A midlife crisis, or...? (HELP)

Polyenvy

New member
Greetings.

I'm a 37 y/o cis het male from Pennsylvania. I am married with three children. Christian background. Monogamous.

Except ... I don't want to be.

Starting around the same time as COVID I have desperately wanted to branch out. I do not love my wife any less and I do not want to lose her. I almost did, over the question of polyamory. I moved out for three months and lived in an apartment, fostered some online relationships (nothing in person ... All more emotional than sexual). I returned to my wife because I just felt I couldn't lose her and "for the kids" etc.

But this keeps eating away at me. I want more experiences. I want to be close, intimate with others. But as long as my spouse isn't on board, I know it isn't even worth talking about ... Trying to convince her further seems more than pushy ... At the same time, I've maintained communication with three other women, which wife knows about, though I don't think she's aware how deep the connections are there (a lot of support and encouragement, as well as role-play).

I feel like, if I pursue polyamory, my only reasonable first step is divorce. And I hate that. I hate being at these crossroads. And I keep asking myself ... Is this temporary? If I just "wait it out," would I be content with monogamy?

Anyone with similar experience, or anyone that has ANY advice to offer, even if it's hard words ... I'd really appreciate it. I truly wish I figured this all out at a younger age. I feel like I put myself and my spouse in a lose-lose scenario.

- "PolyEnvy"
 
Horrible position to be in! It’s so hard. If you really want to stay with your wife and try to find a polyamorous balance I think it’s possible - with a lot of patience!

My husband has been incredibly understanding with me. He’s understood all the general theory, my specific reasons, the benefits to us both - but has still found it very difficult to accept.

He was always adamant he wasn’t interested in doing anything himself, and I think he’s probably right, but he has now had a couple of dates with others. That’s helped him feel the excitement for himself, see how it inspires him to try new things to impress someone else in a way he doesn’t need to for me, and to understand it didn’t make him love me any less.

We’re still not entirely where I’d like to be (Covid has slowed things down but probably in a good way) but he does understand and accept what I want. He would still love me to say “I’ve had my fill, let’s be monogamous” but he knows it’s unlikely to happen.

A counselling session with a poly friendly counsellor was brilliant for us and made us both feel understood and validated.

Hang in there!
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I am sorry you struggle.

Anyone with similar experience, or anyone that has ANY advice to offer, even if it's hard words ... I'd really appreciate it. I truly wish I figured this all out at a younger age. I feel like I put myself and my spouse in a lose-lose scenario.

I see you wish that. But it took as long as it did to figure this out.

So now that you HAVE figured it out... and you see this is a lose-lose scenario? What's the road block?

To me you sound like you are in stages of grief. Maybe thinking about lingering in the marriage "in case it changes" -- bargaining stage. Not yet at full acceptance. Though maybe you see the writing on the all, and the idea of change is scary.

You could certainly remain in the marriage for a while more. But you have to put a clock on it.

I feel like, if I pursue polyamory, my only reasonable first step is divorce. And I hate that. I hate being at these crossroads. And I keep asking myself ... Is this temporary? If I just "wait it out," would I be content with monogamy?

How much longer do you want to give it waiting it out? Another year? 5 years? Def not 10 years right?

But this keeps eating away at me. I want more experiences. I want to be close, intimate with others. But as long as my spouse isn't on board, I know it isn't even worth talking about ... Trying to convince her further seems more than pushy

I think if you feel this strongly about it? You could see a counselor to help you with anticipatory grief, and help you become more at peace with the idea of being a divorced family.

If you wife is monogamous, it's not fair to keep taking up her sweetie spot if you can't deliver what she wants. If she wants monogamy, asking her to accept poly goes against her grain.

It's not fair to you either to keep putting you in a box you don't want to be in. If you want poly, you asking you to do monogamy goes against your grain.

If you are now incompatible? A divorce ends the marriage. The relationship shape that doesn't fit. It doesn't end the family.

She's still going to be your coparent. And hopefully becomes a good ex and maybe even friend. Relationship shapes that fit better. Shapes that allow her to be FREE FROM poly stuff she doesn't want. Shapes that allows you to be FREE TO pursue poly stuff you do want.

The kids? Will still be your kids. And you both hopefully keep doing the parenting and show up for the kid things over the years - birthdays, graduations, weddings, etc.

Besides... what if this happens to the kids? If what you teach is to subsume yourself to the marriage so that neither you nor wife are really happy in it how's that help the kids any? You value "save the marriage" over "save the people?" How are they supposed to learn how to do an amicable divorce? Or if one of them ends up married and discovers they are poly? Then what?

Galagirl
 

Polyenvy

New member
Thanks to those of you who responded. But, just link my mind does, the two responses I get suggest two separate courses of action. 1) hold out, see if spouse may understand over time. 2) prepare for divorce, it's the only ethical thing to do.

I looked elsewhere for terminology, couldn't find it. Galagirl, what do you mean by "sweetie spot"?

And the problem here is that she would argue I am capable of giving her what she wants, only that I am unwilling to do so. To her, and to my past understanding of self, this is all very much an issue of morality (i.e., that monogamy is moral and polyamory is outright immoral). She seems to have no willingness, no flexibility, no sense of nuance. I even showed her that TED Talk video on being "Monogam-ish" and she flipped out.

As for counseling -- I mean, I regularly see a therapist, and she's aware of the struggle, but generally doesn't offer advice guidance or answers, more reflection, for this difficult issue. I also am a therapist (have yet to deal with a situation involving polyamory, I mostly work with teens and family units). So there's that. :p
 
You took a long time to reach this point yourself, and you want it! It’s going to take her longer to get her head round something that’s not her own desire. I’d recommend her reading Untrue by Wednesday Martin as a way to explore her own desire a bit more rather than her trying to understand yours.

My husband posted a thread like this a while back and had several responses suggested that a break up might be the answer. They served to make us both more determined to find a way!

by sweetie spot she means primary partner
 

Polyenvy

New member
Thanks for the help Pigwidgeon. I spoke more with my wife this morning. She agreed to listen to the audiobook version of Untrue. I told her I'd let her explore the concepts, thoughts, ethics without me pressuring her.

I'm still nervous that it's a lost cause. But I appreciate all your help!
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
Thanks to those of you who responded. But, just link my mind does, the two responses I get suggest two separate courses of action. 1) hold out, see if spouse may understand over time. 2) prepare for divorce, it's the only ethical thing to do.

Similar advice actually.

If you decide to "wait it out?" Do it with a time limit in mind. Because you can't be waiting to "feel better doing monogamy" for the next 10, 20 years, right?

If at the end of whatever time limit you choose? If you still feel crap? Still eating away at you? Still want more experiences? Want to be close, intimate with others? Could decide to part ways so both of you can move on.

She can be FREE FROM poly stuff she does not want. You can be FREE TO pursue poly stuff you do want.

Dragging it out doesn't sound great to me. Neither sounds esp happy here in this limbo space.

I looked elsewhere for terminology, couldn't find it. Galagirl, what do you mean by "sweetie spot"?

I mean a monogamous person wants 1 sweetie. 1 romantic partner. If you are taking that spot up in her life because you are married to her? And she's busy trying to "make you fit the mold" rather than accepting this doesn't work and moving on to seek a more compatible sweetie? She might be stuck in her own anticipatory grief -- like bargaining stage, still trying to make it go.

You might have to be the one to pull the plug.

And the problem here is that she would argue I am capable of giving her what she wants, only that I am unwilling to do so. To her, and to my past understanding of self, this is all very much an issue of morality (i.e., that monogamy is moral and polyamory is outright immoral). She seems to have no willingness, no flexibility, no sense of nuance. I even showed her that TED Talk video on being "Monogam-ish" and she flipped out.

So you know she's is NOT up for poly. And for some people? Poly IS immoral. Where for others, it is not.

And she might be dealing with her own anticipatory grief with denial, anger, bargaining -- all the rest of the stages. Because if she cannot MAKE YOU "see the light" on this? It's not going to work.

Does the language even matter at this point?
  • You think you cannot give her continued monogamy because deep down you are polyamorous.
  • She thinks you could give her monogamy, you just don't want to.
Bottom line?

You come from disparate viewpoints and values that do not align. And you are not joyful right now doing monogamy. People who are happy in monogamous relationships don't say it "eats away" at them.

As for counseling -- I mean, I regularly see a therapist, and she's aware of the struggle, but generally doesn't offer advice guidance or answers, more reflection, for this difficult issue.

Maybe you seek a different type -- like a marriage counselor or grief counselor. You are the one who has to figure out what you need.

You could ask yourself these things from Scarleteen. While written for teens, it's straight to the point.

Should you stay…​

  • You and the other person very much want to be in the relationship you're in together
  • Most of the relationship makes everyone in it happy most of the time
  • You and the other person are getting most of what each of you wants and needs
  • You look forward to seeing each other, share a lot of laughter and joy, and find the relationship makes you feel good about yourself
  • Both of you feel the give-and-take is mutual
  • Communication is open and works well
  • The relationship is and has been physically and emotionally healthy and safe for everyone
  • Everyone in the relationship is, or at least seems, very invested in it
  • You and the other person have more good things to say about each other, and things you like about each other, than criticisms or things you dislike
  • You resolve conflict well together
  • The relationship feels like a place where everyone can be themselves, be challenged and grow in positive ways, and is accepted, cared for and supported
  • You or the other person don't feel done

…or should you go?​

  • You or the other person don't really want to be in the relationship anymore or feel apathetic about it
  • The relationship makes anyone in it unhappy a lot of the time
  • You or the other person are not getting most of what you want or need
  • Seeing each other isn't something one or both of you looks forward to anymore, there's little laughter or joy, and one or both of you finds the relationship makes you feel bad about yourself
  • You or the other person feels like they give way more than they get
  • Communication has broken down, stopped or feels impossible
  • The relationship is or has been physically or emotionally unhealthy or unsafe for anyone in it
  • Anyone in the relationship isn't or doesn't seem invested in it
  • You and the other person have more bad things to say about each other, and things you dislike about each other, than good things or things you like
  • You don't resolve conflict well together or feel only one of you is trying to fix things
  • The relationship feels like a place where someone wants to change the other, where positive challenges and growth have stopped happening or never happened, and/or one or both people aren't being accepting, caring or supportive
  • You're only or mostly staying in it out of guilt
  • You or the other person feels done
AND...
  • Is this the right relationship for you in your life now, or was it only right in the past?
  • Are you staying in because this feels good, or because this feels familiar?
  • Are you afraid of change in your life or of being alone or single? Is this relationship keeping you from needed change or growth?
  • Do you feel like letting go means you failed? Are you staying to try and prove something to yourself or someone else?
  • Are you staying because you feel guilty about having been sexual in something other than a lifelong relationship?
  • Are you choosing to stay because you've become a partner's caretaker or counselor rather than their partner?
  • Are you staying because any relationship seems better than no relationship, or because you're afraid this is the only chance you'll have for this kind of relationship?
  • Are you staying because it's what the other person wants or says they need, even if it's not what you want and need?
  • Are you staying because you made some kind of promise that you know you can't keep or don't want to, but feel guilty about breaking?
  • Are you staying in figuring you'll just wait and see if something better comes along, and stay if it doesn't?

As a therapist? I wonder if you don't already know it? That love alone is not enough to sustain a relationship.

Love alone doesn't mean deep compatibility. There has to be other things -- similar values, wanting the same things out of life, etc. And married couples do and can grow apart.

Not trying to be mean... Just saying that for this to get any better? You have to figure out what you want to be doing.

So if you decide you want to "wait and see?" Put a time limit on it. Because you can't be waiting for decades on the fence about it.

Life is not a dress rehearsal. You only get the one.

Galagirl
 

TinCup

Member
I've maintained communication with three other women, which wife knows about, though I don't think she's aware how deep the connections are
Do you feel you are representing your idea of ethical here?

To her, and to my past understanding of self, this is all very much an issue of morality (i.e., that monogamy is moral and polyamory is outright immoral)
Due societal normativity or actual introspection and choice? When I hear someone tell me that ENM is not ethical/immoral I just assume they haven't really put thought into their answer. I mean, ethical is the first descriptive word.

So, my question to her would be whether she has made a conscious choice for monogamy. If not, maybe get an introduction from The Smart Girls Guide To Polyamory and mull it over a bit. Of course she doesn't have to do any of this and she can choose monogamy for any reason she chooses. Accept it for her design that best fits her future happiness. It's a valid and common choice.

You design your happiness.

Anyone with similar experience
Well, I'm pretty much where you are except older and married longer. It was about a year ago that I brought up this thing in me. My wife's first response was "no way!, but we should talk about it." She has embraced the work necessary to understand and hasn't yet made her decision but things don't look grim. (And we do talk about it.)
 

3908

Member
Polyenvy,

welcome to the forum. my circumstances could be similar to yours.
I am in a Christian marriage married almost 10 years, i have been talking to my wife for months about being interested in poly. it was 2020 that i realized what im interested in, but had my first interest in it about 20 years ago in my 20s and talked to my first wife about it. back then i called it swinging, but it was an interest of kitchen table poly, as the other 2 people would have been my close friend and his wife. nothing happened back then.

My 2nd wife knows I've been on poly forums, and we have at times had arguments, she says i shouldn't feed the interest (surfing the forums), or other variants of calling poly unhealthy behavior, her response to me saying I'm poly could be in line with telling a Christian that I'm gay. she has even accused me of hating God, lol ok, no.

shes said my interest in poly is very selfish, my response was that im ok with her having a boyfriend but she said she has no interest, still thinks im selfish. she also said she did not sign up for this when we got married, had she known i was poly she would never married me.

she has threatened divorce, even tho i had done nothing with any woman. i told her im not interested in sex, just a woman to have an emotional connection to and share more affection. she did her research on mostly Christian websites and determined that poly is all about sex, i said it really was not what im interested in, but it will be she says.

I have shared with her that shes not that affectionate (she does not deny this), and my primary love language is physical touch. and the idea in poly world that one person can not provide all the needs of a spouse.

so a few weeks/month ago, we had a blow out. i did not want to loose her so i said i would give up talking about being interested in getting certified as a professional cuddler (its a thing) www.cuddlist.com
professional cuddlers make good money, they see clients, the clients are not girlfriends, and there's no relationship, there's no sex or sexual contact. I thought it was a win win win and overcame some of her arguments. it would get me the physical contact i desire, while helping other people with their touch deprived environments and I could make potentially 80$ an hour.
it was not worth loosing my wife over.



after that, a surprise twist... she has offered a compromise of her own thinking, that I can build a non sexual friendship with one of her close female friends. Ive known this woman for several years and my wife is ok with us hanging out without my wife present. this is a nice woman we are close in age, we share things in common including recovery process. this poly story is just starting to be written.


maybe your wife could agree to some kind of compromise? Im sorry you are struggling with this environment, hopefully something positive can come down the line.

take care...
 
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Polyenvy

New member
Well, I did ask for help, even if the words were tough for me to face. But to answer some of those questions, TinCup...
Do you feel you are representing your idea of ethical here?
It's sticky, and complicated, but yes. I've not been deceptive with spouse or anyone else. I just think she chalks so much up to physical intimacy, which are non-existent in the online friends, that she views this all differently than me.

societal normativity or actual introspection and choice? When I hear someone tell me that ENM is not ethical/immoral I just assume they haven't really put thought into their answer. I mean, ethical is the first descriptive word.

So, my question to her would be whether she has made a conscious choice for monogamy. If not, maybe get an introduction from The Smart Girls Guide To Polyamory and mull it over a bit. Of course she doesn't have to do any of this and she can choose monogamy for any reason she chooses. Accept it for her design that best fits her future happiness. It's a valid and common choice.
I think the introspection is there, though I also think there is possibility for her to consider otherwise? Spouse is pretty well versed on language,and if she were here talking with us, she'd probably start by saying "ethics and morality are not equivalent." She believes polyamory is valid ethically, consenting adults doing what they will. But for her personal morals, she sees it all as a minefield for breaches of trust. Plus, she and I don't exactly have a similar stance on interpretation of scripture (Christianity / religion plays a role here).

When I say "she'd probably say (x)..." I'm quoting her from past conversations. She is very intelligent, part of why I'm still very much attracted to her and don't want to lose her. One argument she's made is, as a nurse who works with elderly populations, she accepts ethical arguments for euthanasia. But morally she says she could never take part in it herself, assisting with bringing someone to death's door.

3908,

Sounds like you and I have a ton in common. Yikes. Like, I'm acutely aware of professional cuddling, its popularity in East Asia and rising popularity in urban centers of US and UK. And I'd probably want to do it if I weren't already working in my community as a behavioral therapist and family counselor.

But to me, the ... What was it, NRE, New Relationship Energy? ... That alone kinda kept me alive during pandemic. When you find out someone else "gets" you, it's a big deal.
 

3908

Member
3908,

Sounds like you and I have a ton in common. Yikes. Like, I'm acutely aware of professional cuddling, its popularity in East Asia and rising popularity in urban centers of US and UK. And I'd probably want to do it if I weren't already working in my community as a behavioral therapist and family counselor.

But to me, the ... What was it, NRE, New Relationship Energy? ... That alone kinda kept me alive during pandemic. When you find out someone else "gets" you, it's a big deal.
I was in a session with my therapist some time past and working on some things about my alcoholic mother. I asked her if she could hug me and say some nurturing motherly things to me, she said she could not for several reasons.

but.....i now know that a professional Cuddler could provide the hug and say something motherly. just as if i was a professional Cuddler and a woman asked me to hug her and say something fatherly encouraging, I would live to be a part of that in someone's healing journey :)

as for NRE, I suspect I and my female friend are into that a little :)
 

dingedheart

Active member
I almost did, over the question of polyamory. I moved out for three months and lived in an apartment, fostered some online relationships (nothing in person ... All more emotional than sexual). I returned to my wife because I just felt I couldn't lose her and "for the kids" etc.
But this keeps eating away at me.
Is this temporary? If I just "wait it out," would I be content with monogamy?

I think the 3rd quote is perhaps the first question to be answered and to me it sounds like NO. You wouldn’t be content or happy being mono!

AND if we work backwards from there it’s going to keep eating away at you for as long as you remain stuck in that dynamic.

And moving out for 3 months during a pandemic might not have been the best test run for future results. it sounds like the gravitational pull is pretty strong and can not be ignored. I think bouncing back and forth and or shoehoring yourself or your wife into dynamic that no one really wants to avoid taking a loss seems way more painful over time.

How much time, energy, pain and bullshit are you and she willing invest and endure. Meaning weeks, months , years to only figure out someone feels like they’ve settled and resent it. How long have you been back living with the family ?? And how long did it take to thinking you made a mistake ?


Anyone with similar experience, or anyone that has ANY advice to offer, even if it's hard words ... I'd really appreciate it. I truly wish I figured this all out at a younger age. I feel like I put myself and my spouse in a lose-lose scenario.
Hindsight is always 20/20. It’s the journey not just the destination.
 

TinCup

Member
I've not been deceptive ... she views this all differently than me.
Cool. I get that. The reason I picked this out is because I had to out an online emotional affair to my wife that I had slipped into so smoothly that I wasn't really aware that it was happening. 18-20 years ago. I had built up a fair defense against face to face crushes and did not believe a person could crush via chat. So, I hurt my wife, she protects emotional exclusivity, and the other person because I ghosted her before ghosting was a thing.

And I'm not judging, it just hit close to home.

I think the introspection is there, though I also think there is possibility for her to consider otherwise?
The first part of the sentence makes me think, "Well, you've got her answer," but the second and the fact that she told you she would listen to a book makes me wonder if maybe she isn't done yet.

So the second part, is that something she said (you asked right?) or something you are wishing?

If she's still ruminating I still think The Smart Girl's Guide To Polyamory is a great guide because it embraces the idea that monogamy is a valid choice.

she'd probably start by saying "ethics and morality are not equivalent."
Tease. Now I want to chat with her. :) Philosophical debate is what got me into the problem I described above.
 
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GalaGirl

Well-known member
She believes polyamory is valid ethically, consenting adults doing what they will. But for her personal morals, she sees it all as a minefield for breaches of trust.

Sounds like you know how she feels about it then. At best -- "Fine for other people, but not for me."

If she feels that way?

Be careful of an out of character acquiescence. Like she goes along with it not because she's joyfully consenting and really wants to do it. But because she wants to avoid a break up.

Or foot dragging. Like agreeing to read and do things but never really moving forward. So she can retain access to you and keep the monogamous marriage going. But not really changing and you still feeling like something eating away at you. Limbo still, just a few inches over.

Or "de facto" monogamy. Like having so many rules that actually finding a new dating partner who will go with it becomes impossible.

Just as you seem to have a hard time accepting this is a crossroads and letting go? She might also.

I think poly works best when all participants joyfully consent and really want to be there.

Galagirl
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Greetings Polyenvy,
Welcome to our forum. Please feel free to lurk, browse, etc.

It took about a year for my metamour to consent to polyamory, and that was with his wife (now also my partner, and hinge) sitting down with him and talking about it (poly) once every week or two. So, if your situation is similar, you have about a year to wait for your wife to come around. Could be more or less though, the thing perhaps to consider is what's the longest you'll be willing to wait. A year? ten years? fifty years? and then if that time expires, you'll do one of two choices:
  • separate/divorce, or ...
  • forget about polyamory, and make peace with the resolution that you'll remain monogamous through and through, for the rest of your life.
It is not worth staying in a marriage where you're increasingly miserable because you can't be poly. If you're going to stay in the marriage, lose the misery. Don't be a martyr. Be happy with your choice. Believe in it.

I have faith that you'll make the right choice.
Sincerely,
Kevin T., "official greeter" :)

Notes:

There's a *lot* of good info in Golden Nuggets. Have a look!

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Note: You needn't read every reply to your posts, especially if someone posts in a disagreeable way. Given the size and scope of the site it's hard not to run into the occasional disagreeable person. Please contact the mods if you do (or if you see any spam), and you can block the person if you want.

If you have any questions about the board itself, please private-message a mod and they'll do their best to help.

Welcome aboard!
 

dingedheart

Active member
It took about a year for my metamour to consent to polyamory, and that was with his wife (now also my partner, and hinge) sitting down with him and talking about it (poly) once every week or two. So, if your situation is similar, you have about a year to wait for your wife to come around. Could be more or less though, the thing perhaps to consider is what's the longest you'll be willing to wait.

To me having reoccurring yr long discussion / philosophical argument sounds a lot like torture or a tactical choice in wearing a spouse down. I think theres lots of factors that will play into decision agree to open up and age / phase of life, career, kids etc all play into it. I strongly agree with Gala on both parties being a joyous yes for having a decent chance of survival. Simply from a marketability standpoint a 37yr old divorced mother of 2 forced into the second hand market can she afford 1-5 yrs of limbo and constant pressure.

Something I mentioned on another thread recently is let’s say hypothetically after a yr of these weekly talks she decides to agree for all the reasons other than love and happiness for their marriage. Those being the usual list kids, financial loss, starting over with dating, etc etc. Anyway she agrees and the OP wins Or snowbunny won. Does it matter that your spouse might be settling for you ?
 
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