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Old 11-02-2013, 01:00 PM
Villo Villo is offline
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 10
Default How to watch from the sidelines

Hi all, thank you in advance for reading this. Slight background info, my wife S and I have been practicing poly for about a year and a half. Her current boyfriend J is married and they've been dating for about a year. Over the last 5 months J and his wife C moved further away. Still driving distance, just a few hours away. This completely changed S and J's dynamic because they were used to seeing each other every week. This has also caused a lot of stress and hard conversations for them. The other thing that started happening was they began having arguments all the time. Every few weeks either J and C are fighting, J and S are fighting, or its all of them. Every time I try to support my wife through the potential breakups. She cries, stays depressed for a while, then they finally talk and everything goes back to their "normal".

The thing that has not been going back to normal is how I feel about their relationship. Every time I see what he puts her through, I want her to break up with him more and more. I don't say it. I told her once before after a fight last month that I don't think its a healthy relationship for her to be in. But she keeps saying that she can't lose him. It's extremely frustrating. I know it's not my relationship with him. I know I should just focus on my relationship with her. I can't get over the fact that it keeps going bad and she keeps going back. I need to get over the resentment I feel after every time they fight and I have to help pick up the pieces.

How do you remain supportive of your spouse when you don't think they're in a good relationship?
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Old 11-02-2013, 02:21 PM
Indygirl78 Indygirl78 is offline
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 30

I think this must be what many relatives feel when they see a loved one struggling in a relationship that may not be best. But really you have already told her how you feel about it. At this point all you can do is support her and be there for her. If it's affecting the relationship between the two of you, then you need to tell her that as well. Eventually this relationship will run its course if the distance is proving too much. GL!
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Old 11-02-2013, 08:10 PM
JaneQSmythe JaneQSmythe is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Pennsyl-tucky
Posts: 1,898

This is an excellent question and one I would like to see more discussion of.

I don't have any first hand knowledge, as of yet (Dude and Lotus have not had a disagreement that I was privy to...at least not one that wasn't resolved before I heard of it.)

Mrs, Dude and I all live together - so disagreements between any of us are right out there for the non-involved person to see.

MrS has been really, really good at keeping himself out of disagreements between Dude and I as we (a newer dyad than MrS and I) learned to negotiate our relationship. He will provide support and, when asked, observations from the sidelines. On occasion, however, if the disagreement becomes heated/feels disrespectful/or we have resorted to sarcasm/personal attacks he will tell us we need to stop and take a break. Only once or twice has he ever stepped in and "taken a side".

Dude is NOT good at keeping his comments to himself if MrS and I are having a disagreement (he has to have his opinion heard on every blessed topic - even ones he knows nothing about!). Luckily, this is much less common (MrS and I fight about once every 18 mos - unfortunately it can get very heated).

Since, in your situation, you don't have the "right in your face" aspect that we have I think that all you can do is tell your wife how you are feeling. Say that you are willing to support her but that you feel that her repeatedly bringing negativity from her other relationship back to you is hurting your relationship with her and you need to set some boundaries.

For instance:
1.) You don't need to be involved AT ALL all with regard to arguments between J&C - those are theirs to own.
2.) You need to hear LESS about arguments between J&S or J&S&C than you are getting right now.
3.) Limit the time you two spend talking about her other relationship. Increase the amount of time that is just about YOU. For instance - a weekly "date" night out where all talk of other people is banned.

Just some thoughts.

JaneQ(Me): poly bi female, in an "open-but-not-looking" V-plus with -
MrS: hetero polyflexible male, live-in husband (25+ yrs)
Dude: hetero poly male, live-in boyfriend (7+ yrs) and MrS's BFF
SLeW: platonic hetero girlfriend and BFF
MrClean: hetero mono male, almost lover-friend to me, ex-FWBs to SLeW, friends with MrS
+ "others" = FBs, FWBs, lover-friends, platonic G/BFs, boytoys, etc.

My poly blogs here:
The Journey of JaneQSmythe
The Notebook of JaneQSmythe
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Old 11-02-2013, 08:28 PM
Vinccenzo Vinccenzo is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 373

This might sound like a cold approach to some but its what worked for me.

I was encouraged to get along with and accept a metamour. It was my partner's first longish term relationship. I put in work to accept it and I accomplished what was asked. When problems arose, it made it difficult for me to continue accepting. I asked to not be brought into it and not to be asked for advise. It was not my relationship. This meant my exposure to her was less, I had less opportunity to see the good of her. Under those circumstances, being his sounding board for conflicts would paint her in an unfair and negative light. If she was a bad person then being supportive and accepting would be pointless to me and I didn't want to get caught up in that while they ultimately could or would work it out and continue a relationship.
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Old 11-02-2013, 09:07 PM
GalaGirl GalaGirl is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 6,321

Sigh. I am sorry you struggle.

Sounds like "sloppy hinge" and "boundaries" and "polymath" issues to me.

Behavior done, not done. On my side of the fence. What they do inside their bubble (DH + GF) is their issues. I don't know how you and wife mapped out your polyshipping agreements.

But if I were experiencing "leaky hinge?" I would call him into account for not tending to hinge boundaries well and allowing their issues to leak over here on to me/us.

And as a result, my needs and the needs of our marriage are not being met. I would ask
  • What do you plan to do with me about restoring order in our own relationship tier of the polymath?
  • What do you plan to do with me about being present and attentive to our own relationship and giving it some time and care?
  • What do you plan to do to keep your (you +BF) tier problems on that side of the fence so they are not leaking over on to this side to this degree?

How do you remain supportive of your spouse when you don't think they're in a good relationship?
  • I don't have to remain supportive at all. (Ex: " I don't like the constant upset you and BF co-create. I am not willing to participate in polyship with you and him if this continues in this fashion. Please resolve it.")
  • I could change the focus back to US and reaffirm boundaries. (Ex: "I am not crazy about the frequent hoohas over there leaking on to me/us. Please stop telling me about them and please firm up your hinge boundaries. Be present in OUR time over here and deal in US. Spend your time with BF dealing in the (You + BF) things. I am not willing to be your sounding board for BF problems -- I am in the polyship therefore I am in kvetching ring here. Kvetch OUT instead. Not on me. ")
  • I could change HOW I support and what AMOUNT. (I am willing to still hear about your BF problems on (me and you) time. But I am no longer willing to hear 100 gallons every week. Cut it back to 10 gallons. Tell other people the rest. You are overloading me.)
  • I could tell wife I am supportive of her having a healthy, approrpriate relationship with BF, but I am NOT supportive of how they are going about it with all these leaky conflicts. I could offer suggestions if she's willing to hear it for how they could improve in their behavior. (If willing to receive that feedback, I could give wife ideas.)

What you do in one tier of the polymath affects the other tiers. That's a given. A polyship is only as healthy as all the other little mini relationships inside it.

It's like sitting in a waterbed together and someone FLINGING themselves on. Makes waves and sends all other people bobbing about even if they were all just sitting there minding their own business reading a book.

A spouse can be a friend, a confidante. But everyone has a limit for how much load they can take. You seem to be full up.

It is unreasonable for the hinge wife to expect her hubby to take on a full load she herself cannot handle alone. Maybe she doesn't actually expect that but in her own upset cannot see that you are full. She is not a mind reader., You could TELL HER you are full.

If your personal limitation is that you are willing and able to hold a 10 gallon Cliff Note summary every month? You could ask her to stop serving you 100 gallons at a time. Either pace it out so you have time to process the first 10 gallons away (fewer hoohas, spread further apart) or give some of the load to someone ELSE and stop drowning you with it all.

That is not good for the marriage.

That is also trespassing on your goodwill to keep on participating in polyship if her interpersonal skills / conflict resolutions skills are poor elsewhere.

She and BF keep having hoohas? Well, what they are doing to solve it is not working? They could solve it a different way and/or get appropriate HELP to solve it and they both go see a counselor. Or they accept limit reached and reframe their relationship or they choose to end it. That part is all on them.

But on your side of the fence with your wife? The nutshell?
  • You could inform your wife that you expect her to stop leaking (her + BF) problems all over you to this degree. State what you ARE willing to hear, if anything.
  • That you expect her help attend to health of your shared marriage. She is allowing herself to be caught up in (wife + BF) issues and neglecting her other relationships.
  • You could ask her what changes she plans to make (if any) to her behavior now that you have brought it to her attention.

Then proceed accordingly.


Last edited by GalaGirl; 11-02-2013 at 09:43 PM.
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Old 11-02-2013, 09:38 PM
crackedpleasures crackedpleasures is offline
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: Metro DC Area
Posts: 19

I think my question would be: what's your contact/disclosure arrangement. For instance, in my relationship, if he were being the messy hinge it would be his responsibility to fix it. Our arrangement doesn't have me talking with the gf a lot. I suppose I could stick my foot in but it would likely cause unrest.
Love. Love is a verb. Love is a doing word, fearless on my breath.
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Old 11-03-2013, 03:23 AM
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LovingRadiance LovingRadiance is offline
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 5,510

We had a lot of complications with that in the first couple years. As the hinge, I had to learn that my issues with one partner, aren't the business of the other partner.
There are topics I can ask one or the other for advice on. But-they don't need to hear the bitchy shit about each other. That does nothing but cause conflict.

It's much like in-laws/parents.
It's not bright to whine and cry to your parents about your spouse. It's going to give them the idea that this person is harmful to you (which may or may not be true) and they aren't going to want this person around you. It damages THEIR relationship with your spouse as in-laws and it damages their relationship with YOU as your parent. Better to pick someone to confide in, who has NOTHING to do with it and can stay out of it.

If I have a complaint I need to vent about regarding one of my partners, I take it to my best friend who knows ALL of my faults and adores both of my partners. Because I know she's going to tell me "LR, you love them with their faults-they love you with yours, lets go for a walk so you can chill out". She isn't going to be dragged into the middle or feel protective of me or anything.
Partners, by nature are going to feel protective.

In your shoes-I suggest telling your wife-stop venting to you.
"Love As Thou Wilt"
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Old 11-03-2013, 05:41 AM
sparklepop sparklepop is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 467

Hi Villo,

This is an interesting question. I'm going to agree with most of the other input, with a few of my own twists

The first twist is speaking as a person who has been on the other side of my partner's disapproval of my choices / other relationships / conduct in those relationships.

It is heartbreaking when you are not only faced with trouble in one relationship, but you also have to face difficulties with your other partner because of it. You can end up with a situation where your wife feels that she has to break up with J, which will undoubtedly fester resentment later on; especially if it keeps happening. You can also end up with a situation where your wife feels too afraid to to be honest with you and suffers in silence, for fear that you will tell her to pull the plug on her relationship. That can create a barrier between the two of you and, again, more resentment.

Ultimately, yes - her relationship is her relationship. You cannot, and should not try to (in my opinion), control it in any way.

Where I believe you can have a say is on the things that affect you and your relationship with her.

If her constant cycles of depression and crying, then going back to normal, significantly disrupt your relationship, your frustration and unhappiness would be understandable for certain. Of course, you have to be careful here that you don't start looking for signs of issues in your relationship as a scapegoat for the fact that you don't think he's healthy for her. You have to be really honest with yourself.

Boundaries are an important thing. You need to set yours. Find something that works. If you don't want to hear about the arguments all the time (which would be understandable), trial some techniques. You can try all sorts of things... ask her to go to her friends first; give her a one-hour-per-day venting session; agree that it's acceptable for you to say that you're not up for talking about it at any given point.

If it's genuinely, 100%, protectiveness and if he really is unhealthy for her, the best possible way you can nurture her is to: a) let her make her own mistakes and grow from them; b) be there for her, without enabling her unhealthy choices; and c) help her to stay in the relationship in a *healthy* way.

This is something my GF helped me greatly with. Could your wife, for example, set up certain boundaries with her boyfriend? Does she have her guard constantly down and is she leaving herself open to constant drama and turmoil? Can you think of productive things to suggest to her?

There are two more things that I think are important to consider.

The first is your own feelings. You real feelings. Search deep within yourself and ask yourself: are you being 100% altruistic? I don't believe that anyone ever can be. If it's genuine protectiveness, take a deep look at it and see if there is any part of you that sees her as your possession; albeit a treasured and adored one. Could it be that you don't like him, or something about their relationship - jealousy, envy, or anything else? Could it be that you are guilty of being simply too judgmental - of her, of others, of him? I'm not saying at all that I see these things - but I am saying that they are worth looking at, in order to deal with the issue you have come to ask advice on.

The final thing to remember relates to arguments themselves. Whilst a couple constantly fighting can be a sign of an unhealthy relationship, it's not necessarily always the case. Some couples rarely fight and are as unhealthy as hell. For example, I just broke up with my secondary (for the second time). I adored her and we had a beautiful relationship; we were extremely similar, never really ever fell out, saw things the same way almost all of the time. But it was an extremely unhealthy relationship, because I used to let her take a lot from me without giving back. She also constantly kept me in limbo and was never 100% emotionally available. In this case, I failed to look at the health of the relationship, because of the absence of arguments. In contrast, my GF and I fight at least once a month in general. Sometimes we have rough patches where we fight once a week, or even every few days. But we also have truckloads of passion and fire between us - and we challenge each other. It's painful at times; but the challenges lead to growth.

What I'm saying is that some relationships are beautiful, tranquil rivers and some are like a fireworks show. To me, healthy means growing as people, growing as a couple, and generally feeling a balance of give, take, support and respect. There are things that your wife clearly feels she needs from J - could those things genuinely be good things? Are their arguments productive - are they trying to work things out with each argument?

Ultimately, I would suggest knowing your boundaries, knowing your reasons for discomfort, and if you still disapprove of the relationship (which is completely fine), then find ways to help her make healthy *choices* - whether those choices lead her to stay with him, or lead her to leave him.
Me: 32f, evolving

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without." ~ Buddha
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Old 11-04-2013, 04:32 PM
Villo Villo is offline
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 10

Thank you all for the great advice. There are a lot of things to think about. I also find that one of biggest hangup's is with him. It is also the first time I'm seeing her "deal" with a relationship. I've been with her for almost 10 years and I never have seen her handle a relationship other than ours. I have bias and opinions based on how she handles our relationship. I'm going to try and take a step back. Just focus on her and I, and my other relationships. Thank you again.
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