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Old 05-03-2012, 11:50 PM
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blytheandbonny blytheandbonny is offline
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Default 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.
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Old 05-04-2012, 01:46 AM
ThatGirlInGray ThatGirlInGray is offline
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Off the top of my head:

- It's always OK to express your discomfort. Hopefully a constructive, non-accusatory way can be found BEFORE you reach a breaking point and snap in a completely inappropriate time or damaging way. Express yourself even if you're not sure that what you're feeling IS discomfort, maybe not sure what it is at all, just make sure to explain that confusion/uncertainty is part of what you're feeling.

- It's always acceptable to ask for something you want (though timing can be important!), as long as you're prepared for compromise and possibly even to be told, "No." Communicating about your needs is different. While compromise may be necessary and even valuable in the short-term, in the long-term you can't compromise on getting your needs met.

- As far as the level of transparency goes, only you and the others involved can decide this. There's nothing wrong with trial periods: "Let's try it *this way* for 2 weeks (or 2 months or whatever, depending on the question) and then revisit the question, see how it went and how we all feel about moving forward." Especially in a first poly relationship, you may not know what you are and are not comfortable with right off the bat, and that's okay. You may not discover a problem until after it happens, but hopefully you can keep in mind that no one is purposefully trying to hurt you. Time is your friend. Going slowly is your friend. A little patience, a little benefit of the doubt, and a LOT of communication are your friends.

From what you've written it sounds like all of you are dealing with a very complex situation amazingly well. I wish you all the best of luck!
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  #3  
Old 05-04-2012, 11:21 AM
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BlackUnicorn BlackUnicorn is offline
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Hello and welcome! I personally don't mind reading long posts if they are as well articulated and thought of as yours is.

Do you have a specific thing you'd like to ask? From a quick read, it seems you are just rewording how you feel. I don't mean to belittle anything when I use "just" -it's a huge accomplishment to become so self-aware as you are now.

Couple of questions:

1) Have you talked with your metamour, or is all of your knowledge of the situation second-hand?
2) Do you have or imagine having any other relationships? How about your bf? How about your metamour?
3) How would you feel if they called off the divorce and staid married? How would you feel if they resumed an occasionally-sexual relationship, instead of just keeping it as a possibility?

You've probably read a ton of similar stuff, but I just want to quote this months issue of DIVA, which ran an article on asexuality:

"However, just when we thought we had asexuality down, Kayleigh throws us a curveball by telling us she enjoys kissing, has the ability to fall in love and has sex with her girlfriends occasionally. This begs the question, if person partakes in what most people perceive as sexual acts, can they really be asexual? Kayleigh explains that her reason for occasionally having sex with her girlfriends is because she knows it pleases them. However, she clarifies that it's never something she is coerced into doing. 'I don't think it's fair that I get most of what I need from the relationship and they don't, to which they said they'd rather not have sex than make me uncomfortable,' she tells me.

She also enjoys kissing, but unlike most of us, never sees it as a prelude to sex: 'Kissing feels good, like hugging or holding hands. I could spend an hour just kissing someone in bed, naked, and it would never cross my mind that it would lead to sex.'" (DIVA magazine May 2012, p. 55)
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  #4  
Old 05-04-2012, 03:18 PM
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blytheandbonny blytheandbonny is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThatGirlInGray View Post
Off the top of my head:

- It's always OK to express your discomfort. Hopefully a constructive, non-accusatory way can be found BEFORE you reach a breaking point and snap in a completely inappropriate time or damaging way. Express yourself even if you're not sure that what you're feeling IS discomfort, maybe not sure what it is at all, just make sure to explain that confusion/uncertainty is part of what you're feeling.

- It's always acceptable to ask for something you want (though timing can be important!), as long as you're prepared for compromise and possibly even to be told, "No." Communicating about your needs is different. While compromise may be necessary and even valuable in the short-term, in the long-term you can't compromise on getting your needs met.

- As far as the level of transparency goes, only you and the others involved can decide this. There's nothing wrong with trial periods: "Let's try it *this way* for 2 weeks (or 2 months or whatever, depending on the question) and then revisit the question, see how it went and how we all feel about moving forward." Especially in a first poly relationship, you may not know what you are and are not comfortable with right off the bat, and that's okay. You may not discover a problem until after it happens, but hopefully you can keep in mind that no one is purposefully trying to hurt you. Time is your friend. Going slowly is your friend. A little patience, a little benefit of the doubt, and a LOT of communication are your friends.

From what you've written it sounds like all of you are dealing with a very complex situation amazingly well. I wish you all the best of luck!
Thank you for these excellent recommendations. I think I will tend to err on the side of over communicating. My failed marriage had dearth of communication, so it's possible that I'm overcompensating in the other direction.

I've stuck my toe in the water by being very open to his expressing to me verbally and in written word how he feels about her, and to my shock it didn't sting as much as I thought it would. It was mild discomfort, and that seems to be fading. Then, unexpectedly (well, all of this is unexpected, so that should be the new norm, right?) my heart welled up at the beauty of their love. What's that all about? Weird.

I particularly like this suggestion of having pre-arranged time-boxed thresholds with scheduled check-ins. Will definitely use that.
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  #5  
Old 05-04-2012, 03:43 PM
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blytheandbonny blytheandbonny is offline
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Originally Posted by BlackUnicorn View Post
Hello and welcome! I personally don't mind reading long posts if they are as well articulated and thought of as yours is.

Do you have a specific thing you'd like to ask? From a quick read, it seems you are just rewording how you feel. I don't mean to belittle anything when I use "just" -it's a huge accomplishment to become so self-aware as you are now.

Couple of questions:

1) Have you talked with your metamour, or is all of your knowledge of the situation second-hand?
2) Do you have or imagine having any other relationships? How about your bf? How about your metamour?
3) How would you feel if they called off the divorce and staid married? How would you feel if they resumed an occasionally-sexual relationship, instead of just keeping it as a possibility?
Yeah, I guess this was mostly an essay and an exercise in self-articulation - though I am in fact very eager to leverage the lessons that those who have come before me have learned. Hoping for tips and suggestions for carefully and thoughtfully entering into a type of relationship with which I have no experience.

I have not talked to her directly - we've only seen each other once for about 90 seconds. Until yesterday, this was all filtered through him...but now, we've both posted things on the Internet in our own words, so there's that. She's on a different forum.

I do not imagine having other relationships. I want this one relationship exclusively.

Wow, I don't know about how I would handle if they called off the divorce and stayed married. I wish I wasn't sensitive to social pressure/norms as far as the outside world is concerned. But I am. I need for my relationship with him to be something I'm open about to my peer group and family, and if they stayed married that would be very awkward. Also, given his career, I don't think it would be feasible for him to have an extra love openly. Yeah, the more I think about it, the less chance of success for our relationship there is should they remain married.

As for how I would feel if the dynamic became occasional v. a possibility...hm. I would like to think that everyone would tread carefully and that we could work out parameters around that. I would need an annoying amount of assurances that my side of the V was still intact and unaffected. Beyond that, I have no idea.

I do think that there will be nights they choose to spend the night together over at her place. Not sure it's any of my business what they choose to do or not do on those nights. Not sure that not knowing what they choose to do or not do won't make me crazy though. I suspect it will just have to be a trial and error situation. I'd hate to think that either of them worrying about my feelings would dampen anything between them though. They deserve to treasure what they have between them without outside influence.
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Old 05-04-2012, 04:34 PM
ThatGirlInGray ThatGirlInGray is offline
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Originally Posted by blytheandbonny View Post
I do not imagine having other relationships. I want this one relationship exclusively.
That's perfectly normal. Several people here are mono themselves but part of a poly relationship.

Quote:
I wish I wasn't sensitive to social pressure/norms as far as the outside world is concerned. But I am. I need for my relationship with him to be something I'm open about to my peer group and family, and if they stayed married that would be very awkward. Also, given his career, I don't think it would be feasible for him to have an extra love openly. Yeah, the more I think about it, the less chance of success for our relationship there is should they remain married.
This struck a chord with me. I completely understand wanting to be able to be open and honest about your relationship. It's very hard sometimes for TGIB and I to hide our relationship (from certain family members and in the workplace), and we both wish at times we didn't need to. I wonder, if for some reason they did decide to stay married, could it be presented as, "They're still good friends and for financial and other reasons decided to not get divorced, but no longer have a traditional marriage. She's aware of his relationship with me and is fine with it." Reasonable explanation AND true! The rest of it is no one's business.

Quote:
I would need an annoying amount of assurances that my side of the V was still intact and unaffected. Beyond that, I have no idea.

I do think that there will be nights they choose to spend the night together over at her place. Not sure it's any of my business what they choose to do or not do on those nights. Not sure that not knowing what they choose to do or not do won't make me crazy though. I suspect it will just have to be a trial and error situation. I'd hate to think that either of them worrying about my feelings would dampen anything between them though.
Totally know what you're talking about here! In the past two months my V has gone through the first time I've slept with someone besides my husband (yes, TGIB waited a LONG time!) as well as the first time TGIB has slept with someone else while in a relationship with me. Figuring out how much information is the "right" amount between each couple is a tough path to navigate. Luckily we're all fairly laid back, and ultimately discovered that MC (hubby) doesn't need or even want to know details, but he's fine with hearing about it if I need or want to talk about my physical relationship with TGIB, while for myself I don't need to hear details from TGIB about his other experiences but I like and enjoy hearing about them if he wants to share. The three of us have reached an understanding that it's okay to ask if you're curious about something, but, "Well, I'm not really comfortable telling you about that" is an acceptable response and not meant to leave anyone out or hurt anyone's feelings. Sometimes it's just not possible to know where the limits are until you reach them, so there's nothing wrong with asking as long as you're comfortable with not being able to dictate the answer.
Quote:
They deserve to treasure what they have between them without outside influence.
This is why I think you'll be fine. Though this may be new, unusual, and a surprise to you, your attitude already seems extremely mature and emotionally stable. You'll likely be able to handle any bumps you run into, as you seem to have done so far!
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Old 05-04-2012, 06:05 PM
Vinccenzo Vinccenzo is offline
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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.

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.
Maybe I'm missing something.....

Why is it bad that she had sex with someone else? Was she traumatized? Was she coerced? Is she emotionally damaged and seriously regretful over it? Is she trying to place responsibility for her actions on your guy? I mean, she is a grown adult right? He has had for a while now the ability to be intimate with people other than her so why is it a big bad thing if she decides to do so too?
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Old 05-04-2012, 06:13 PM
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BlackUnicorn BlackUnicorn is offline
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Originally Posted by Vinccenzo View Post
Maybe I'm missing something.....

Why is it bad that she had sex with someone else? Was she traumatized? Was she coerced? Is she emotionally damaged and seriously regretful over it? Is she trying to place responsibility for her actions on your guy? I mean, she is a grown adult right? He has had for a while now the ability to be intimate with people other than her so why is it a big bad thing if she decides to do so too?
The soon-to-be-ex wife IDs as asexual. As I understood the story, she was so low on feeling loved and appreciated that she sought out this sexual relationship, which she didn't really want (being asexual) to get some of the feelings back.

And the soon-to-be-ex hubs felt that if he hadn't withdrawn from all affectionate contact out of misunderstanding (since some asexual people do not like to be touched at all, while his ex obviously does), she wouldn't have had to seek out this one-night-stand out of desperation.
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Old 05-04-2012, 06:36 PM
Vinccenzo Vinccenzo is offline
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The soon-to-be-ex wife IDs as asexual. As I understood the story, she was so low on feeling loved and appreciated that she sought out this sexual relationship, which she didn't really want (being asexual) to get some of the feelings back.

And the soon-to-be-ex hubs felt that if he hadn't withdrawn from all affectionate contact out of misunderstanding (since some asexual people do not like to be touched at all, while his ex obviously does), she wouldn't have had to seek out this one-night-stand out of desperation.
No no, I get that part. But being asexual doesn't mean someone has to choose to never have sex with anyone. And she has stated she does want and desire affection, has had it with her soon to be ex, so it isn't out of the realm of possibility that she might choose to be intimate with someone else at some point.
Seeing as I saw nothing mentioned about her being coerced or distraught over it, not even a mention that it was something she did only out of "desperation", I'm confused as to why the soon to be ex is feeling so responsible or that her being intimate with someone was indeed a completely bad thing. Even if she is regretful after the fact, her soon to be ex didn't MAKE her choose to sleep with the fella. If she feels that way, that would indicate a pretty strong lack of accountability on her part unless she was coerced.
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:06 PM
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blytheandbonny blytheandbonny is offline
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Originally Posted by Vinccenzo View Post
Seeing as I saw nothing mentioned about her being coerced or distraught over it, not even a mention that it was something she did only out of "desperation", I'm confused as to why the soon to be ex is feeling so responsible or that her being intimate with someone was indeed a completely bad thing. Even if she is regretful after the fact, her soon to be ex didn't MAKE her choose to sleep with the fella. If she feels that way, that would indicate a pretty strong lack of accountability on her part unless she was coerced.
Sorry, I should clarify. I was trying to be economical with words (not my strong suit) and left out some detail.

His feelings / sense of responsibility about the situation here are not identical to hers. Now, it's sort of sketchy of me to describe for them what they're feeling/thinking, but this is my understanding of it.

Her take on it: She was nostalgic, pleasantly inebriated, sort of lonely, and curious. She does not regret it. It wasn't unpleasant and it confirmed for her internally that she's just not that into sex - as opposed to the possibility that she in fact does want it, just not with hubs. Shaking off the dude she did the deed with's demand for a repeat has been a bit of a chore and dealing with the aftermath of hub's reaction hasn't been peaches and cream, but I don't think that it would be on her radar to suggest that anyone made her do anything she didn't want to do.

If anything, it's given her the vocabulary to express to hubs where she is and what her needs are. This is all a plus.

His take on it: She placed herself at risk with someone who's motives / methods he doesn't trust because he deprived her of the sort of affection and tokens of love that she does crave (and he still feels.) Therefore, he feels like he forced this situation to happen and that the responsibility is his. Also, he's extremely non-plussed that he broke up their otherwise strong and mutually highly valued marriage to protect her from the demands of sexual pressure...only to have her chose to go off with someone she hasn't seen in years and have a casual thing and share something that he considers sacred between them (my words, not his) with this other guy. He says, "I didn't seek sex and intimacy from someone else because I wanted it from someone else — I sought it from someone else because it was the only option." And then beats himself up because he believes that he himself was the catalyst that set that evening in motion.

Now, at the same time, he freely says that he's supportive of her having an experience that clarified for her information about herself that she couldn't have attained otherwise.

My take on it is pretty irrelevant. But I do feel like I have to listen to what he says his feelings are and treat those with respect.

Last edited by blytheandbonny; 05-04-2012 at 09:26 PM.
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