Hoping for some advice, is my situation as complicated as I am making it out to be in my head?

BlueSky

New member
Hoping for some advice from this wonderful board.

My wife (married for 20 years) and I have had plenty of good and supportive discussions about opening our previously monogamous relationship for the past 2 months. She was the initiator. It hurt a lot in the beginning but now I realize it was one of the greatest gifts I have received in being able to be myself and having the freedom I have not had in such a long time.

I have accepted that my wife is poly, she is excited about making new connections, and that makes me happy. Neither of us have been on a date yet. I myself still have some work to do before I would feel comfortable making another romantic connection, but not ruling it out as a possibility in the future.

I love my wife deeply and our relationship on a personal level is the best it has been in our 20 years of marriage. On a pure physical level we have not been intimate for the last 3 months. She is sleeping in another bedroom. She is dealing with childhood trauma with her therapist, and says she does not feel comfortable being physical with me because she is scared it will change our current relationship and fears I may start to feel like I want her to go back to being just my wife (i.e. our old relationship). I have reassured her many times that I don't want that old relationship for either of us. She says she needs her own space right now and I understand that (at the same time I am feeling super frustrated because our emotional connection is so strong right now but I cannot be physical with her).

She says she is still not wanting to start dating because she is afraid she will hurt me. I admit I am not sure how I will feel with her dating others and potentially being physical with them knowing that we cannot be physical with each other right now. She says she does not have any baggage with brand new people which is why she is fine having a physical relationship with them, but because of our long history and baggage she is sorting through she does not want to be physical with me. Obviously we have no way of knowing how long it is going to take her to get to a point where she is able to trust herself fully ( and me) that being physical with me does not mean she will slip back into her old caretaker/wife role.

So right now I am really confused on what to do. Are we doomed if we go ahead and open our marriage while I am waiting around for her to have the relationship with me that I want? She says she wants a physical relationship with me but cannot do that right now. At the same time I don't feel it is fair to ask her to wait to figure out "us" before making connections with new people. I feel like that would just lead to resentment for both of us. I am scared I will end up resenting her if she does start dating others but does not feel comfortable with me.

Hopefully I explained that right, I just feel super confused, frustrated, scared that I will not be up for that extra layer of emotions on top of everything else that may happen. But I also know id we do make it through this tough part our relationship on the other end could be something truly amazing with the way we are communicating and connecting emotionally.
 

Evie

Kaitiaki
Just a totally random idea that may be of no use at all... she's worried that being physical (is this a euphemism for regular ol' penis in vagina sex or did you not say sex because there's all sorts of physical actions off the table?) will lead back into her being "wife" and "carer" because there are deeply ingrained habits around it, could you guys enjoy holiday sex instead? Like, go away for the weekend, take it out of the house that's also attached to these identities? Just as an interim measure.

I really hear how uncertain you are, and this resonated with me especially:

while I am waiting around for her to have the relationship with me that I want?
I was feeling that way with my partner, so I made the choice to stop waiting and start just perceiving our relationship differently. In a slightly Buddhist approach, I set down my longing and chose to simply enjoy what he can offer right now. This has actually only just happened this weekend, and the last two days our conversations have been lighter and more loving than in a long time.
 

BlueSky

New member
Just a totally random idea that may be of no use at all... she's worried that being physical (is this a euphemism for regular ol' penis in vagina sex or did you not say sex because there's all sorts of physical actions off the table?) will lead back into her being "wife" and "carer" because there are deeply ingrained habits around it, could you guys enjoy holiday sex instead? Like, go away for the weekend, take it out of the house that's also attached to these identities? Just as an interim measure.

I really hear how uncertain you are, and this resonated with me especially:


I was feeling that way with my partner, so I made the choice to stop waiting and start just perceiving our relationship differently. In a slightly Buddhist approach, I set down my longing and chose to simply enjoy what he can offer right now. This has actually only just happened this weekend, and the last two days our conversations have been lighter and more loving than in a long time.

Thanks for the response Evie. For right now regular old sex is off the table. We actually did have a conversation yesterday where she said she might be interested in trying new things we have not done before. We talked about a few things we have never done, and we were both excited about those, and I am sure we cold come up with many more "new" ways to interact sexually. She said she will have to think about it. She is certain she does not want us to do any of the old things we used to do because she has so many unprocessed/unresolved feelings regarding our old relationship, and says she does not want to sleep together in the same room at our house.

I am not opposed to your approach and just be happy with what we can offer each other right now. I am a little scared that this may just be me falling into an old pattern of putting her above my own needs (I was the dutiful husband type sacrificing everything to provide for her and that was my identity / self worth system for all of our 20 years together. I have worked hard to get past that and don't want that for myself again).

Thanks for your sharing your experience it really helped me feel better and gave me some more to think about.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I'm sorry you struggle.

I just feel super confused, frustrated, scared that I will not be up for that extra layer of emotions on top of everything else that may happen. But I also know id we do make it through this tough part our relationship on the other end could be something truly amazing with the way we are communicating and connecting emotionally.

Do you have an individual poly therapist lined up for just you? To help you process the extra emotional load as a poly newbie?

It can be extra hard the first time around. You don't know this poly side of you, this poly side of her. You haven't been here before. And just cuz you spent 20 years mono married? That doesn't make you AUTOMATICALLY poly compatible.

So it's like you are trying to poly date a familiar stranger -- the spouse. And not knowing how it will pan out. While also living through each of your dating other people and however it is you get when you do that.

You don't know things like "Oh, she always gets ____ for the first X months with a new partner. I always get ___. What helps me is ____."

You haven't learned things yet to benefit from past experience.

This is the first yardstick. So maybe that feels EXTRA in that sense too.

She is dealing with childhood trauma with her therapist, and says she does not feel comfortable being physical with me because she is scared it will change our current relationship and fears I may start to feel like I want her to go back to being just my wife (i.e. our old relationship).

If you say that you want to go back, she is unable to say "I'm sorry. I see you want that. But no. I do not agree to go back. " She is not used to being her own person or telling you "No?"

Is that one of the things she's working on with the therapist? Detangling from you? Not like she doesn't care at all about you, but having her own sense of self and better personal boundaries and not just doing whatever you say or whatever she thinks "the wife is supposed to do?" Or you -- doing whatever you thought the "husband was supposed to do?"

Were you both too enmeshed as a couple before? Like too joined at the hip and having trouble being your own people?

And now more like yes, sometimes a couple. But ALSO individuals?

Are we doomed if we go ahead and open our marriage while I am waiting around for her to have the relationship with me that I want?

To me it could just as easily be "Are we doomed if we continue Closed, while I am waiting around for her to have the relationship with me that I want?"

Sounds like you aren't done being a sexual being. You miss that part of the relationship.

No sex in the last 3 mos was already a challenge. Solo sex only goes so far. And you might be willing to wait for wife (who says she does eventually wants to return to sharing sex with you)... but you want to know about how long of a wait? How long is "eventually?"

Cuz you might be willing to wait a year. But prob not 10, 20 years, right?

Moving on to have other romantic connections might bring you partnered sex, but it isn't partnered sex WITH WIFE.

You sound like you want to have some conversations with wife about your married sex life and how that fits in with the therapy plan.

Can there be a couple appointment with her therapist? Or schedule a sex therapist?

Or talk on your own? Like actually TALK. Maybe she's not ready for PIV, but she'd be up for some making out.

It can be hard to look at a blank page. So how about a list? You can also add other outercourse or intercourse or sensual things you both like to do.

Could do this sheet together. It's from Opening Up.


In colored marker or pencil even.
  • Green = good to go. Can do this now.
  • Yellow -- proceed with caution.
  • Red = Stop to have a conversation. Probably means stop. Or maybe continue with adaptations.
  • Black - no, way, never ever.
Then do it again a few months down the line. See what red might be yellow now, and what yellow might be green now.

Then she can go slow like she needs. And you can know there's checkpoints so the waiting becomes a little easier with communication and not this nebulous "eventually?"

But if this chapter is actually OVER between you and wife? Rather than live in this weird "limbo" place that is neither here nor there? Maybe you prefer to just have a frank talk about it rather than pussyfooting around it or endlessly kicking the can down the road.

"Let's just accept we aren't lovers any more. If it comes back one day, great, we renegotiate at that point in future. But it's been ____ long, it's not looking to change, so rather than continue all "up in the air" let's call it chapter closed. So we can lay it down and then just enjoy being together how we can be. Loving, romantic partners but not sexual ones."

Is that kinda the ballpark you are in? You just want to know where this is at or going? Not all fuzzy weird up in the air stuff?

She says she wants a physical relationship with me but cannot do that right now.

Ok. Like NOTHING? Or does she mean PIV? Are hugs and kisses ok? That's physical.

At the same time I don't feel it is fair to ask her to wait to figure out "us" before making connections with new people.

So don't ask that. Go ahead and tell her you are willing to deal with her dating other people. And then whether she does or doesn't is her deal. You can do your personal work and go date when you are ready. Because whether you do or don't is your deal. You both have the ability to exercise that option. You each get to decide for your own self if/when you feel like exercising it.

Could tell the new people you date up front how it is with your marriage. And understand that some might go "Ok, let's date" and some might go "Hrm... funky. I don't want to get all up in that" and decline your date invitations. Nobody likes being collateral damage.

But at least you are being up front so they can decide to take the risk or not.

I am scared I will end up resenting her if she does start dating others but does not feel comfortable with me.

You will feel resentful that your wife shares sex with people she has no baggage with, but doesn't want to share sex with you until she sorts whatever baggage she has with you from before?

What IS the baggage? Are you in couples counseling? How can you help clear some of this baggage? Is that appropriate? How's the load split up?
  • Your stuff to do
  • Her stuff to do
  • "Our stuff" to do -- the stuff you and her have to clear up as a couple rather than as individuals
I think you and wife could could agree on safer sex practices. And you each ask each other (when it happens), "Have there been new people since the last time you and I shared sex? What safer sex practices were used?"

Not to be mean about it, but if you and wife aren't sharing sex right now? You aren't gonna have that convo any time soon.

And she doesn't need to be a blabbermouth and tell you which of her dates she shared sex with until it is actually relevant to your well being.

On your end, you could just assume she's going to share sex with dates eventually so process that now rather than later.

And if it ends up that you and wife close that chapter? Well... then it doesn't apply here any more.

I could be wrong but some of this mental load on your end is not about who she dates, or who else she's gonna share sex with one day. You see that possibility being ok for both of you.

But perhaps you are grieving a loss. The "old normal" is gone. The "new normal" isn't quite here yet. Some good things (feeling a closer bond), some not so great things. (not sharing sex right now.) The transition time is weird. And it is normal for it to be weird.

The only way to find out if you can weather all this out together is to get to the either side and see. You don't get to know it in advance.

You will either be together still then. Or not.

Totally different note -- would selling the house and moving do anything to help create a firm line between past a present? Make the new chapter really feel like "new chapter? And you plan on having separate bedrooms in the new home anyway? Because where else would each of your eventual overnight guests go?

I am a little scared that this may just be me falling into an old pattern of putting her above my own needs (I was the dutiful husband type sacrificing everything to provide for her and that was my identity / self worth system for all of our 20 years together. I have worked hard to get past that and don't want that for myself again).

As opposed to what? Accepting the present moment so you don't have to bang head on wall? Like dealing with your OWN needs?

What is "duty" to you? Do you believe "love is shared" or do you believe "love is sacrifice?" Or something else?

In case they help you... all the sheets.

Wayback Machine
Creating Authentic Relationships

Wayback Machine
Open Relationship Checklist

Wayback Machine
Reflecting on Change

Wayback Machine
Self Evaluation

Galagirl
 
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BlueSky

New member
In case they help you... all the sheets.

Wayback Machine
Creating Authentic Relationships

Wayback Machine
Open Relationship Checklist

Wayback Machine
Reflecting on Change

Wayback Machine
Self Evaluation

Galagirl

Thanks Galagirl. That gave me a lot to think about. I never thought about my new relationship with my wife as being a poly relationship. That makes a lot of things clearer for me. I think both of us talking and working on the opening up worksheet is going to help with our own relationship a lot.
 

dingedheart

Well-known member
Hoping for some advice from this wonderful board.

My wife (married for 20 years) and I have had plenty of good and supportive discussions about opening our previously monogamous relationship for the past 2 months. She was the initiator. It hurt a lot in the beginning but now I realize it was one of the greatest gifts I have received in being able to be myself and having the freedom I have not had in such a long time.
its Good that you can embrace this as a gift👍 good for you

I love my wife deeply and our relationship on a personal level is the best it has been in our 20 years of marriage. On a pure physical level we have not been intimate for the last 3 months. She is sleeping in another bedroom. She is dealing with childhood trauma with her therapist, and says she does not feel comfortable being physical with me because she is scared it will change our current relationship and fears I may start to feel like I want her to go back to being just my wife (i.e. our old relationship).
the way this reads it sort of suggests the childhood trauma and your martial sex life are somewhat linked is that the case or rather is that her perception?

So her choosing to NOT want to be sexually intimate with you is based on a projected possible outcome in the future .

IMO I think she forcing you into a lose lose situation. That carrot is way out there on the stick based on your subjective feelings in a given moment. The same and opposite argument could be made for her falling in love with a new partner and wanting to further distance from you. Its a projected possible outcome in the future. I thought of another example if you were to worry she becomes so attached to her new lover / partner that then feels like she’d be cheating on him if she were to resume sex with you. If that sounds silly or crazy trust me it’s not there are threads on here which cover this topic.


I have reassured her many times that I don't want that old relationship for either of us. She says she needs her own space right now and I understand that (at the same time I am feeling super frustrated because our emotional connection is so strong right now but I cannot be physical with her).
I would preface that remark saying right now today I don’t want the old relationship back only because this boat hasn’t left the dock and you don’t really know how seaworthy the boat or each of you are.

spend some time reading some of the threads or blogs to get a little flavor for what you might encounter out there.

ALSO imo physical attraction and desire can be damaged and lost in the snap of a finger let alone 3 months and then her enjoying other sexual partner. i think it would be a tremendous ask to be expected to fulfill normal husband / coupled duties all the while sit on the bench waiting for big chance to be put back into the game.

She says she is still not wanting to start dating because she is afraid she will hurt me.
Here again she is projecting how you’re going to feel and how you’re going to react. WHY not tell it will undoubtedly ITS GOING HURT but you’re willing try for the sake of the marriage.

I admit I am not sure how I will feel with her dating others and potentially being physical with them knowing that we cannot be physical with each other right now.
I do. It’s going to really really suck. It’s not going to bring you closer as a couple. I don’t see any upside for you other than concentrating on you own dating and finding your own non baggage person.


She says she does not have any baggage with brand new people which is why she is fine having a physical relationship with them, but because of our long history and baggage she is sorting through she does not want to be physical with me. Obviously we have no way of knowing how long it is going to take her to get to a point where she is able to trust herself fully ( and me) that being physical with me does not mean she will slip back into her old caretaker/wife role.
does she live with regret well ? If her plan and timeline all go sideways and she ends up killing the future relationship / marriage has that been discussed ??

IMO it sounds like there’s plenty of old issues to resolve before you dive in the poly or open pool. Childhood issues and marriage baggage …you throw active poly into the mix it’s going to be like juggling chainsaws. Good luck doing that without getting seriously hurt.


So right now I am really confused on what to do.

start doing heavy research. Start planning for the next phase of your life.


Are we doomed if we go ahead and open our marriage while I am waiting around for her to have the relationship with me that I want?

IMO yes.



She says she wants a physical relationship with me but cannot do that right now. At the same time I don't feel it is fair to ask her to wait to figure out "us" before making connections with new people. I feel like that would just lead to resentment for both of us. I am scared I will end up resenting her if she does start dating others but does not feel comfortable with me.

I build luxury homes so I’m not an expert in psychology but fear and dislike rejection and for a wife to openly and premeditatedly reject a husband and then actively seek sex elsewhere is going to lead to resentment. Even with a live in therapist doesn’t mean resentment, anger, bitterness depression won’t occur it just will help you understand you break points better.


Hopefully I explained that right, I just feel super confused, frustrated, scared that I will not be up for that extra layer of emotions on top of everything else that may happen. But I also know id we do make it through this tough part our relationship on the other end could be something truly amazing with the way we are communicating and connecting emotionally.
you might want to look up hysterical bonding or bonding that occurs under intense emotional discussions .
 
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HaloOnFire

Active member
IMO it sounds like there’s plenty of old issues to resolve before you dive in the poly or open pool. Childhood issues and marriage baggage …you throw active poly into the mix it’s going to be like juggling chainsaws. Good luck doing that without getting seriously hurt.


I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment. I have been researching, discussing, and talking about poly for the last 3 years with my husband and if nothing else, the refrain of "open when everything is good, not when things are bad to "fix" the marriage" has been sung over and over again countless times.

I sincerely hope that you and your wife can come to an accord after counseling for you both and lots and lots and LOTS of intensive research into this way of conducting relationships with those you love.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hello BlueSky,

I think there is potential for resentment either way, so since you are kind of leaning towards doing the poly, I am going to go ahead and suggest you do that. But check in often with your wife; also get a therapist for yourself if you don't already have one. This wouldn't be because there was something wrong with you because there isn't; it would just be so you would have another brain to pick re: how to cope with your wife having sex with others but not you. I don't think that will be easy.

There is a lot of great advice and feedback on this thread, and I hope you'll take some time to soak it all in. While I understand your wife's reasons for doing as she is doing and is going to do, I think she's asking a lot of you. Yes sex should always be mutually consensual, but the fact remains that the two of you are husband and wife. Most people have an assumption that that means at least occasional sex. You have to adapt to the fact that it doesn't mean that in your marriage. Not easy.

Sympathetically,
Kevin T.
 

dingedheart

Well-known member
Hello BlueSky,

I think there is potential for resentment either way, so since you are kind of leaning towards doing the poly, I am going to go ahead and suggest you do that.
He‘s got Demotion and displacement which counts as intrusion into his life before the door is officially open …potential for resentment ??? Sounds like he’s leaning that way to save a 20 yr marriage. Sunk cost.


But check in often with your wife; also get a therapist for yourself if you don't already have one
Why check in often ?? Really shouldn’t it be the other way around. She wants this new dynamic shouldnt she be doing the lion share of the work here ? Therapist can and do get expensive quick no one ever does a budget on how much money they’re willing to pump into this stuff And is it worth the cost. And how much money is / was wasted trying to find the right therapis.


. This wouldn't be because there was something wrong with you because there isn't; it would just be so you would have another brain to pick re: how to cope with your wife having sex with others but not you. I don't think that will be easy.
You realize youre suggesting he line up a therapist or start seeing a therapist to cope with pain and injury that’s going to be more or less self inflicted. WHAT other situation in life would you walk through that door or into that situation ? “ hey im about to get a married …oh you better get a good therapist Or support group” …healthy people might want to avoid that. Just sayin.



Most people have an assumption that that means at least occasional sex. You have to adapt to the fact that it doesn't mean that in your marriage. Not easy
adapt to a sexless marriage thats ironic from a forum so heavily sex centric / sex positive. And being in a sexless marriage is typically one of the drivers that leads people to open there marriages and become poly.
 
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