How do you know you're poly?
It may seem like an obvious question to someone on the other side of the looking glass, but I've been wondering lately.
So, let's have some background and context, and then more questions.
I learned about the sheer existence of polyamory about a year ago, and I've been lurking about these boards and reading up on it ever since. I suppose at the moment I would identify as "poly-curious." From what I understand, the core belief of many polyamorous people is that you can love - or at least care for deeply - several people at once, and that one relationship does not detract from the other(s). Indeed, quite the opposite, they can all create a positive synergy.
I understand that, and even feel very comfortable with that. I've always been a generous person. Making people happy makes me happy, and this is one of those situations where more really is more, for me: making more people happy makes me happier.
So, that part I get. I suppose my quandary really is this: I'm married, monogamously, for more than a decade now. It hasn't all been ice cream and puppies, but it's a healthy, comfortable relationship that benefits both of us a lot.
Especially over the past year (but even before then, I've come to realize), I've been drawn to people - mostly women. It's part physical attraction, part intellectual, part... well, we're drawn to people for all sorts of reasons. For a long time, I would tamp this down, or I'd let myself become playful and flirty for a little while, then feel guilty about it and then pull away. And, you know, it's mostly a mono world out there, so that was usually the path of least resistance.
I've been doing a lot of thinking about my motivations for this. For a while, it was clear that my marriage was going through a rough patch: my wife's work became ever-increasingly stressful, our sex life had become boring (and then almost non-existent); after ten years of married life and 15 of living together, it was a pretty natural lull. And I pulled away, emotionally, for a while. I sought emotional fulfillment in the attentions of another woman.
Fortunately, my extra-marital attraction at the time had the good sense to swat me on the nose. I picked up my ego, kicked myself in the ass and went in to talk with my wife about the things that were making me unhappy. We hashed things out and lately, our life together has been good. Despite continued work stress, we've decided to try and have children. And if she's not as affectionate as I'd really like (I'm a very touchy-feely person), she's more affectionate than she had been most of last year. Our sex life has increased in both frequency and intensity.
So, things are pretty good at home, but I still feel this attraction towards other women. I've been doing some hard thinking about my motivations lately, and I believe I can reasonably rule out "I'm looking for others to fulfill my need for affection and attention that I'm not getting home." Because I am getting it at home.
I refuse to believe that there's anything wrong with me, inherently. I feel attracted to women who are not my wife; I wish them well; I like to help them. I like to laugh and talk and geek out and - occasionally - flirt with them. It's not 100% innocent, but it's not harmful, either.
Except that my wife, to this point, has not really been a part of any of these relationships. The other women know I'm married; at least one of them is poly and has drawn a crystal clear line about "No cheating," which I respect and appreciate. I've mentioned the other women to my wife in passing, but I haven't been open about my depth of feeling towards them. Partly because I'm not sure what those depths or feelings are; I haven't let myself explore that much because it just leads back onto the slippery slope towards the land of emotional infidelity.
Nonetheless, I feel like I've broached that point where it would be harmful to not talk about this with her. And here - thank you for reading this far - is my great big question:
How do I talk to her about this? I honestly don't think she's poly-leaning, -curious or -anything, and I'm afraid that I'm going to come off as that asshole who's just asking to be able to sleep around.
At my deep, dark shadowy core, I'm afraid of losing my wife. She is a tremendous light in my life. On the flip-side, I have a responsibility to be true to myself. I've been prepping myself with versions of this story for about a week now, but I'm wondering about the balance of honesty and accessibility. I've learned that full-bore, brutal honesty can be counter-productive.
Accessibility is the prompt for my thread title. Can I be sure? If I'm sure, how can I explain this?
It's good have some things that you want and points to negotiate, right?
1) I want her to be aware of how I feel. (That's somewhat easy to accomplish.)
2) I want her to understand how I feel. (That might be harder; I'd like your help.)
3) I want her to approve of how I feel. (That I have no control over; but this is a wish list as well as a to-do list.)
4) I want to be able to pursue relationships with other women (sorry guys, I've looked, I've considered, it just ain't my thing.) It would be great if she wants to pursue these relationships with me.
5) I want her to know that she will always be my priority. Should we have kids, they will be the priority, followed by her.
6) I want her to have the same freedom as she's willing to grant me.
I'm rambling at this point for the sake of getting it all out. This seems like a wonderful community and I look forward to hearing your advice - and your questions. I appreciate gadflies.