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Old 08-25-2011, 04:43 AM
kidsoul kidsoul is offline
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Default Advice for a secondary in a slowly opening marriage

I haven't had much luck finding posts that deal with the problems a single person faces in dealing with the boundaries and rules that are encountered in pursuing a relationship with a married person; one that is in the initial stages of slowly opening up their marriage.

I'm in a relationship with a married woman. Like many on the board, this started "backwards." We fell in love, shared our feelings for each other, and then she started the difficult work of opening her marriage.

Eight months later, her and I have a regular date night once a week. The three of us are learning to get comfortable with each other's presence, and enjoy spending time together. We ate dinner together tonight, and we're planning a BBQ this Saturday. The poly "familial bubble" is starting to expand. We enrich each other's lives.

However the boundaries are starting to chafe and wear on me. While we do spend time alone together, the current rules limit us to holding hands and hugging.

I've read Franklin Veaux's "Secondary's Guide" http://www.xeromag.com/fvsecondary.html It's helpful, but misses the mark in providing concrete tools for dealing with the host of raw emotions that arise. And while these are horrible feelings, I also firmly believe that they can be powerful catalysts for personal growth. Some are dealt with introspection and letting time pass. I also try to put myself in everyone’s shoes, and strive to find joy in her relationship with her husband.

What I'm currently dealing with is envy for the physical intimacy they share, things her and I can't have. This leads to anger and depression on my part. I seek to avoid growing resentful of her or the situation by humbly reminding myself of the enormous risks she has taken and for the gifts that her husband has given us. I cherish this woman, am amazed at the connection we share, and marvel at how far we have traveled.

She's going to talk with her husband about re-evaluating our boundaries next month. Part of me is elated at the prospect of being able to communicate and sharing my love for her in a more physical manner. But the other part wonders, won't the pain and anguish I feel just get moved to another boundary (oh yes, you can kiss her, but don't touch her here or there).

Are there other secondaries on the forum that have experienced a similar situation? How do you deal with the feelings and keep the relationship healthy?

Peace and kindness,
kidsoul
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Old 08-25-2011, 02:06 PM
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BlackUnicorn BlackUnicorn is offline
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Eight months later...While we do spend time alone together, the current rules limit us to holding hands and hugging.
Gut reaction; eight months is a really long time to be holding hands with someone you love.

Honestly, not a single kiss during this entire time? And weekly one-on-one dates? I marvel your self-control.

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Originally Posted by kidsoul View Post
She's going to talk with her husband about re-evaluating our boundaries next month. Part of me is elated at the prospect of being able to communicate and sharing my love for her in a more physical manner. But the other part wonders, won't the pain and anguish I feel just get moved to another boundary (oh yes, you can kiss her, but don't touch her here or there).
Why next month, why not now?

Frankly, the prognosis isn't very good. You write that the opening up of her marriage was difficult. Did the three of you at any point, while making and agreeing to the boundaries/rules, discuss a schedule?

Did you in the beginning of the relationship imagine the two of you still only holding hands after eight months? Is that what you signed up for? What if next month, you are allowed to kiss her? Will you be content with that for another nine months? What if he sees the two of you kissing, decides he can't cope and goes back on a boundary? Will you be able to contain yourself for an unspecified amount of time, just kissing, unsupervised, in love?

Very strict boundaries that are enforced "for now" seem to lead into frustration and/or cheating. I understand the gratitude you feel for her husband for even considering this, and since you and especially your SO are the "bad guys" here, having broken the monogamous promise she gave to her husband, it might feel like you really are in no position to make demands. But at some point, you will have to start considering your own emotional health.
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Old 08-25-2011, 02:32 PM
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I marvel your self-control.

Frankly, the prognosis isn't very good.

I understand the gratitude you feel for her husband for even considering this, and since you and especially your SO are the "bad guys" here, having broken the monogamous promise she gave to her husband, it might feel like you really are in no position to make demands.

But at some point, you will have to start considering your own emotional health.
This feedback makes me feel mixed emotions, BU. I marvel at the self-control -- but I do find it loving and honorable. Don't you? Who's to say it's a bad prognosis, if this man is willing to restrain his physical urges out of deep respect for this woman and her marriage?

As far as being in no position to make demands, yes, that is true -- when you get into this situation, you have to know what you're signing up for. It requires so much patience and acceptance. I see kidsoul's demonstration of these characteristics as admirable and awesome. How respectful!

But, kidsoul, if you go too long without being able to express the love you long to give in physical ways, you may find yourself really hurting. There may come a day when you have to make a tough decision. If the husband doesn't ease up, and she accepts his boundaries, then you may have to honestly say, "I need more. If I can't exchange love with you, I may need to move on to someone I can exchange love with, at a level that is healthy for me."

I have thought a lot in my own poly situation, "Is this a dead-end street?" In many ways, YES, mine is. Can I accept that? I have to have a "carpe deim" way of living. Does it matter where it ends up? Is love in and of itself enough of a journey along the way? I choose to focus on the present, and not get so caught up in where this is going, where it will end. However, I have to sometimes take a cold hard look, and accept the fact that it will likely end painfully. "Tis better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all." Right? Well -- I guess we all have to decide for ourselves, what is worth it, and what is too expensive for our souls to endure.
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Old 08-25-2011, 02:58 PM
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I find myself somewhere between BU and Carma. I've been in a secondary relationship with a married woman for almost two years. I started out as a casual sex partner with her and her husband, so boundaries on physical intimacy were never an issue. However, she and I haven't done more than kiss and cuddle just a little bit for the last 10-11 months because of her desire for space during her pregnancy... the baby is now almost 2 months old and it's understood between us that sex is "on hold" not "off the table", but I don't think either of us could begin to say when she'll be ready. So our situations are very different and yet very similar.

I feel for you. It's very hard to want someone and to always be holding back. I think BU brings up some very good questions. I think you deserve, 8 months in, to at least know what the intention is. Is sex on the horizon? Does her husband have any sense of the timeline he might require? Is he willing to push himself a little more, knowing that you (and presumably she also!) are hurting?

One thing for the husband to consider... by making you two "forbidden fruit" to each other he may actually be making your infatuation with each other that much stronger, even while you're hurting over it... that's how these things often go. Is that really what he wants?

I think everyone has acted admirably here, but if he really cares about you two he needs to recognize that you're adults with needs and this is a little silly... if you two are so emotionally entangled, that's just as potent and just as much (really just as little) of a threat to him as if you were physically entangled too. Does he really want to deal with his wife's depression and resentment if she loses you because you can't take it any more?
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Old 08-25-2011, 03:08 PM
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AnnabelMore AnnabelMore is offline
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Question -- are you open to the idea of seeing anyone else? I'm not saying you should see someone just to "make up" for what you're not getting from your gf, but I think that just being open to the idea, flirting a little, might help you feel a little calmer. A couple months into my gf's pregnancy I made the conscious decision to be open to other things that might come along, to give me something else to focus on so that I didn't obsess endlessly over her. I ended up meeting a fun new lover and that did really help me be more patient with her.

I feel pretty strongly that if your only relationship is secondary, you should stay open to other loves, serious or casual. Otherwise you can begin to feel like "What's wrong with me that other people get a whole pie of love/romance/time/commitment/sex/whatever and I just get a little slice?"
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Old 08-25-2011, 03:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carma View Post
I marvel at the self-control -- but I do find it loving and honorable. Don't you?
Yeah, like I said, I find it marvellous. More than I think I would be capable of, worthy of admiration.

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Who's to say it's a bad prognosis, if this man is willing to restrain his physical urges out of deep respect for this woman and her marriage?
I was referring to a bad prognosis in general for the combination of the following;
1) Very strict boundaries that are enforced for unlimited duration and;
2) Constant physical proximity

I think it creates a situation where the secondary sees the love and affection freely flowing between the primary couple while being prohibited from enjoying that flow themselves, and 9 times out of 10, that creates envy and bitterness in the long run. The prognosis for continued emotional health and fulfillment isn't very good in this scenario IMHO.

It's not simply a matter of containing physical urges; to me, this situation is akin to somebody saying; "Yes, you are allowed to date my partner, but never ever say, in word or text, that you love them. It is okay to feel that but never to say that. That needs to be preserved for our primary relationship and for that alone."

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Originally Posted by Carma View Post
But, kidsoul, if you go too long without being able to express the love you long to give in physical ways, you may find yourself really hurting. There may come a day when you have to make a tough decision. If the husband doesn't ease up, and she accepts his boundaries, then you may have to honestly say, "I need more. If I can't exchange love with you, I may need to move on to someone I can exchange love with, at a level that is healthy for me."
You expressed my point better than I did .
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Old 08-25-2011, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by BlackUnicorn View Post
It's not simply a matter of containing physical urges; to me, this situation is akin to somebody saying; "Yes, you are allowed to date my partner, but never ever say, in word or text, that you love them. It is okay to feel that but never to say that. That needs to be preserved for our primary relationship and for that alone."
Oh shit, that's Sundance's stance.
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Old 08-25-2011, 03:30 PM
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Good point about the proximity, BU. It can be hard enough not to be jealous of your partner's primary at times even with sex AND love AND compersion, just because they'll always be "senior" to you, like an older sibling situation but more emotionally charged, and because it can hard to see and to know about special moments, not all of which you can possibly share.

One really bizarre trigger for me is around their anniversary. For the past two years, though I've managed to control it, I've gotten weird and jealous around that day. No good reason for it at all.

I think people really underestimate how much work secondaries have to do to stay emotionally healthy...
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Old 08-25-2011, 03:35 PM
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Oh shit, that's Sundance's stance.
Butch and I can't say I love you, but HIS new GF tells him she loves him, all the time.

(I have NO IDEA if he's told her. He says he hasn't but he's lied about some other things, so who knows?)

Annabel's point about forbidden fruit is a great one, too. We've experienced that, all across the board! Whenever one puts up a boundary, it seems the other one is obsessed with rubbing right up next to it! Example, even in the "I love you" case -- Sundance claims he's said to her, "I love everything about you," but hasn't said "I love you." Crazy, right?! I believe he is lying to me, and the reason is, because it is so important to him that I not say it to Butch. He is afraid anything he does with her, gives me equal license to do it with Butch.

Didn't mean to get off track on your OP, kid -- I know you're not experiencing this kind of issue right now. But forbidden fruit can be maddening, and I hope her husband will realize that!

I also feel strongly about this question Annabel poses: "Does he really want to deal with his wife's depression and resentment if she loses you because you can't take it any more?" This is big.
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Old 08-25-2011, 10:29 PM
kidsoul kidsoul is offline
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Originally Posted by BlackUnicorn View Post
Honestly, not a single kiss during this entire time? And weekly one-on-one dates? I marvel your self-control.
Kisses on the arm, hand and cheek, but not the lips. Hugs, but no crotch touching or boob fondling.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackUnicorn View Post
Why next month, why not now?
Couple the fact that he's a workaholic, and that there's been so much on his plate in the past few months; lay offs at work, his sister getting divorced, his nephew being placed in drug rehab. Whether he used these as excuses to delay matters is debatable. It's water under the bridge at this point. But the upshot is he hasn't had the bandwidth to process these changes, and only now has become comfortable with the current configuration. His wife wants to approach him after the labor day vacation, when he's going to be a relaxed and good place.

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Originally Posted by BlackUnicorn View Post
You write that the opening up of her marriage was difficult. Did the three of you at any point, while making and agreeing to the boundaries/rules, discuss a schedule?
We are all new to poly. We've been stumbling forward. The only agreements have been made between her and him. We three have never sat down to discuss boundaries and rules or schedules.

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Originally Posted by BlackUnicorn View Post
Did you in the beginning of the relationship imagine the two of you still only holding hands after eight months? Is that what you signed up for?
No! I want to exercise a fully articulated romantic relationship with this woman. I honestly believed that we'd be further along by now.

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Originally Posted by BlackUnicorn View Post
What if next month, you are allowed to kiss her? Will you be content with that for another nine months?
Thank you for asking these questions! It's forcing me to calmly introspect. I'd be a roiling cauldron of negative emotions if we were only allowed to kiss in the next nine months.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackUnicorn View Post
Very strict boundaries that are enforced "for now" seem to lead into frustration and/or cheating. I understand the gratitude you feel for her husband for even considering this, and since you and especially your SO are the "bad guys" here, having broken the monogamous promise she gave to her husband, it might feel like you really are in no position to make demands. But at some point, you will have to start considering your own emotional health.
Well said.
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