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Old 03-05-2013, 04:08 AM
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hyperskeptic hyperskeptic is offline
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Default Boundary Dispute

I've been documenting the rise and fall of my poly experience in a blog thread, but I'm now in need of some more direct advice and perspective, so I'm starting a new thread here.

My wife, "Vix", and I have been struggling with a sudden divergence in our interests and in our understanding of what our marriage is and means. She seems firmly committed to polyamory, and I am riding a pendulum that swings between a principled commitment of de facto monogamy and reluctant resignation to de facto monogamy.

Let me see if I can make a long story short. I have an opportunity to spend some time in the UK this summer; Vix and our two daughters will stay with me for much of the time I'm there, though she will be taking them to Europe a few weeks early to visit her boyfriend there - an American ex-pat I've dubbed "Doc" - before joining me in the UK. Vix and the girls will have to come back home a week before I do, so the girls can start school.

The issue concerns what happens next. Vix once expressed interest in going back to Europe to attend an event with Doc, but she would need to leave for Germany the day before I fly back from the UK, leaving the girls with unspecified friends for a day or two.

She mentioned this in passing; I took it as a speculative possibility, and the coincidence of dates never really reached my conscious awareness. The next thing I knew, it was a plan.

I am very unhappy about this plan. I am not willing to leave the girls in the care of friends while my wife and I are both traveling across the Atlantic - albeit in different directions.

I expressed my concerns to Vix, and she replied, simply: "You worry too much."

The conversation was actually more complicated than this, and some of the back-story I've set out in my blog came into play, how she had sacrificed and sacrificed for the family, etc.

I dropped it, at the time, but it really rankled. I felt disrespected, belittled . . . but, then, a sense of my own insignificance has been growing for months.

I finally began to realize that what I'd come up against is one of my own boundaries: The risk of anything really bad happening, either to us or to the girls, while Vix and I are crossing the Atlantic is fairly small, but it's still not a risk I find acceptable, not a risk I'm willing to take. As a matter of general principle, I have always assumed that one or both of us should be available to our daughters - at least reachable by phone and able to get to them quickly - for as long as they are dependent on us.

Already, with the complications introduced by polyamory, I've had to stretch the definition of what "available" means. There have been times that Vix has been out of town and I've had commitments at work while the girls are at home, but I could get to them within an hour, at need. That's about the limit of what I can accept.

Let me reiterate, this is a matter of principle for me, one that had been unstated simply because the issue never came up. I had assumed Vix and I were in agreement on this point . . . until now.

I tried to articulate all this to Vix today, and her response is basically the same: I worry to much, my fears are irrational, and her life has for too long been ruled by my fears.

I took this to mean she was not going to bend, that she would go ahead and fly off to Europe, in spite of my objections, because she wants to.

She insists she can try to meet me halfway. The problem is that the timing of my return is a matter of contractual obligation; I cannot change it except, I suppose, for some very serious reason. If she waits too long to leave for Europe, there will be no point in her going at all, since she'd miss too much of the event she wants to attend with Doc.

If she doesn't go, I'll then have to bear the burden of her disappointment and resentment.

So, we seem to be at an impasse.

My first inclination is to just shut up about it, let Vix do what she wants, and try not to seethe too much. Then, in the future, I'll try to avoid creating circumstances that would lead to such a forced choice. It's my boundary, my understanding of my responsibility to our children, so I should do what is necessary to make sure I can live up to it, whatever Vix does.

I don't know, though. Such a response seems self-defeating.

Am I completely out of my mind about all of this? How far should I go in insisting on what turns out to be an important boundary for me? How much of the responsibility for that boundary rests on me alone?

Is there any way out of this impasse that won't do further damage to a marriage that has already, over the past six months or so, had much of the life drained out of it?

As a postscript, Vix and I are now approaching the second anniversary of our decision to try polyamory. It's a decision I have come to regret . . . a little more than half the time.

Last edited by hyperskeptic; 03-05-2013 at 04:19 AM.
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Old 03-05-2013, 05:14 AM
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AnnabelMore AnnabelMore is offline
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On the one hand, I would say that when it comes to your kids, you shouldn't bend. That is a time to hold to a boundary.

On the other hand... how old are they? Have they never been to sleep-away camp? Would it really be such a big deal for them to be away from you both for a couple of days, or would it simply be part of the inevitable march towards greater independence that all children are on?
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Old 03-05-2013, 05:40 AM
ThatGirlInGray ThatGirlInGray is offline
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Originally Posted by hyperskeptic View Post
Vix and the girls will have to come back home a week before I do, so the girls can start school.
Is this part set in stone? As a teacher, I can tell you that students miss school for a week or more due to family travels all the time. The girls' school likely has some sort of Independent Study they can do to make up the absences, if you're concerned about that, and even if they don't have a standard policy in place I'll bet something can be worked out since they'll be abroad.

If you CAN'T come back early and she WON'T leave later, then this is the compromise I'd make- have the girls miss the first week of school (a little disappointing for them, maybe, but it shouldn't be a huge deal) and come back with you. This could also possibly cut costs on plane tickets, if your wife stays as well and travels from the UK to Germany to see Doc and attend the event rather than going home and going BACK to Europe just days later.
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Old 03-05-2013, 06:13 AM
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I would go be with the girls and break my obligation. My commitment to my kids wouldn't allow for me and their other parents being an ocean away from them simultaneously-but its not my place to control my partners/their other larents. So, I would break my commitment to ANY other obligation in that circumstance and go my kids.
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Old 03-05-2013, 09:11 AM
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That's a real breakdown in communication on your wife's part. Someone once told me that the responsibility to get the message across lays with the communicator rather then the commnicatee (yes I know I'm taking liberty with grammar here). And it doesn't sound like your wife took the responsibility to address and clearly communicate a fairly serious issue. I can see why you'd feel the way you do.

Now that you have this dumped on you, the only thing that you can control is your reaction. First priorities first: the kids do need an accessible parent or guardian that you both trust to look after them. Independent of your anger at your wife, are the people that your kids are going to stay with acceptable to you? This is a judgement call. If you don't trust them, but your wife does, then you have to break your plans to cover her mistake. That sucks, and you certainly have every right to let her know how upset you are. It is a legitimate concern, regardless of her opinion about your fears (which could be legit, or could just be her way of justifying her actions).

Once this is all arranged with the kids, and the two of you get back home, you need to work out, in advance, what you're going to say to your wife so that she understands, clearly, that she needs to communicate with you much better. You deserve to be kept informed of all major issues regarding her plans with the children.

.
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Old 03-05-2013, 09:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnnabelMore View Post
On the other hand... how old are they? Have they never been to sleep-away camp? Would it really be such a big deal for them to be away from you both for a couple of days, or would it simply be part of the inevitable march towards greater independence that all children are on?
Sleep-away camps are one thing. Being away from your parents for a week is the point of the camp and all the kids are in the same boat. Also, they typically aren't on the other side of the ocean.

At any age, going back to school is a big deal. For a lot of kids, it's full of anxiety: new teacher, new classmates, sometimes an entirely new school. If they have a terrible first day, they'll want at least one parent to support them through it. If they have a great day, they'll want to share that too.

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Is this part set in stone? As a teacher, I can tell you that students miss school for a week or more due to family travels all the time.
That was my first thought, too. It's only March, you can let the school know even right now what the situation is, and get copies of their first week of school work before you leave for the UK.

But that really only addresses this one specific situation. The real issue as I see it is your wife prioritizing her wants over her children's needs.

This isn't the first time she's done something like this, as I recall from a previous thread. She's not someone I would nominate for Mother of the Year, but there's not much you can do that at this point. You can't change her behaviour, all you can really do is let her know that you're disappointed with her choices and change your expectations going forwards. She's made it clear that she'll respect no boundaries but her own.
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Old 03-05-2013, 11:17 AM
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Thank you all for your comments. They pull in different directions, which is as it should be.

(It's good, old-fashioned dialectic: achieving some clarity by a divergence of views.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnnabelMore View Post
On the other hand... how old are they? Have they never been to sleep-away camp? Would it really be such a big deal for them to be away from you both for a couple of days, or would it simply be part of the inevitable march towards greater independence that all children are on?
My daughters are 13 and 10, and the 10-year-old has been increasingly freaked out by Vix's long absences. They are becoming more independent, and I have been expanding the extent to which I am willing to leave them on their own for periods of time.

Even so, I tend to agree with this response:

Quote:
Originally Posted by SchrodingersCat View Post
Sleep-away camps are one thing. Being away from your parents for a week is the point of the camp and all the kids are in the same boat. Also, they typically aren't on the other side of the ocean.
Vix and I would have had an agreement between us before sending either of the girls to a sleep-away camp, and I, at least, would want to be sure I was on the same continent at the time, and reachable by phone in an emergency.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SchrodingersCat View Post
At any age, going back to school is a big deal. For a lot of kids, it's full of anxiety: new teacher, new classmates, sometimes an entirely new school. If they have a terrible first day, they'll want at least one parent to support them through it. If they have a great day, they'll want to share that too.

----

That was my first thought, too. It's only March, you can let the school know even right now what the situation is, and get copies of their first week of school work before you leave for the UK.
Part of the issue is that my older daughter starts high school next year, and she has a boundary of her own: she will not miss the first week of high school. She is nervous and anxious and excited about the transition, and wants to immerse herself in it from the beginning.

I get that, and neither Vix nor I particularly wants to cross that particular boundary. It's bad enough that we'll be in the UK during orientation!

Last edited by hyperskeptic; 03-05-2013 at 12:43 PM.
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Old 03-05-2013, 11:19 AM
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hyperskeptic hyperskeptic is offline
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Originally Posted by LovingRadiance View Post
I would go be with the girls and break my obligation. My commitment to my kids wouldn't allow for me and their other parents being an ocean away from them simultaneously-but its not my place to control my partners/their other larents. So, I would break my commitment to ANY other obligation in that circumstance and go my kids.
This is a sign-on-the-dotted line kind of contractual obligation. It's an academic program that ends on date certain, and I have active responsibilities up through the day before I leave.

I suppose, if there were a crisis, I could break the obligation. But what, in all honesty, could I tell the program director about this situation?

"I need to go home early so my wife can go travelling with her boyfriend in Germany . . ."

I'm sure that would go over well.
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Old 03-05-2013, 11:24 AM
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hyperskeptic hyperskeptic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SchrodingersCat View Post
This isn't the first time she's done something like this, as I recall from a previous thread. She's not someone I would nominate for Mother of the Year, but there's not much you can do that at this point. You can't change her behaviour, all you can really do is let her know that you're disappointed with her choices and change your expectations going forwards. She's made it clear that she'll respect no boundaries but her own.
And I'm pretty sure I'm not Father of the Year, either.

I want to be careful not to be too hard on Vix in this. I told this story from my point of view, and probably left things out.

Suffice it to say she and I both need to improve our communication and, yes, I need to adjust my expectations.

I've been doing a lot of that kind of adjusting recently, and it's getting awfully chilly around here.
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Old 03-05-2013, 11:58 AM
dingedheart dingedheart is offline
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Have your daughters been informed of the plan ....who they will be staying with, split up or together, etc, and why ( meaning the event ) ? And how do they feel about it. Do they feel blown off by their mother in this specific case and or in the last 2 yrs.?
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