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  #1  
Old 10-23-2011, 08:39 PM
3quarks 3quarks is offline
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Default Poly Training Wheels (Communication and Boundaries)

Hello there,

My husband and I have been exploring becoming poly for over two years now. We are doing this not because we think that one another isn't enough; nor are we doing it to fix issues in our relationship. In fact, we have been seeing a transactional analyst to help us prepare for becoming poly, learning how to identify feelings, communicate more effectively and negotiate compromises.

We have had trouble locating other poly people in our area, so we attended a poly conference in Dorset (we live in the uk), and aside from seeing that yes, this is indeed possible and generally feeling reassured, we found others to bounce ideas off of and learn from their experiences.

We have heard that many couples opening their relationships up to polyamory have established 'training wheel' agreements to help with the transition, to ensure that every one involved is ok with each step while the couple/individual is embarking on a new relationship.

The problems are, and here is where I could use some advice:

1. Although we agree that perhaps a quad relationship with another couple, with each interested in all four people, would ideally feel the safest, I'm aware that this is pretty rare. Explaining this to my partner, he agrees that yes, it is ideal and that we will probably be involved with one other person. However, he asserts that we should be involved with them as a couple. That he is always 'in the loop' and, sadly, it would appear that this would also mean that I couldn't be involved sexually with another person unless he was involved as well (either watching or actually in bed with us).

2. Included in my partner's need to 'stay in the loop' is his interpretation that being open and honest means that he should be included, or at the least, be able to read any communication I have with another person. In fact, when contacting a couple whom we met at a recent event, he insisted that we compose the email together. And, after they have replied, has indicated that he doesn't feel comfortable with me or him contacting either member of the couple on their own.

I have to say that I understand polyamory as involving relationships between individuals and not between a couple and one or more individuals. I feel like the above two points are controlling and making our decision to become poly a waste of time.

I'd love any advice on this, as I'm quite frustrated.

Thanks
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  #2  
Old 10-25-2011, 05:24 AM
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Anneintherain Anneintherain is offline
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I often consider training wheels to be things like "I want to know you are going to kiss them before you kiss them, I want to know you're going to put your hand down their pants before you put their hand down their pants, I want to know that you think you're falling in love with them before you tell THEM you love them", etc etc

I have no interest in sex being a public event, so training wheels of group sex or sex in a bedroom with other people present was just something I had no problem saying no to. You should say no to anything that makes you uncomfortable, and if that is something you don't want to start off with, setting clear boundaries sooner than later is smart.

I am a fan of having the option TO read emails (although the other people involved should know their email might be read) I haven't had the urge to read my husband's email for years, (as just communicating with each other seems to be enough), with the one exception where he misquoted me and "cock blocked" himself with a woman he liked, and I wanted to see just what he said so I could correct his incorrect statements.

I know it is hard, but you do have a couple options on the email.
1. say you're not comfortable with him reading your emails, and say you expect trust to communicate what is going on and being said (and then BE trustworthy)
2. let him read your emails, and if his reasons to veto a partner based on something they say doesn't make sense, talk it through. Setting good boundaries is going to be useful.

Although poly is often to form individual relationships, many people who are in a primary relationship already do put more focus on ...indulging? their primary partner's worries and progression level. It makes the other person feel safer to know their concerns are being heard and listened to. Going slowly is never going to harm you as much as going too quickly for one partner's comfort will.

Does he really want to try poly? Are you the one who is more interested? Is there a reason he wants to try it but is more focused on what you are doing than the chance for him to be dating new sparkly women? Do you think he is just nervous now and all the worries will go away if he finds somebody to date? Is he willing to give you access to emails, etc that he asks of you, or is he being hypocritical at all? Just food for thought.
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Old 10-25-2011, 05:36 AM
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AnnabelMore AnnabelMore is offline
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Poly is about forming real, emotional relationships that matter to the people involved. Now imagine not being able to share *anything* in confidence with someone you were in that sort of relationship with. How could you possibly build authentic intimacy?

I don't consider it fair to ask another person to be involved with person X as a condition for being involved with person Y. What if feelings for X wane while feelings for Y swell? Do you insist that the new partner continuing acting as if he or she is still equally into both X and Y or do you just call the while thing off, potentially breaking more than one heart?

What he's asking for sounds fine if you're not trying to bring emotions into it, but my personal opinion based on my understanding/experience of relationships and my readings here is that it's a recipe for a lot of problems if emotions are on the table.

Not to say you shouldn't help him as much as possible, but there's a certain leap of faith that he may need to make here.
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Last edited by AnnabelMore; 10-25-2011 at 05:40 AM.
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Old 10-25-2011, 12:59 PM
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nycindie nycindie is offline
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Well, your husband doesn't just get to set all the rules and you must obey. This is where you negotiate before moving forward, and each of you will probably have to give up something in order for both to be happy. He's not your boss, after all, is he? As I see it, he does want too much control and it seems very unreasonable to me. Tell him what you want, what is acceptable and not acceptable, and do not do anything you don't feel is respectful of your wishes and autonomy.
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Old 10-25-2011, 01:31 PM
UnderMind UnderMind is offline
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Hi,

I am the partner of 3Quarks. She's quite correct in stating that these are issues that we're really struggling with, but I feel it's necessary to expand a little on the context of perhaps why they're so difficult for us: Bluntly, there were non-consensual affairs that came to light nearly two years ago (some 11 or 12 years into our supposedly monogamous relationship). Regrettably, trust was pretty much blown out of the water and we've been having to work pretty intensively on re-establishing that trust, re-negotiating boundaries, learning how to be together and communicate honestly.

Thus, when I voice my desires for open, transparent communication, it's because I retain a deep fear that the umbrella of privacy will again be used to hide things that I strongly feel it's really not OK to hide in a relationship.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anneintherain View Post
I am a fan of having the option TO read emails (although the other people involved should know their email might be read) I haven't had the urge to read my husband's email for years, (as just communicating with each other seems to be enough), with the one exception where he misquoted me and "cock blocked" himself with a woman he liked, and I wanted to see just what he said so I could correct his incorrect statements.
This is, quite simply, precisely my stance, Anneintherain. Clearly, I don't need to see everything, nor do I even want to see everything, but sometimes I may need to be reassured that something I fear or suspect is going on is nothing in actuality. I'm not prone to stating that I'm uncomfortable about something when I'm not, so if I'm saying "This is a problem for me that I'm trying to understand and, to understand it, I would like you to give me permission to actually see what's going on" then my request is sincere and, I believe, reasonable. If there's nothing to hide then it doesn't need to be hidden.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3quarks View Post
1. Although we agree that perhaps a quad relationship with another couple, with each interested in all four people, would ideally feel the safest, I'm aware that this is pretty rare. Explaining this to my partner, he agrees that yes, it is ideal and that we will probably be involved with one other person. However, he asserts that we should be involved with them as a couple. That he is always 'in the loop' and, sadly, it would appear that this would also mean that I couldn't be involved sexually with another person unless he was involved as well (either watching or actually in bed with us).
I don't think this is entirely representative of the somewhat extensive discussions we've had on this topic. When we first talked about trying to become poly (although we didn't know the term at that time), we talked about a road-map; a plan of taking careful, baby-steps towards a desired final goal -- that goal being a fully open relationship. There was a caveat which was that it's clearly a long and difficult road, we weren't sure what we were going to have to deal with along the way and so I couldn't guarantee that we could actually get to that goal, but we could certainly try and hopefully learn a lot along the way. So there's never been any outright bar on activities taking place out-of-sight of each other, just that we weren't ready for that yet. The first step, that we both verbally agreed on, was to try and get into a four-way, in-the-open-relationship. On that basis we have even approached another couple (very close, mutual friends) and had many discussions about what other couples might be viable for us. It seemed, to me at least, that we were both in agreement about this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3quarks View Post
2. Included in my partner's need to 'stay in the loop' is his interpretation that being open and honest means that he should be included, or at the least, be able to read any communication I have with another person. In fact, when contacting a couple whom we met at a recent event, he insisted that we compose the email together. And, after they have replied, has indicated that he doesn't feel comfortable with me or him contacting either member of the couple on their own.
Without wanting to get into a pointless public argument about this, my recollection was that we decided that we needed to contact them very soon, that we needed to collaborate on the content on the contact, you stated that I was more diplomatic than yourself (thanks for that acknowledgement) and then I suggested that we compose the message together; you didn't disagree and, in fact, you actively participated in that process.

Yes, I have a desire to not feel excluded from a process that we've been desperately trying to work up to for the past 2 years. Yes, I'm very excited about meeting a new couple and exploring if we can have a significant relationship with them. Yes, I'm very concerned when, in the context of what's happened previously, you say "I want to have discussions that I don't want you to see" -- it triggers huge alarm bells; I wish it didn't, but right now it does.

That isn't to say I'm not interested in becoming poly, but I do need to feel we're taking necessary steps so that we both feel happy, safe and, in time, get what we want.

My understanding of entering into poly as a pre-existing couple (a partnership that I dearly value) is that we are both going to have to negotiate a method by which we both feel safe (sexually, physically and emotionally), respecting each other's feelings, understanding that there really is no room to hide anything that's potentially damaging to either us or anyone we get involved in and, regardless of what anyone else thinks, if our framework works for us then it's OK.
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Old 10-25-2011, 11:05 PM
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AnnabelMore AnnabelMore is offline
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Hey UM, everything you've brought up definitely shapes things and makes your desires seem a lot more reasonable. There's a *huge* difference between "no solo hanky panky to start" and "no solo hanky panky ever." In the situation as you've laid it out I think it makes perfect sense to take things very slow and to accept some initial boundaries that otherwise might seem a bit much. 3Q, it'll be up to you to be as conscientious and flexible as you can while still speaking up if a boundary has gone on too long and is causing you or a partner distress.
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Old 10-26-2011, 12:30 AM
AutumnalTone AutumnalTone is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UnderMind View Post
Hi,

I am the partner of 3Quarks. She's quite correct in stating that these are issues that we're really struggling with, but I feel it's necessary to expand a little on the context of perhaps why they're so difficult for us: Bluntly, there were non-consensual affairs that came to light nearly two years ago (some 11 or 12 years into our supposedly monogamous relationship). Regrettably, trust was pretty much blown out of the water and we've been having to work pretty intensively on re-establishing that trust, re-negotiating boundaries, learning how to be together and communicate honestly.
Then I'd say you're not ready for polyamory. You have issues as a couple that are serious and have yet to be settled. Until you've settled them, you're not going to be fit for a relationship involving anybody else in any capacity.
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Old 10-26-2011, 12:39 AM
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AnnabelMore AnnabelMore is offline
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That seems a little strong, AT, two years is a long time. OTOH, the level of disagreement between their two posts is a little worrying... if that's a trend, of interpreting the same things different ways, that could really play out poorly if new partners are involved...
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  #9  
Old 10-26-2011, 02:05 AM
FireChild FireChild is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnnabelMore View Post
That seems a little strong, AT, two years is a long time. OTOH, the level of disagreement between their two posts is a little worrying... if that's a trend, of interpreting the same things different ways, that could really play out poorly if new partners are involved...
Very solid point. A big reason of why my husband and I have taken so long to get to the poly point is because I can say apple and he won't hear apple or even orange. The man hears AIRPLANE. It's ridic and exhausting.
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Old 10-26-2011, 11:06 AM
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nycindie nycindie is offline
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I agree with AT that it seems you guys are not ready for poly. You're even fighting with each other in your posts here. There is an element of resentment expressed in your posts. You both need to build a strong foundation of trust and partnership in your marriage, and get on the same page in your communicating -- without taking potshots at each other -- before you even begin to think about engaging with other potential romantic/sexual partners.

Additional relationships would only create more difficulties between you two and unfairly place a huge burden on anyone else who becomes part of your dynamic, because even though you may not realize it,you'd likely be looking at them to somehow "fix" what's still broken between you.

I wonder if you're looking at poly as an escape route because it's been such tough going over the past few years of working on your relationship. So, maybe you do need to shake things up in how you examine and come to terms with all your issues, but I wouldn't think polyamory would be one of the best options for you right now. Maybe find some workshops in communicating or deepening relationships where you get to participate in exercises and/or confront your stuff within a group dynamic. There are some good ones out there.

You may also want to consider that maybe there is nothing more you can do to repair this relationship. Maybe instead of trying polyamory, a healthier choice would be a divorce. Keep digging deep to find out, and be very cautious about "adding more" partners while there are still trust issues between you.
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