Transitioning into a triad
I’ve been following many of the threads (including many on triads) on here for a little while now but haven’t really joined in the discussion. That being said, I’ve hit a rough patch in my current relationship and wanted to put it out there to see if anyone’s encountered this situation before (I’m sure someone has :-) and how you moved through it:
I joined a polyfi triad back in October with two people with whom I’ve been acquainted (but not been close with) for about 10 years. They have been dating on and off for those ten years and are getting married this May. They had been searching for a third for about a year-and-a-half when we began spending time together.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it – it’s been a rocky road these last 5 months as we’ve struggled to redefine what a relationship is supposed to be and have dug up and dealt with a lot of social conditioning. We’ve learned that one of the things that makes a triad (or any plural relationship) so difficult is that instead of one relationship to nurture, there are four. Each of these needs attention and time and each evolves at a different pace. It is very challenging keeping everyone’s needs met, all of the relationships tended to, and also have a job and a life outside of the relationship.
However, I have never been in a relationship that is as caring, honest and communicative as this one. There is a lot of love on all sides and fun and very real moments as we each become vulnerable and share fears and hopes for our lives. I am very committed to making this work if it is possible.
So, after a short period of relative harmony, we’ve hit a rough patch again:
As commonly happens, the man and I are very much in love, and although I adore the woman, my relationship with her has been more difficult to build. I was a lesbian for 10+ years, so that aspect is not an issue for me (although it might be for her, as I’m her first, but I don’t think that’s it). The primary cause for strife at this stage is that she and I have seemingly opposite needs that we can’t find a comfortable common ground on:
I feel the need to be an equal player in the relationship. I want the right to be involved in decision-making. I feel resentful when they make plans to throw a dinner party or to go to a friend’s wedding in another state without me. I feel threatened when their relationship becomes “primary” as is happening more often as the wedding approaches. I want equal time with him and her during the week. They live together, and although I live close by, it still makes me feel marginalized because lots of conversations and decision-making happen when I’m not around.
She needs to take things slowly and open up gradually. She says she can’t divide up her week evenly between him, me and us. She needs a certain amount of “him and her” time or she begins to feel that she is losing him and feels threatened. She has mentioned several times that she is not comfortable with him having a “girlfriend” on the side. I also don't want to be the "girlfriend on the side". But I feel that she is acting as the gatekeeper to the relationship – she is the slowest to adapt to the changing dynamics. It makes it difficult for me to feel lovingly toward her because I feel she is holding me down from having an equal position in the relationship. My relationship with him has developed much more quickly. He feels comfortable integrating me to the extent that everyone is comfortable with.
Truthfully, I understand where she is coming from. It has only been a short time, and she doesn’t know what she’s getting with me. She is deeply in love with him (and he with her, of course), and while she is very fond of me, I think she is just generally one of those people that moves slowly in relationships. It takes a while for her to build trust.
We have talked about our visions for the relationship in the future. Both of them have expressed the desire to have equal roles and equal commitments.
I guess my basic question is: how do you balance the transition from a long-term two-person relationship to a three-person relationship while meeting everyone’s needs for equality and for security? Is it best to start out as everyone being equal as much as possible or is it better to transition gradually?
I recognize that it is still early in my relationship with them and a lot of these intimate kinds of things generally come later after trust and closeness has been developed (as she pointed out to me). That does not negate the fact that I feel hurt and left out. I wonder if starting out unevenly makes it more difficult to transition to equality later because patterns of interacting have already been established?
Not to mention the wedding. They have assured me several times that the fact that they are getting married does not mean that I will have a secondary role in the relationship. I can’t get past the fact that in our society, that’s exactly what that means. Legally and culturally, they will always be viewed as the “acceptable” relationship. How do you get past that?
A little background on my history that affects how I feel about this: the relationship I was in prior to this one was a poly relationship of almost 2 years where I was the secondary partner and had no influence or rights in decision-making of the primary couple. I was very much in love with the man and was heartbroken when we eventually moved apart and he became exclusively involved with her again. I never was invited to meet her. In my defense, I was not at all informed on poly relationships at the time and kind of fell into it. If I had done a little research I might have acted differently and not have gotten so attached or been a little more assertive about how the relationship evolved. You live and learn ☹
So, should I just try and relax and trust that what they say is true – that the relationship will eventually become an equal one? I'm willing to accept that my insecurities are just getting in the way of a natural relationship progression. Or is there evidence that the relationship that starts out more equally is the one that generally survives?
Thanks in advance for any help and advice. I am definitely seeing why triads are so notorious for not working out! It is very challenging to integrate into an existing relationship, especially one that is so committed and long-standing. It brings up lots of insecurities and worries and fears. It’s definitely not for the fainthearted!
Thanks for reading and Happy Valentine’s Day!