What to expect with poly relationship that none of us sought out
First: This is almost unforgivably long. And I edited out a lot!
I discovered this forum a couple of days ago after the realization 4 days ago that my boyfriend, while completely committing to our relationship, is also still in love with his soon-to-be ex-wife. He will continue to enjoy a physically intimate relationship with her. At the same time, he tells me with complete sincerity that this in no way diminishes his feelings for or partnership with me.
I was sort of stunned at first. He is absolutely the most ethical person I know - perhaps that I've ever known. He would never, ever manipulate anyone for his benefit at their loss. I know that he would not tell me what I wanted to hear just so he could keep sleeping with me. The value he places on the emotional content of our intensely passionate sex life is tremendous.
Some background: I met my guy in late November last year. He was up front about being recently separated. He told me that he and his wife had had an issue that had plagued them the whole time and that in the last year had discovered that it was truly unsolvable. They would remain close friends, co-parents, and co-workers. Eventually he opened up about the nature of the problem: she is asexual, and he is decidedly sexual.
My first reaction was curiosity. I'd never considered asexuality as an orientation before. Sure I'd heard the word used, but not having had a reason to explore what that was all about before, was completely ignorant of what it really meant, what the spectrum looked like, and what life would be like for someone whose orientation was represented by less than a percentage of the population.
He made it clear that there was no intimate contact between them any longer. That once things had been decided, the small affections like kisses, hugs, and I love yous ceased. I asked all kinds of probing questions. I avidly read the asexuality forums. I was worried that she didn't want the divorce and that by getting involved with her husband before papers had even been filed, that I was passively victimizing her.
He assured me many times that this was not the case. That she was not only aware of me, but was on board. That she was relieved not to have to engage in sex or feel like she was depriving him of it, either. I relaxed somewhat.
Our relationship bloomed.
Fast forward to an unexpected catalyst.
She met up with an old friend from her hometown and had sex with him. My guy was floored - not so much that she made the choice to reach out to someone, but at all the circumstances around it and at what her thought process around it revealed.
Disclaimer: it's not really awesome of me to describe how she felt - but it's the keystone of this whole thing, so though I am probably missing some nuance and it's obnoxious of me to put her feelings into my words, I am going describe what I understood her to have reported she felt. If she reads this, I hope she'll accept my apologies for this presumption and for not quite getting it right if I miss the mark.
As with many asexual folks, while she is generally disinterested in sex, she still needs that human loving contact. She still needs to feel valued, cherished, attractive, and wanted. She needs affection. When my guy cut her off of from this last year, thinking it was the right, noble, society-expected thing to do, she keenly felt that loss. It fomented a growing sense of loneliness and eroded her sense of womanliness, her worthiness.
This was devastating to my guy. He was gobsmacked that he had missed this. He'd read plenty in the forums as well and intellectually knew that a lack of sexual desire does not equate a lack of need for affection. He felt responsible. This is a woman who he'd vowed to love and to take care of for a lifetime and who is still very much in his heart. He knows in his heart of hearts that it was his actions that sent her into that evening with the hometown friend needlessly.
Which brings us to where we are today. He presented his newly crystallized boundaries to me this week. He doesn't ever want her to feel that way again. He will provide her the physical affection and the words she needs.
Though they are still divorcing, he will in effect remain a loving husband to her in the ways that she wants, when she wants without the burden that comes with sexual pressure. We're talking kisses, caresses, embraces. And when those times roll around when what she does want want sex or more overtly sexual contact, he is unambiguous that he will be thrilled and honored to provide it.
Meanwhile, he maintains that he loves me dearly. That his feelings for me and relationship with me is completely unconnected to what's going on with his wife. That he sees a potential for a fantastic future with me. That love is not a finite scarce resource.
And I believe him.
So. I have no idea what my boundaries are. What it's acceptable to negotiate. When it's OK to express discomfort. What level of transparency would be best for me and for the relationship, and if those are the same. Any ideas about that from those who have come before would be very much appreciated.
I've asked tons of questions as I've probed how I feel about this. Been busy gathering data. Still pondering what this would look like and examining what my thresholds truly are. I've surprised myself at my easy acceptance of the idea of being on one side of a poly V. Of course, that's the abstract. Don't know what tomorrow holds. Hopefully not heartbreak.
Onward with the unexpected journey.