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Old 02-08-2013, 01:30 AM
lemonhead lemonhead is offline
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Default Putting Feelings on Hold For the Sake of Others in a V

I'm currently seeing a married man, D. We have been seeing each other for a little over three months. He and his wife have been poly for about three years, though she has had one long-term serious relationship and he has not had a serious other relationship yet. My husband and I have been poly for about 13 years. I have had a couple of experiences with other couples that ended badly (can give details if needed), but felt secure in entering into this relationship given that we each have a background in poly and each of us has previously demonstrated the desire and ability to work through our own issues and practice open communication, both things that were lacking in the situations I've been in that got messy.

The background (trying to keep it short) of the relationship is this: D and I had been seeing each other a couple of months, and had not had penetrative sex nor oral yet. We had had numerous sleepovers, made out, cuddling, etc but we were waiting on our test results before going to that next level of risk. Finally, we had both gone for testing and test results came back clean, and we had sex. Unfortunately it turned out that he had promised his wife, P, that he would take certain actions before and after we had sex for the first time (I don't know specifics but they were along the lines of comforting, disclosure, and making sure she had support in place at the time it happened), and when it happened we hadn't actually planned it for that particular night so he did not do these things. This happened right before Christmas and led to a lot of hurt and feeling forgotten on P's part, and a lot of healing and processing for them to do.

Thankfully, we had a meeting and talked through it and P expressed that there are some things D needs to work on as far as communication (I am still not sure of specifics). I chose to step back a fair bit for the month of January, both in the amount of affection/urgency I was communicating to him, and physically - making it clear to him that all of this had brought up anxieties from my past (think along the "homewrecker" internal dialogue track), and that I didn't feel safe emotionally doing anything really intimate.

It was nice, though - we still hung out, went on dates, cuddled at home, talked, shared feelings. Connected. During this time I realized I was falling (or had already fallen) in love.

So here we are in February. To be clear, P is not putting any limits on our relationship, no rules or anything. But I do know (and she has said) that any progression of our relationship will be a bit difficult for her. She has made it clear that she is committed to working through that. She and I are friends and touch base regularly. She says that there are just things D needs to work on as far as communication, and that while it's up to me whether I want to be here or not, that he will still have to work on these things, whether it's through this relationship or another one that comes up in the future.

I had been feeling like I was ready to go back to being physical with him, but then I realized that if we go there again, I will most certainly say, "I love you." I'm barely holding it in as it is and I know that the intimate experience of sex would make it impossible for me not to blurt out. And I feel like the combination of us sleeping together, and me telling him I love him (even though it's honest and obviously not intended to hurt anyone) would cause all sorts of things for P to have to work through. Yes, I know that wouldn't be my fault, but I do have the choice right now of whether to escalate things by sleeping with D.

Much of this comes back to trying to protect myself, though - I feel like, right now, I'm in a spot where I could walk away without being hurt too badly, if I need to. I'm concerned that if I sit on hold (by my own choice) for too long, I'll get frustrated or my heart or brain will rebel by cutting off my feelings. I trust them both and they have been very forthcoming and open, and I hope that that's enough to ensure we won't lose the friendship if this ends (my husband and I have been friends with the two of them for about three years, having met through the local poly group). And realistically I know it'll end at some point regardless (well maybe not, but realistically...), so that's something to consider either way.

I'm now wondering how much longer to wait. Do I wait until I get a clear signal from them that they're doing better? P says these are old issues - what if they don't work through them? I really don't want to be caught in the middle of that. I'm unsure of whether I should make a greater investment, or not... or just wait a few weeks and see.

I'm not a patient person, and I've been really feeling proud of myself so far.
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  #2  
Old 02-14-2013, 01:21 AM
JaneQSmythe JaneQSmythe is offline
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Thanks for posting!

Just a few thoughts as I read your post (don't know if they will be helpful but thought I would share)

Quote:
Originally Posted by lemonhead View Post
...He and his wife have been poly for about three years, though she has had one long-term serious relationship and he has not had a serious other relationship yet. My husband and I have been poly for about 13 years. ...
Thanks for talking about everyone's level of experience because I think it helps to know kind of where everyone is "at" to understand their reactions better. Although they have been poly for 3 years they have been "being poly" from different perspectives. She has experience being the hinge person / the shared sweetie - and balancing time/expectations that way. He has experience being the person sharing their sweetie - and balancing the jealousy / insecurity that often comes with. Now they are each experiencing the "other side" seriously for the first time...it's all new again. They will make mistakes (I know I did, I suspect you did as well) - as long as they take the time to communicate and work on them mistakes can be overcome.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lemonhead View Post
Finally, we had both gone for testing and test results came back clean, and we had sex. Unfortunately it turned out that he had promised his wife, P, that he would take certain actions before and after we had sex for the first time (I don't know specifics but they were along the lines of comforting, disclosure, and making sure she had support in place at the time it happened), and when it happened we hadn't actually planned it for that particular night so he did not do these things. This happened right before Christmas and led to a lot of hurt and feeling forgotten on P's part, and a lot of healing and processing for them to do.

Thankfully, we had a meeting and talked through it and P expressed that there are some things D needs to work on as far as communication (I am still not sure of specifics).
There are a couple of ways to look at / handle this. I'll give my perspective. I think that you have to be rather careful to let them work on their relationship foibles themselves. The fact that you were not aware of what her pre/after care requirements are from him is actually FINE from my perspective. That is HIS responsibility and he needs to really OWN it. These are agreements/boundaries/expectations that HE has with HER.

Yes, if you are aware of a boundary and know that he is close to breaking it then, as a friend, you can be supportive of him and encourage him to keep those promises. But it is not YOUR job to babysit his relationship with his wife and enforce their boundaries FOR her. It is your job to respect their relationship and follow the agreements/boundaries that YOU have agreed to. (There are other valid perspectives - my husband and I actually do not agree on this one.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by lemonhead View Post
I chose to step back a fair bit for the month of January, both in the amount of affection/urgency I was communicating to him, and physically - making it clear to him that all of this had brought up anxieties from my past (think along the "homewrecker" internal dialogue track), and that I didn't feel safe emotionally doing anything really intimate.
...
To be clear, P is not putting any limits on our relationship, no rules or anything. But I do know (and she has said) that any progression of our relationship will be a bit difficult for her. She has made it clear that she is committed to working through that.
...
etc.
So there are two parts to this part of the post:
1.) the effect of escalating the relationship on her
2.) the effect of escalating the relationship on you

It seems that she is not really pressing you to wait - she has been open and honest about the fact that this will be difficult, but that she is willing to do the work on her end. I think that you recognize that, as she hits rough patches, it WILL affect your relationship with D - he may need to take more time with her, he may need to ask you to slow down or pause while they work on certain things, etc.

Something that doesn't seem as clear is whether D realizes all of this and is willing to do what HE needs to do to navigate this well? What are his feelings/responses to "escalating the relationship"? Again, I don't think that it is your responsibility to decide how things need to progress in terms of their relationship, but I think you might feel a lot "safer" if you knew that he had a solid plan on dealing with issues as they arise and doing the work on their "old issues" that will come into play.

It's good that you and P can talk and are friends. But, just as many people advise against the "hinge" always playing the "middle man" in metamour communication, I also think that it is a bad idea for the "arms" to try to "fix" the things that ARE the hinge's responsibility. (You don't want her to be coming to you later and saying "He was supposed to do this-and-that, but he didn't" and you saying "Oh, sorry, I didn't know - I'll make sure he does that-and-this" in the future." You are his girlfriend/lover, not his mommy/babysitter.)


Quote:
Originally Posted by lemonhead View Post
I'm now wondering how much longer to wait. Do I wait until I get a clear signal from them that they're doing better? P says these are old issues - what if they don't work through them? I really don't want to be caught in the middle of that. I'm unsure of whether I should make a greater investment, or not... or just wait a few weeks and see.
This is up to you...or you and D. It sounds like you have a good handle on where P is, you know what your issues are, sounds like a conversation with D is in order to come up with a tentative plan. Could go like this:
"D, I am interested in ramping up what we have started but I have concerns that you and P are not in a good place for that right now. Are YOU interested in starting things back up again or do you need more time to set things right with P? I'm worried that if we cool off much further then I am going to start suppressing my feelings, so I don't get hurt. On the other hand, I am worried that if we don't do this well that we will lose you two as friends. What are your thoughts?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by lemonhead View Post
I'm not a patient person, and I've been really feeling proud of myself so far.
You SHOULD feel proud! I think that you have been very patient and considerate. But you don't have to stretch that out indefinitely. If you can only maintain a "holding pattern" for so long - then that is a personal boundary for you. (You describe yourself as not patient - yet you are talking about weeks/months here - you aren't giving him a 48 hour time frame to make up his mind and nagging him for a decision. It is OK to ask how much time someone needs and then bow out if it is too long for you.*) If now is not the time for you to have a relationship with D then ... it isn't. Sometimes we meet the "right person" at the "wrong time"...that's ok.

JaneQ

*PS. And sometimes life turns out funny - at one point (as I saw things were starting to implode from my jackassery) I told Dude that I had deluded myself and that this was not going to work. He asked if I thought we could ever have what we had been envisioning...I said "Ask me in 10 years." (i.e. no hope, Dude, get on with your life). 6 months later (after a bunch of stuff happened) we were on track, this time with MrS sharing the same vision...who'd have thought?
__________________
Me: poly bi female, in an "open-but-not-looking" Vee-plus with -
MrS: hetero polyflexible male, live-in husband (21+ yrs)
Dude: hetero poly male, live-in boyfriend (3+ yrs) and MrS's best friend
Lotus: poly bi female, "it's complicated" relationships with Dude/JaneQ/MrS (1+ years)
TT: poly bi male, married to Lotus, FB with JaneQ
VV and MsJ: bi-women with male primaries, LTR LDR FWBs to JaneQ


My poly blogs here:
The Journey of JaneQSmythe
The Notebook of JaneQSmythe
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  #3  
Old 02-14-2013, 03:06 AM
lemonhead lemonhead is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2013
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Thanks so much for your response. It offers me some needed perspective. I realized today that although I've been a metamour, my only real dealings with metamours have been in really messy situations that didn't offer any positive learning experiences (things to work on... anxieties to overcome... but not so much constructive learning). So I think some of the issue here is just me getting used to letting them worry about their relationship and me simply being a good metamour and girlfriend instead of worrying about how the two of them are doing all the time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JaneQSmythe View Post
Now they are each experiencing the "other side" seriously for the first time...it's all new again. They will make mistakes (I know I did, I suspect you did as well) - as long as they take the time to communicate and work on them mistakes can be overcome.
Good point, and very valid. I need to remember that there will be bumps along that road but they have both shown the desire and ability to work through those bumps, so it's a matter of letting that happen.



Quote:
Originally Posted by JaneQSmythe View Post
The fact that you were not aware of what her pre/after care requirements are from him is actually FINE from my perspective. That is HIS responsibility and he needs to really OWN it. These are agreements/boundaries/expectations that HE has with HER.

Yes, if you are aware of a boundary and know that he is close to breaking it then, as a friend, you can be supportive of him and encourage him to keep those promises. But it is not YOUR job to babysit his relationship with his wife and enforce their boundaries FOR her. It is your job to respect their relationship and follow the agreements/boundaries that YOU have agreed to. (There are other valid perspectives - my husband and I actually do not agree on this one.)
I can see both sides. I do agree with you, and I think you're right... but I think the other element is making sure that there is some communication between all three of us, so at least I'm on the same track and can manage my expectations. We are working on that, though, and as far as I know it seems to be coming along well.



Quote:
Originally Posted by JaneQSmythe View Post
Could go like this:
"D, I am interested in ramping up what we have started but I have concerns that you and P are not in a good place for that right now. Are YOU interested in starting things back up again or do you need more time to set things right with P? I'm worried that if we cool off much further then I am going to start suppressing my feelings, so I don't get hurt. On the other hand, I am worried that if we don't do this well that we will lose you two as friends. What are your thoughts?"
Yeah, that would have been a good idea. Sigh. What happened was this:
On Friday night a mutual friend of all of ours and a well-loved member of the local poly/queer/feminist/etc community died suddenly. He left behind a pregnant wife and young child. We were (are) all reeling. In the middle of the night (always a great plan, esp. for me /sarcasm) I realized that I had not been telling D that I love him, which I was holding off on both out of fear and to give the whole situation some time and space, but that I couldn't in good conscience keep my feelings a secret any longer, because hey, we could all die at any time. I have a policy of telling people I love them and have been breaking that with him for the past few weeks. So what did I do? Messaged P asking her if she could be okay with me making that choice. Argh. Wrong thing to do. Yes, I should have had a conversation with D. I won't go into details but let's just say this message made P really uncomfortable, and then the whole situation was way more uncomfortable than before, even. I believe it's been resolved, and I've promised both of them repeatedly that from now on I will take my relationship issues with D, to D.

So, we are working on moving forward again... both physically and emotionally. I'm hoping that it becomes more comfortable and natural for us!

Thanks again for your response.
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Old 02-14-2013, 03:44 AM
JaneQSmythe JaneQSmythe is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lemonhead View Post
Yeah, that would have been a good idea. Sigh. What happened was this:
On Friday night a mutual friend of all of ours and a well-loved member of the local poly/queer/feminist/etc community died suddenly. He left behind a pregnant wife and young child. We were (are) all reeling. In the middle of the night (always a great plan, esp. for me /sarcasm) I realized that I had not been telling D that I love him, which I was holding off on both out of fear and to give the whole situation some time and space, but that I couldn't in good conscience keep my feelings a secret any longer, because hey, we could all die at any time. I have a policy of telling people I love them and have been breaking that with him for the past few weeks. So what did I do? Messaged P asking her if she could be okay with me making that choice. Argh. Wrong thing to do. Yes, I should have had a conversation with D. I won't go into details but let's just say this message made P really uncomfortable, and then the whole situation was way more uncomfortable than before, even. I believe it's been resolved, and I've promised both of them repeatedly that from now on I will take my relationship issues with D, to D.
Hey, it's okay. Sometimes life jumps out and smacks you - and your perspective changes. Somebody dies - that's big, you see your mortality looming, what if something happened to one of you and you never said it - and regretted it forever.? OK - in the short term, the response was not smooth, ruffles and ripples happened. You guys will sort it out. In the long term it may turn out that being brought face-to-face with your raw feelings was exactly what ended up prompting them to sort some shit out. In the meantime, you learned something about how you need to relate to people you are involved with on various levels - let them own their own stuff, talk to the right folks about the right issues, etc.

One of the reasons my "Ask me in 10 years" (from my earlier post) turned into us all living together 6 mos later as a happy 3 person "chosen family" was because my husband, MrS, had a car accident that COULD have been really, really bad. Thankfully no one was hurt - but that experience shifted his perspective. He realized, on a gut-level, that life is short and we should do what we can to make our lives as love-filled as possible, to see the ones that we care about happy and cared for. That if something HAD happened to him that night that he would feel BETTER knowing that there was someone there caring for me, grieving with me...and loving me. Someone that he knew and trusted, someone that loved him too. (Sorry, I'm tearing up just thinking about those weeks, the conversations we had between the two of us, the conversations we had with Dude - how privileged I felt(feel)to have someone love me THAT much.)

We never know what would have been the outcome if we had made other choices - we often think "Oh, I should have done this-and-such - and it would have turned out thus-and-so-on way." But you DON'T know - you can't. So, you make your choices the best way that you can with the information that you have and you play out the hand, making more choices at each turn, and you learn and grow as you go.

May your Journey be fulfilling.

JaneQ
__________________
Me: poly bi female, in an "open-but-not-looking" Vee-plus with -
MrS: hetero polyflexible male, live-in husband (21+ yrs)
Dude: hetero poly male, live-in boyfriend (3+ yrs) and MrS's best friend
Lotus: poly bi female, "it's complicated" relationships with Dude/JaneQ/MrS (1+ years)
TT: poly bi male, married to Lotus, FB with JaneQ
VV and MsJ: bi-women with male primaries, LTR LDR FWBs to JaneQ


My poly blogs here:
The Journey of JaneQSmythe
The Notebook of JaneQSmythe
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