exchange by email or something. As it stands, it feels like he's cheating on me with a stranger. I can understand if it might be weird for her, or if she may feel intimidated, but I think that's the risk he has to take. I believe that as partners in a committed relationship, my peace of mind should be more important to him than hers, though I wouldnt want him to lose the friendship either.

He would like to know:

How to broach the subject to another person who's not necessarily on the same poly wavelength. Imagine a scenario where you're trying to figure out whether to invite someone to meet your mother. He says there isn't a relationship as such. I say I would want to meet any friend who happened to take up so much of his time and attention, regardless of the nature of the interaction. He worries that asking her to meet me will make it seem like he's taking the relationship (or whatever it is) to a higher level than it is actually on, or that she thinks it is. It is relevant what she needs as well, and he doesn't want to frighten her off or lose her friendship by making it seem too serious.

He doesn't think she'd be averse to the idea at all, but he doesn't know how to bring up the issue in a nonthreatening way. I think that the very fact that she's chatting up a married man indicates an existing level of seriousness that can only be mitigated by acknowledging and meeting his wife when asked to. That (chatting up a married man) should not be something that is done so lightly that the mere thought of meeting the person into whose marriage she is intruding, however slightly, would threaten her. I am not asking them to curtail their interaction, nor making any conditions regarding the nature of that interaction. I only want to be acknowledged as a member of this marriage and to be properly introduced so that I don't feel like he's spending all this time and attention on a stranger.

Any thoughts on how to set parameters such as these, and how to work out appropriate boundaries when the individual needs for them differ between partners?
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Old 03-12-2012, 05:53 AM
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To me this situation seems to be a bit of over kill on the thinking process. In my relationships I just say everything up front, have people meet my partners when they meet them, talk about everyone I am going to be hanging out with and say something of my intent one way or another.

There is no need for me to think that I have to know what my partners are doing all the time, but out of respect I expect that they will tell me who they are with, where they are and what they are doing if its different from the norm and especially if there is a love interest. I also expect that I can tell them whatever I want whenever I want as it pertains to my being a good communicator about my life. Some stuff is for me to keep to myself and other stuff (that directly effects them) is for them to hear about.

We used to have discussions on boundaries around this stuff. Its all stuff we just do now and know that information and communication are important, even if we don't think so at the time. Things come up to bite you in the ass if you don't let everyone in on what is going on for you as soon as you can. So I make sure that I do a lot of talking.
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Old 03-12-2012, 09:59 AM
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I can't think of any awesome advice at the moment, but I did start dating somebody who's partner I did not meet early on, and I will never do that again. I expect to meet my partners spouses (and hopefully other long term partners) before it gets physical, I expect to meet my husband's dates before they get physical (and vice versa) If I was not married I would probably not have this criteria for my partner's partners, but I would hope for it.

Really if this is what you prefer then that is good to know what you like. It makes a lot of sense to a lot of people, so your husband might want to learn to get comfortable with it, and sure he might come across awkward now and jinx a potential relationship or two as he learns to be comfortable discuss the need to meet his wife for coffee, dinner, or whatever... but that doesn't really compare to the fact that you will have peace of mind and he'll know his live in partner will feel safe and happy and everybody involved will know that it's OK to pursue romance. I am more interested in a family/friend/group feeling among metamours, as there are only so many hours in the day, which means I feel the need to at least know these other people involved with the ones I love on a "hey how's it going?" basis.
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Old 03-12-2012, 10:08 AM
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I think negotiating boundaries is about understanding what each of you would ultimately consider ideal and, if they are vastly different, then compromising to give up certain points on it, in order to meet in the middle. It isn't about each partner insisting on their way and their way only.

For example, perhaps you could both allow for the other to flirt online with someone and even have a casual date or two or three (in the American definition of dating - going out and doing something together to see if there is chemistry) without meeting that person unless your spouse feels it has potential to be more and become a romantic relationship. Introducing a spouse to someone could seem like overkill before they've even gotten to know that person or whether there is potential there. I would feel weird just meeting someone and being intro'd to the wife right off the bat, before I know if I even want to get to know him better and see if anything will come of it. And if he doesn't feel the need to get to know anyone you're dating, such a compromise wouldn't beat him over the head with what you're doing but would satisfy your need to keep him informed when things start to develop. Just an idea.
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Old 03-12-2012, 04:28 PM
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This is all a process. Like learning to drive, or ride a bike. You start off with training wheels, or limitations and ultimately gain confidence and experience. however, sometimes the 'need' for things settles with time, sometimes it is lifelong.

Something to think about, ( when you have differing viewpoints with a partner.) is the potential to not have the same rules set on each other.

He can give you what you need, and you can give him what he needs. The rules don`t necessarily need to be common between you both. If you are on the same page there, then it`s best not to over-think things, or over-plan.

You can possibly think about the fact you want to acknowledge the person, and meet them, but it might go differently then you envision. Instead of 'always beforehand' you might need to make lee-way for it to happen before a date with one girl,..or 3-5 dates in with the next woman.

Outside of dating, we tend to bump into people in organic ways. If he just has the attitude of 'you`ll meet my wife at some point' I don`t see how it is a big deal if you say 'hello' while they are on the computer talking, or on the phone, or even a quick hi when they go for coffee. As long as it is just that, I don`t think it`ll seem like a big deal to anyone after the fact.
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Old 03-12-2012, 04:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redpepper View Post
Things come up to bite you in the ass if you don't let everyone in on what is going on for you as soon as you can. So I make sure that I do a lot of talking.
This is the main issue, I think. I am keen to make sure everyone knows what's going on, and I felt threatened when I didn't find out about his online flirting friend for weeks, and then only when I noticed them chatting and asked about it. I'm glad that he let her know close to the beginning that he was with me, but why didn't he let me know about her? That feels like cheating to me, and he knows it. He knows that the biggest issues for me in this (or any) relationship are honesty and openness. If he knows that and still isn't forthcoming, what am I supposed to think?

It doesn't help that I have problems with depression and profound anxiety, both of which are aggravated by feelings of helplessness or betrayal. These are things I'm working on, but I need to feel secure and at home in the relationship if any of this is going to work. It's hard enough being so far away from everything I've ever known and isolated by loneliness and anxiety, without feeling like the most important person in my life (other than my daughter) is hiding important things from me.

I know I overthink things, but as we're still working out how this is actually going to work, I think a little more thinking is better than not enough at this point. ;-) Thanks for your perspective. I'll get to the rest of the responses in the bit, after I run some errands.
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Old 03-12-2012, 06:21 PM
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It seems what to do then is to tell him that you feel those things and that in the future you would feel safer if he tells you if he is flirting with somebody, give him the chance to do that.

My husband at least doesn't really register this stuff as being anything I'd be interested in knowing even though I feel more relaxed when I know what is going on, so I just make a point of regularly asking him if he's talking or flirting or interested in anybody new. That takes some of the onus off of him, and empowers me to get the information I am curious about without making him into the bad guy for forgetting to keep me updated.
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Old 03-12-2012, 06:42 PM
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Even when people know they have the freedom to do as they please, it can still be scary to come entirely clean about our interest in others. After all, society tells us so strongly that it's wrong! Also, this sounds kind of bad, but sometimes people just don't think of saying anything right away... if it doesn't seem serious to them they may either just not think to or it can genuinely slip their minds. Some people think very little of flirting. So, hopefully your husband will act differently in the future -- I too would want to know about potential interests sooner rather than later -- but I wouldn't take his failure to alert you too much to heart at this point.

As for your request to say hi, it seems incredibly reasonable to me, and I think he should step up and honor it, even if it makes him and/or his new friend slightly uncomfortable. Even if poly weren't on the table, just wanting to meet your husband's friends would STILL be reasonable for someone with problems with anxiety. To avoid scaring her off, hubs should just keep it as light as possible -- "My wife likes to say hi to my friends, do you mind if I give her your email address? I promise she won't bite or send you an essay. " It might seem a little odd to her but it's such a small thing... if she's not willing to do that, it'd be hard not to conclude that she doesn't care about your comfort enough to bend even a little and that's not a good sign for someone who could be a future metamour.
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Old 03-12-2012, 08:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anneintherain View Post
I am more interested in a family/friend/group feeling among metamours, as there are only so many hours in the day, which means I feel the need to at least know these other people involved with the ones I love on a "hey how's it going?" basis.
I would prefer this too, though there's only so much connection that can be established when the other person is far away and the only contact is online. Still, I do want and need at least enough of a connection with metamours that allows me to know them on some level. I am certainly not unwilling to share, I just want to be kept in the loop.

I would really vastly prefer local connections and the ability to know them well myself. When I think of him with someone I know and like, it gives me the most amazing warm tingles, which I definitely like better than the stomach full of cold grue and heart-pounding trembly tension that I get when I think something's going on behind my back.
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Old 03-12-2012, 08:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
I think negotiating boundaries is about understanding what each of you would ultimately consider ideal and, if they are vastly different, then compromising to give up certain points on it, in order to meet in the middle. It isn't about each partner insisting on their way and their way only.
I completely agree, and I hope it didn't come across as if I was trying to get him to do things entirely my way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
For example, perhaps you could both allow for the other to flirt online with someone and even have a casual date or two or three (in the American definition of dating - going out and doing something together to see if there is chemistry) without meeting that person unless your spouse feels it has potential to be more and become a romantic relationship.
I can understand this, the question is where to draw the line past which a meeting is necessary. I feel that if he has been chatting for hours nearly every night and flirting with someone for two or three weeks already before even informing me of this person's existence, that crosses a line of discomfort for me. If I hadn't asked what was going on, I don't know how long it would have taken, if ever, before he told me about her. I don't feel I can live like that, it makes me feel mistrustful.

The difficulty with online interactions, too, is that meeting in person is problematic at best and likely impossible due to distance. But again, if they're spending literally hours at a time together, it doesn't make much difference to me whether they're casual friends, flirting friends or cybersex friends, I want to meet the person who's taking up so much of my husband's time. I'm not asking for veto power, though if I really disapproved of a person for some good reason I would certainly make my feelings known.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
For many poly people, introducing a spouse to someone seems like overkill when one is just getting to know that person and it still hasn't been determined that anything will come of it. And if he doesn't feel the need to get to know anyone you're dating, such a compromise wouldn't beat him over the head with what you're doing but would satisfy your need to keep him informed when things start to develop. Just an idea.
I look at it this way. If he was going out to the pub or something with a male friend, workmate, whatever (he's decidedly hetero -- we both are) and spending as much time with this guy as he does with his one or two online female friends (one of whom is not a proper flirtation by his definition, though it is by mine from what I've seen), I would want to meet that person as well. Not necessarily as a potential partner, but as someone who is important enough to my husband to spend so much time with them.

Does this seem like too much to ask? I'm inquiring seriously. I'm too close to my own feelings and reactions to judge them objectively. Which is why I'm here, I suppose. ;-)
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