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Old 08-03-2010, 06:09 AM
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cruftnot cruftnot is offline
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I've come to this site mostly for advice, and to get that advice I would need to tell a big part of my story. This thread is where it will happen.

But before I begin, let me ask my overarching question: when do you draw the line and decide to make big, life altering decisions that will have repercussions for you and your loved ones for years to come? do you wait until your feelings force change upon you? are you proactive and logical? in particular - being poly with a mono spouse who has been waffling for years regarding the poly lifestyle - how long is too long to wait for things to change for the better?

overview

The cartoon version is that I am in a 9 year marriage to N (+kids), who is becoming more monogamous as time goes by, while I am becoming more certain that I want a poly life. Over these years we experimented with opening up several times; most recently with K and G -- both of whom now live 3 time zones away.

9 years of fairly dramatic marriage don't lend themselves to a pithy summary. Instead, I'll do what I usually ask people who ask me for advice to do- I will start at the end, and work my way back only in as much as it touches on relevant topics.

2010, summer

This summer I spent two weeks away from my wife and family with my girlfriend G. It was supposed to be two weeks with both G and my other girlfriend K- but K broke up with me two weeks before I came to visit.

K and I ended up spending two nights together, saying our goodbyes; it was sweet and painful. I love K deeply and have an incredible connection with her -- but my drama filled life and our long distance relationship was tearing her up; she needs peace, and the emotional space to find a local primary relationship. The problem this summer was in part that K was supposed to put me up... there are some interesting stories about the sublet I got instead, but they are not germane to this post.

Two weeks with G, working half time, was wonderful beyond words. I also met her other boyfriend and one of his girlfriends; my first meeting with metamours outside "public" events. It was fun, and I like them; by now I know I rarely get wibbles.

These two weeks proved to me what I already knew in my mind- that living a fully poly life is as natural for me as breathing. I learned how happy G makes me- her warmth, wisdom, sexiness, and deeply ingrained poly mindset felt like home.

Being far from G is pain. For both of us, it's a lingering background ache that we want to be done with. She is dealing with job hunting and some issues of her own. It is certain that G and I want to be local, maybe even cohabitate- were it not for N and the kids. We hope G can find a job not too far away, and that we can see each other more than once every 6 months.

My going to see G and K this summer was not a pleasantly negotiated event. It was part of a condition I imposed-- that as a precondition for trying to work out my differences with N for the 5th time, I require two things:
(1) that I see my lovers once every 6 months at least; this was the most space they felt they could give us
(2) that N and I negotiate towards some form of open relationship that we can both be happy with

N put up many roadblocks to the trip. One was that she insisted on going overseas to visit family so that she won't be "waiting for me at home". She also insisted I go see a former marriage counselor we were happy with. Both are large expenses that she lays at my feet as the "price of your poly".

The humdinger was that before the trip N and I discussed an outline for an agreement. It was a good agreement from my perspective- not all that I hoped for, but one I had a good chance to be happy with. Most critically, it included the possibility of a local paramour I could spend some regular time with.

N backed off from this rather reasonable proposal, to saying that she was only okay with my having a long distance relationship, for which I could travel for two weeks twice a year. This is despite my explicit statement that the "two weeks in six months" model was one I proposed as a painful and untenable temporary measure to allow us to work things out without destroying my relationship with my paramours.

Since I'm telling the story backwards, I must note that this is the recurring theme-- N makes reasonable proposals and then backs down from them, flails in emotional drama, and remains distant and cold. While in this most recent round I mostly isolated my paramours from the practical implications of this instability, in previous cases I allowed N to veto or destroy what were otherwise perfectly good relationships.

I put it to you, the readers-- where should I draw the line? at what point is a marriage and a family not worth the loss of living true to myself? I can be somewhat content with N- but I will never be truly happy in a monogamous lifestyle. I can always give another chance, try another month or two-- but when do I toss in the towel? when I no longer care for N because the pain has eaten me up inside? that only increases the chance of an ugly divorce, and the extra wait and drama will likely make me lose G in the process.

Last edited by NeonKaos; 08-06-2010 at 04:25 PM. Reason: merge posts
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Old 08-03-2010, 06:49 AM
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Be strong and do what you have to in the long run to be healthy. Not just healthy for you, but above all, your children. Being apart healthy will probably be better for your children than staying together miserable.

I keep coming back to your kids because they are the priority. Those of us that bring kids into the world have a responsibility to raise them in as healthy a way as we can by setting good examples of strength and honesty. Staying in a marriage solely for kids does not do this.

Tell your wife how bad it is getting....be honest and caring, but clear.

Take care
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Old 08-03-2010, 10:53 PM
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If the 2 of you really can't come to a place where the relationship will work for both of you in a healthy way it's most likely better for the both of you to part ways on good terms so that you can both live the lives that you need to live in order to be happy. I don't know that there is any answer here that will keep everyone happy. From the sounds of it you don't want to leave your wife. Sounds like it's a tough spot to be in. Good luck

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Old 08-04-2010, 05:28 AM
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Sure - we need to come to a place that is healthy for both N and me. We shouldn't just stay together because of the kids. We know unhappy parents set a very poor example, even poorer than separated or divorced parents who are happy.

We've been trying to do that for a long time. What I'm trying to figure out is when does it make sense to stop trying?
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Old 08-05-2010, 12:01 AM
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I think that only you can answer that. If it's at a point where it doesn't seem possible that either of you will be willing to move to a comfortable middle ground for the other then that might be a good indicator that it's time to move on.

-Derby
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Old 08-05-2010, 04:40 AM
jkelly jkelly is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cruftnot View Post
being poly with a mono spouse who has been waffling for years regarding the poly lifestyle - how long is too long to wait for things to change for the better?
It doesn't sound to me from your story that she's waffling; it sounds like she's pretty clear that she would prefer a monogamous relationship and is putting up with the minimum possible amount of openness that keeps you going.

I think that the interesting question here is "Why are you agreeing to things that make you seriously consider ending the relationship?" I'd suggest that the time to end things is when both of you sit down to talk with the purpose of doing the right thing for the marriage (instead of this push-pull around the how open question where you're on opposite sides of an issue) and realise that you're at an irreconcilable impasse.

My understanding is that the marriage counsellor visit is still to come, right? I'd recommend putting off any big decisions until after you give that a chance.
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Old 08-06-2010, 05:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jkelly View Post
It doesn't sound to me from your story that she's waffling; it sounds like she's pretty clear that she would prefer a monogamous relationship and is putting up with the minimum possible amount of openness that keeps you going.
The waffling isn't about whether she would like a poly relationship -- she prefers monogamy. The waffling is about what level of opening up she can be happy with. (Please note: "be happy" and not "put up").

Quote:
Originally Posted by jkelly View Post
I think that the interesting question here is "Why are you agreeing to things that make you seriously consider ending the relationship?"
Why indeed? I don't know. There have been multiple times when "mis-communication" about boundaries made me the bad guy. The most extreme recent one was when I was considering getting involved with G, and was asking N for permission to embark on this new relationship. Purely by chance, G came over while I was online with N -- and N thanked her, to her face, on video, for her "extracurricular" involvement with me. Later on N claimed that she was against it the entire time, but at least this time the woman I was dating had direct evidence that I'm not cheating, and that my claim that N flip-flopped on me is reasonably supported by the facts.

Your question is a very apt one. I agree to such things very grudgingly because I am well aware of the caustic effects they can have over time; N seems unable to plan for her future emotional happiness. It makes having a positive and supporting relationship very difficult.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jkelly View Post
I'd suggest that the time to end things is when both of you sit down to talk with the purpose of doing the right thing for the marriage (instead of this push-pull around the how open question where you're on opposite sides of an issue) and realise that you're at an irreconcilable impasse.

My understanding is that the marriage counsellor visit is still to come, right? I'd recommend putting off any big decisions until after you give that a chance.
We've been to three marriage counsellors. You may call them the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. It is very difficult to find good counsellors who are poly-friendly or at least unbiased, and the search is quite expensive and draining. Good is far far away -- in the same town we used to live in, where G and K remain. I spoke with her during my last visit (at N's behest); she didn't sound optimistic.

After Bad and Ugly, N and I decided we're causing more harm to our marriage by trying these buffoons than by working things out with each other directly. Instead, N found a good therapist for herself (she has PTSD and was working through some anger management issues), and I spent an enormous amount of time laying out everything going on between us in writing -- because N can respond much more calmly to the written word.

Is there anyone here who considered or had a divorce because they were poly with a monogamous spouse or a spouse with a stiflingly restrictive view of poly?
If so -- how did you make your decision to stay or go?
Are you happy with it in retrospect?

Last edited by NeonKaos; 08-06-2010 at 04:24 PM. Reason: merge posts
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Old 08-06-2010, 02:58 PM
AutumnalTone AutumnalTone is offline
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You have stayed in a marriage that's not working far longer than I would have. One thing folks close to me learn quickly: Homey don't play them games. The "I agreed to this yet I want to back out" game doesn't run more than twice aimed at me--I don't tolerate liars, cheats, and other dishonest sorts.
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Old 08-06-2010, 08:58 PM
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I almost get the sense that what you're really asking for here is support to do what you feel you need to do, which is leave the marriage. It's relatively clear that your relationship styles are incompatible. She will never be happy with your polyamory, and you will never be happy without it. The decision may be easier if you look at it in those absolute terms. Instead of thinking "How long do I give her to come around," I would be thinking "Am I prepared to live like this for the rest of my life?" If the answer is no, then you're only prolonging the inevitable.

How long is too long? Well, forever is too long, and it seems to me you're looking at forever...
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Old 08-07-2010, 04:13 AM
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Wow. I have been in the same place you are (emotionally) just very recently, cruftnot. Everyone is different so please note that I only speak from my own experience here. I noticed a few things...

Quote:
and was asking N for permission to embark on this new relationship.
"Permission". Is she the Queen of the relationship? Considering her feelings is important, yes, but putting it in terms of her allowing you to relate to someone else is only going to make you resentful of her if she doesn't grant that permission. No one is forcing you to stay in a relationship with her. No one is forcing you to leave her. It's your decision what you do.

This hit home for me when I realised that I needed to start looking at what was best for "us" for my relationship with me and my partner. I want to be with him - I want to be with him without a speck of a doubt - but the way I was thinking wouldn't allow me to be happy. I now see our present exclusivity (we've been together only 1.5 years and have been exclusive the whole time, mind you) as something that "we" need, not just something he needs, to build up our relationship, communication, trust and safe boundaries with relating to each other - let alone other people.

I'm not telling you to dump your secondaries, please understand, I'm saying that a change of perspective, a conscious decision to feel positively about the necessity of the situation as it is and accepting it rather than fighting tooth and nail to have my needs met (while also not sweeping them under the rug) has helped the relationship and my own mental health so so so much.

Quote:
(she has PTSD and was working through some anger management issues)
She has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and she's also working with you on opening up a relationship (however haltingly) while working on her mental health? Wow, that is one brave woman who obviously really wants you in her life. My partner has a severe Panic Disorder and a few other mental health problems, which he is working very hard to recover from, so I can empathise a little with your situation in that regard too.

It was very frustrating when my partner would say things like "Okay, you can be with him" and then I would ask if he were sure and really push to make certain that he could handle it but then he would crumble and tell me how guilty he felt for not being able to "make me happy" by being comfortable with me having another lover.

The reason that this happened, I now believe, is that I was dragging him along down a dark path that he wasn't ready to walk. Now, as I understand that being in an exclusive relationship doesn't magically transform me into a monogamous person (just like having a male partner doesn't make me straight), I feel a lot more comfortable just focusing on my relationship with him.

Wanna hear the weird part? The more comfortable I am with mono; the more comfortable he reports feeling about poly. No one is forcing anyone any more. It's really liberating.

My compass for when it's time to leave is: am I still willing to work on this? Are they still willing to work on it? - as long as the answer to both of those questions is still "Yes!" then I'm in. But I'm the first to admit that I like to take the hard road in life. Or, rather, that a challenge has never deterred me from love.

Sorry if any of that sounded critical, I know it's hard to do tone via black and white text, I truly do wish you and your family (secondaries included!) all the best.
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