Hard Choice or Just Need Perspective?

Meaningful

New member
I suppose I'm fairly new to polyamorous relationships. This is the first really BIG challenge I've bumped into, and I'm finding myself unable to figure it out. As a rule, I try to be as self-critical as I can possibly be. The habit usually steers me in the right direction, but this time around, I'm having trouble trusting my own conclusions. I'm hoping this community can help.

My wife and I have been polyamorous for approximately two years. She has a partner besides myself and I have a partner besides her. My wife's partner has no other partners. My partner has a husband who occasionally takes other partners. It's probably worth mentioning that my wife and my partner (and her husband) have a complicated history that places a degree of separation between them, but everyone gets along and there's no indication of any lingering ill will.

A few weeks ago, I bumped into someone that I was interested in taking on as another partner. The moment I realized that I felt an interest, I let my wife and partner know. From the get go, I wanted everyone to be aware that this was something that was only a possibility (the new person isn't actively polyamorous, and only expressed an openness to entering into a relationship with someone who was poly). I thought that a first, safe step would be to introduce this new person in a more friendly social context so everyone could get to know each other and decide what they were or weren't comfortable with.

My wife was enthusiastic from the beginning, and encouraged me to pursue this new interest. The two of them have a lot in common and it seems likely that they could become very good friends. My partner, on the other hand, was deeply intimidated by the idea, and that is where we ran into our problem.

My partner revealed some feelings that she had been keeping hidden. I don't blame her, as they were difficult topics that would have been scary to bring up. The first was that she didn't feel like she was getting enough attention and fulfillment from our existing relationship. I was completely understanding of that the moment that she brought it up, and we have since been taking steps to improve our relationship. I love my partner, and want to satisfy her needs. I only wish she'd brought the issue up sooner, as she now worries that we're only fixing our relationship to make it okay for me to bring in this other possible partner. This is not the case, but I'm sure it will take a lot of time to rebuild that trust.

The problem I'm having arises from the second feeling that she revealed: she wants our partnership to be exclusive in the long term. She cares about me too much to be able to stomach the idea of me ever seeing or being interested in someone else. She has further expressed that she is unwilling to continue with me under any other circumstances. It is simply too painful for her. She isn't even comfortable with this new person being around as a friend, something which could become very difficult if the new person makes friends with my wife.

I'm finding myself struggling to adjust to this expectation. After all, my partner has a husband who has multiple partners, and I already have a wife with whom I was already married when we decided to explore a polyamorous lifestyle and I met my partner. We are already not exclusive, so the development of this expectation/need doesn't feel reasonable. That said, my partner and I have been together for two years, with no mention of me taking on other partners, so I can see how it might have felt that exclusivity had developed on its own, even though it had never been expressly stated.

So, what do I do? I don't share this feeling of exclusivity, but I feel a need to respect it. The problem is, I have always viewed the possibility of exploring meaningful relationships with multiple partners as being one of the blessings of polyamorous life, provided that one has the wherewithal to overcome its challenges. Is this a hard choice? Is it the more mature path to accept that the two relationships that I have should be enough, or would that mean being disrespectful of my own feelings and views? Or am I simply being a cad, carried away and driven to discard a long and loving relationship in exchange for the possibility of something new and exciting? I'm finding it difficult to separate my desire to stick to my own conception of polyamory from the thrill of a possible new partner, but I know that both of those feelings are real. If I decide to accept what my partner wants, for the reasons she wants it, am I setting us up for problems down the line?

I've been mulling this over for days, and I could go on and on (as I already have in this post). Any insights that individuals or groups with more experience could provide would be very much appreciated.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I'm sorry you struggle.

I'm also sorry your partner didn't speak up about not getting enough time/attention until you were talking about dating someone new. Or about her wanting this to be a Closed poly network now.

Does it occur to you that maybe she wants that because she also has a husband who has multiple partners? Like... "enough people in this network already."

At any rate... if you ultimately want to date other people and NOT have it be "Closed network"? You have to tell her that and the sooner the better.

We are already not exclusive, so the development of this expectation/need doesn't feel reasonable.

It is possible she changed her mind since these agreements were first made. Or maybe just "went along with it" back then since she doesn't sound like she makes her wants needs known up front very well. Maybe her husband wanted it and she went along and then went along with you too.

That said, my partner and I have been together for two years, with no mention of me taking on other partners, so I can see how it might have felt that exclusivity had developed on its own, even though it had never been expressly stated.

There is that too.

So, what do I do?

It's a bummer, but 2 years isn't all that long. NRE lasts 6- 24 mos. To me a relationship has to be going on for 5 years before I think it has gravitas.

And everyone has a different saturation point. It may be that for her? Her network is full with you, wife, wife's partner, her, her husband, and however many X partners he has. That it's. 5 + X. She doesn't want you to have another partner and go to 6+ X because that puts her past her limit of tolerance. Maybe you are ok participating in a much larger poly network and she likes her network smaller than you.

So I think you could be honest.

1) You wish she'd brought up issues sooner. You are sorry she wasn't getting enough time and attention from you and you'd like to work on that if possible.

2) Your current agreement is not exclusive. People CAN date other people. You still do want to date more people. Even if it took 2 years to find an interesting potential.

3) Ask for clarification. Is she still ok with that? Or not?
  • Is this a soft limit? She needs time to get used to the idea of you dating new people cuz this would be the first one? While repairing whatever between you first? How much time?
  • Or is this a hard limit? She just doesn't want more people in her poly network and prefers to be in a Closed network?

If soft limit, maybe you work something out.

If hard limit? Part ways. With regrets, maybe. But part ways because you want to remain Open and she wants to Close.

Galagirl
 
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breathemusic

Active member
Is your partner actually poly... or was poly something thrust upon her by her husband and so she's just dealt with it and decided to have another partner because her spouse is often busy with other partners? I may be making a big assumption here, but that's kind of what it sounds like.... and if that's true then it means she fundamentally is looking for something different than you are. If your marriage were to ever end so that your partner were now your only partner, would she expect you to just be monogamous with her?

Bottom line is that you seem to have very fundamentally different ideas of how you want to conduct your poly relationship and there isn't a compromise here. Either you get what you want or she gets what she wants. So it really just boils down to whether you can be willing to not ever have any other partners. For me, this would be a dealbreaker. It would be one thing if the argument was just "I'm not getting my needs met and want to talk about whether you are able and/or willing to meet those needs before you pursue something else." If that were the case, first you could decide, are you willing to give what she's asking for. If yes, do that and then decide if you still have bandwidth left for another partner. If no, then that's a whole other issue between you and currrent partner. But it sounds to me like she can't stand the idea of you ever having anyone else, ever. Even a one night fling. Basically, your existing spouse was easy to accept because she was already in the picture and not a new shiny person.... but the idea of a new shiny person that introduces new "competition" isn't something she is willing to work through. This, to me, means she fundamentally isn't doing the work to really handle the type of polyamory that you want to live.

I know it's painful and sucks, but I think you need to decide what you want, establish your boundaries, and then let her know what you are and aren't willing to sign up for, and she can make her own choices from there.
 

icesong

Moderator
Staff member
The problem is, I have always viewed the possibility of exploring meaningful relationships with multiple partners as being one of the blessings of polyamorous life, provided that one has the wherewithal to overcome its challenges. Is this a hard choice? Is it the more mature path to accept that the two relationships that I have should be enough, or would that mean being disrespectful of my own feelings and views? Or am I simply being a cad, carried away and driven to discard a long and loving relationship in exchange for the possibility of something new and exciting? I'm finding it difficult to separate my desire to stick to my own conception of polyamory from the thrill of a possible new partner, but I know that both of those feelings are real. If I decide to accept what my partner wants, for the reasons she wants it, am I setting us up for problems down the line?
A very similar conflict is why Knight ended up breaking up with his first serious relationship outside of me - she wanted that flavor of semi-exclusivity (in my case it was a quad that she wanted to be closed, I didn't care / didn't particularly want anyone else, her husband / my partner at the time didn't care or perhaps leaned towards closed because he wanted the drama to end, and Knight wanted to explore more because that was the whole point of non-monogamy for him at the time).

All that said, I 100% agree with @breathemusic on this one - she doesn't want to deal with new shiny and that's a choice, but it is a very limiting choice for you, and certainly not one *I* would make. (And I'm not looking forward to the first time Artist wants to explore with someone else, if that happens, but I am committed to working through it without limiting him if it does.)
 

Marcus

Well-known member
I love my partner, and want to satisfy her needs. I only wish she'd brought the issue up sooner, as she now worries that we're only fixing our relationship to make it okay for me to bring in this other possible partner. This is not the case, but I'm sure it will take a lot of time to rebuild that trust.

The problem I'm having arises from the second feeling that she revealed: she wants our partnership to be exclusive in the long term. She cares about me too much to be able to stomach the idea of me ever seeing or being interested in someone else. She has further expressed that she is unwilling to continue with me under any other circumstances. It is simply too painful for her. She isn't even comfortable with this new person being around as a friend, something which could become very difficult if the new person makes friends with my wife.

This all looks related. There was a huge gap in communication between the two of you, because you both seem to have been functioning under an assumption that was WAY off. She wants a One Vag Only agreement with you, and you thought you were free to live your life and date who you want.

The fact that you two have been in a relationship for 2 years (if I'm getting that righ) functioning under such a wildly inaccurate assumption tells me that "trust" is in short supply. I expect if you trusted each other you would have long since been clear about what you want, and you would have discovered much earlier that there is a colossal mismatch in how you both view your association.

Trusting each other to be honest is something that requires both people have clearly defined boundaries that they treat with respect and are both excellent at receiving bad news and dealing with their own reactions to said news. This stuff takes both time and the balls to be honest to build up that trust muscle.

You two sound like you probably have a fun and pleasant association, as long as you don't give it even a cursory examination. That seems like a couple of people who have blinders on for one reason or another.

While this is not great news if your intention is to continue being romantically associated with this person, but it is an excellent learning moment for you. Hopefully you take from this that you need to examine your boundaries and how you are expressing them, as well as taking a close look at your communication style and deciding if you are building in a barrier to people being honest with you.

I don't share this feeling of exclusivity, but I feel a need to respect it.

I can "respect" anything that I disagree with, just so long as we aren't using the part of the definition that actually means "capitulate to". She's certainly entitled to feel however she feels, just like you are, but one thing has nothing to do with the other. What you are making is a decision about what kind of associations you want in your life, and whether or not you have healthy boundaries that you will stand up for.

We respect peoples ideas by acknowledging that they are entitled to have them, not by just bending to whatever they want.
 

FallenAngelina

Well-known member
.....she wants our partnership to be exclusive in the long term.... I have always viewed the possibility of exploring meaningful relationships with multiple partners as being one of the blessings of polyamorous life...
Poly simply means being open multiple loves, it doesn't mean that all comers are on the table. As Marcus and breathemusic point out, the issue here is not that one of you is polyier than the other, the issue is that you and your GF never had a clear agreement about the emotional parameters you each value. It's paramount to the stability of every poly relationship that the partners agree on the terms surrounding metamors. Many poly people want an open door policy. Many poly people want stated limits. Many poly people want exclusivity within the existing poly configuration. None is polyer than the other, none is more selfish, none is more valid - but ALL options need to be discussed and agreed upon. Lots of people seem to find out the hard way that they're knee deep in poly love and never discussed these important parameters.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
I will assume your partner, Apple, is not dating you just because her husband, Grape has multiple partners and she felt left in the dust. I will assume NRE between you and Apple is just ending, making you more open to dating others. Many poly people experience a honeymoon period when they don't keep dating other new people. It's can be a tough hurdle to jump when only one person of this dyad decides they want to start seeing more people.

(I don't think it's necessary for you and your new potential partner Peach, and gf Apple, and your wife Plum, and Apple's husband Grape to all get together in a big kumbayah moment right off the bat. I know this wasn't your question, but speaking for myself, if I were just mildly interested in dating you, I would not want to be run by the entire "family" right off the bat, to seek everyone's approval. Kitchen table poly can feel overwhelming for a newcomer if there are a lot of people around the table. Think about taking a person to meet your parents. You wouldn't do that after one date, probably.)

Speaking from experience, I have had 2 partners who did not date much or at all for a period of time, and then they started. With one of them, it felt fine. We had plenty of time together, and she was always very loving and available to met my needs. I felt immediate compersion when she found a nice guy. With the other partner, after a year of only seeing me and his wife, he started dating a new person every week, and having all kinds of ups and downs and rollercoaster emotions, which all bled over into our times together. I ended up feeling neglected, gaslighted, humiliated and used.

My point is, you might want to slow down and find out how Apple's needs have been unmet lately, and give her more of whatever it is she needs. Do you know her love languages? Does she feel loved? It's not great to open a relationship, even if it has not been formally Closed, when it's on shaky ground. You should keep reassuring her of your love and interest, even as your NRE for Peach increases.

In case you haven't read Opening Up, it's worth taking a look.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Re (from Meaningful),
"She cares about me too much to be able to stomach the idea of me ever seeing or being interested in someone else. She has further expressed that she is unwilling to continue with me under any other circumstances."

This actually sounds to me like she doesn't want you to be involved with anyone else, including your wife. Like she wants you to divorce your wife. But even if I'm wrong about that part, it's still a problem that she doesn't want you to date anyone besides her and your wife. You may be able to sit down with her and work out a compromise. Just don't compromise on your core values, okay?

Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 
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