negotiating boundaries/"fairness" and hierarchies
I'm not sure where to start but I could use some help with my relationship.
I met Jay about 21 months ago off a dating site and we started a relationship. At the time, we planned on things being casual - we'd meet up once a week for dinner and then have sex, and he'd stay the night. Lots of good sex and good conversations. I knew he was married (to Bee) and that they were about 5 months pregnant when we began dating. I met Bee briefly for the first time, in a coffee shop, about 3 months in. She was tired and we didn't talk much - it was almost literally "face time".
The relationship progressed beyond what any of us expected initially. About a year in, Jay and I began sharing feelings more intimately. In his words, he asked me to "be a real person". I'd been holding back a lot before that, even though I'd visit him and the baby on the weekends. Bee usually stayed in her room. Over this time I learned from Jay that she tended to be a "hermit" and generally wasn't interested in connecting with new people (although not averse to it). It took me a while to come to terms with it and not take it personally.
We had a while of getting to know each other more closely, starting a D/s dynamic in our sex life (which we'd both wanted but hadn't felt close enough for before), spending time with his baby and each other's friends, talking more often, visiting his parents, etc. Bee and I didn't get closer, although we did end up spending a little more time around each other.
For the last few months things between Jay and I have been rocky. Our discussions started getting really emotional and volatile, and made Bee feel insecure about when she could expect Jay to be home. We all got together and talked (briefly) and implemented a schedule where Jay would be home two nights a week and alternate weekends, which seemed to make things OK between them. Meanwhile Jay and I continued to have issues, largely around time, and my level of inclusion in his life.
Things came to a head a couple of weeks ago, partly due to unrelated life stresses that drained us both, and Jay insisted on taking a break. The time apart was difficult but gave us time to cool off and regain perspective. I felt more grounded after. We met up on Wednesday (3 days ago) and managed to have a relatively calm and friendly discussion.
We both agreed that things needed to change. I expressed that it was important to me to feel a sense of progression in the relationship between Jay, Bee and I - at this point, I want to feel like we're all invested in working towards a dynamic where we're all comfortable in the same room, for a start. Bee and I are friendly, but awkward, and lately there has been tension about time management. Jay affirmed that it was important, and agreed to try to organise a group activity about once a month.
I said that I'd stop hanging out at his place, which I'd been doing in response to his complaints about not having time for home maintenance or supporting Bee enough with childcare. Previously there was a pattern where I'd go to his place and then end up doing housework or being the primary baby-watcher, which I was always happy to do, but usually left us both feeling unfulfilled and crowded Bee. I decided to expect less, be more independent, and let him reach out to me.
Our discussion went well on Wednesday and we were both happy with it. Yesterday he came to visit for a couple of hours with the baby, and after Baby went to sleep we wound up talking. I started off by saying that I wanted to bring up some personal concerns that we hadn't addressed on Wednesday, the big one being that I was feeling unimportant to him because our relationship discussions centred around the issues in his life, and I couldn't remember him expressing consciousness of our relationship dynamic.
The reaction was poor, I think he felt attacked. We managed to smooth it out somewhat, but I'm left feeling like there's no space for me to express wants or needs - that the choice is between sucking it up or having him break down.
I think he agreed to try to evince more consideration for me when we were discussing relationship issues. But then it came up that he was not inviting me to Easter dinner at his parents' - I had been going to family dinner at his parents' home roughly every couple of weeks over the last 6 months or more, and I felt upset at being excluded. It felt like a step back instead of forward. I wanted to stop visiting his place to rein back on the intrusiveness on Bee, but his parents' home had always seemed more neutral. He was upset that I was upset, and said that I shouldn't have expectations about spending that time together, and he couldn't run all decisions by me. I said that I felt it was fair to have expectations if there was already a precedent.
For me it came down to not feeling important enough to him, or him saying that I was important to him but then not seeming to make anything of ours a priority. The dinner thing made me feel like I was important to him... but only as long as Bee didn't care. Throughout our relationship I've felt like I've had to meet them more than halfway, which I'm OK with because I recognise they have more constraints to deal with. But now I'm feeling disrespected, like our relationship just fills in the gaps wherever they happen to be, and I don't get to express my own needs. Throughout all this he's constantly told me about how important it is to him to maintain a connection with Bee, to look for activities they can share, etc, without expressing similar concern for the shape of our relationship. I feel taken for granted. He and Bee are very independent and there have been times where he's actually spent more time with me than her, but never in a sustainable way. I guess we're still figuring out how all the pieces fit together.
He's reluctant to ask Bee to do anything more to make things easier. He feels that she already gives a lot. To me it sounds like, "we've decided to be poly and it's difficult for us, so anyone who comes into our relationship has to be happy with the compromises that we've already decided to make," and there's no room to engage with me as a real person and not just an abstract "other relationship".
We're going to meet again to talk about what he thinks is important or reasonable to ask Bee for - basically the boundaries of our relationship that are important enough to him to fight for. Hopefully it'll make me feel more secure or at least more certain about what I can count on. But I need to feel like my own wants are being considered - that his conception of "relationship" is not defined only by what he and Bee want, but also by what I want. I don't know how to convey that without him feeling attacked. But I can't be in a meaningful relationship where I feel so incidental.
One other thing is that we never agreed to a clear hierarchy - and I'm not sure I'd agree to it. I need for him to be able to weigh both my wants and Bee's wants and evaluate importance based on situations and not just default to "my wife is more important always". He hasn't been doing that, but I get the impression he wants to, but his sense of decency prevents him from treating me badly, even when it causes Bee discomfort. I think what he wants right now is for me to not have any needs so that he doesn't have to cause Bee any discomfort - he hates being caught in the middle. And I understand but I don't see a solution.
I'm not sure what I'm asking here. I just feel really lost and hurt and confused when I think about this relationship. I've been doing more self-care stuff and being more independent, but whenever I think about this, I think about making myself vulnerable and giving but not even being seen enough to get anything back. Any perspective or advice would be appreciated.