How/when do you know what style of poly you want or need?

Arc

Member
I had a hard time titling this post - I hope I got the idea across.

My wife recently came out as poly (see my other thread in Introductions for details). She says the type of relationship she is interested in is a FWB-like situation. I am not sure at what point that blurs into 'boyfriend' territory. But she specifically expressed that she is not interested in hook-ups, and (to my immense relief) is not interested in bringing another person into the home, to have a more than two-like living arrangement.

I am struggling a lot with the idea of opening the marriage, but at least conveniently, a FWB-like situation is the ONLY type of situation I can really imagine for myself, too.

What I am wondering - and I know there's no way to know - is what are the odds that she knows what type of relationship she really wants? As in, if we move forward with opening the marriage, is it likely that we will be able to keep the status as FWB, or is that wishful thinking, and should I anticipate the next step, a more intense secondary relationship? A part of me worries that she is (unconsciously) easing me in to poly by keeping it "safe," but will eventually need more and more.

I would love to hear if anyone has any thoughts.
 

icesong

Moderator
Staff member
I lived in FWB land for a very very long time. Knight and I were sexually open - hookups, though more of the swinger variety - shading into friends-with-benefits with some people for many years, took a break (for an intense phase in our hobby and for having a kid) and then started dating separately... and found ourselves in love with other people. (Long story that ended a bit badly, but in the long run is much better.)

I don't think it's possible to guarantee one will never catch feelings - emotional plus sexual intimacy often ends that way, although in other cases I've had FWB relationships for years that never even had a chance of turning romantic, the spark wasn't there in that way, no matter how much intimacy of thoughts or of bodies we shared. And certainly one of the biggest causes of drama in swinger communities is when that happens!

That said... I think it's a losing battle to try and predict or control your emotions. What you CAN control is the dynamics of your life - it's perfectly ok to say "I don't want to live with your other partner", for instance, or "I know you love your partner but there's a limit on how much time you can spend out of the house because we have children and other commitments," or even "I need to spend at least X amount of time with you per Y interval in order for our relationship to stay strong." See the difference there?

And it's definitely have a very intense relationship with someone you don't live with - I've loved my Artist for the last five years and really, I don't particularly want to climb the relationship escalator with him. Occasionally I wish we were together a bit more, but you can't miss someone who's always there...
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hi Arc,

Sure, your wife knows what style of poly she wants now, but there's no rule that says she can't change her mind in the future. That's not to say she *will* change her mind, it's possible she'll be able to maintain FWB statuses just fine. It's just hard to know which way things will go, from back here on the starting line. And yes, it's possible that at least on some subconscious level, she is easing you into poly, and that is why she is currently leaning towards FWB. So if I were you, I would try to prepare myself for the possibility that there may be a more intense secondary relationship later on down the road. Understanding that it is a possibility, not a certainty. Heck, it's even possible that she could have a boyfriend, and decide that she wants him to move in with you guys. Hopefully it doesn't come to that, and even if it does, your consent would remain a necessary part of the equation.

Right now, the best you can do is trust that your wife is sincere about what she says she wants *right now* -- unless the uncertainty that I've described here makes you think that you want to put the kibosh on poly. That would be a whole other kettle of fish.

Such are my thoughts,
Kevin T.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
When you're first starting to Open a relationship, it can be hard to know the style of dating and relationships you want. What she thinks she wants now could easily change.

When I was first separated from my ex h after 30 years together, I knew I was polyamorous and polysexual and polyromantic. I began to talk to people on a dating site. I believed that after a very long term relationship, I wanted to start out with multiple casual relationships. But the universe had other plans. I met Pixi. She was the first person I met in person. Our first date lasted from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. That was 11 1/2 years ago. We are just so darn suited for each other. <3

I kept dating men (and the occasional other woman). I found I wanted another long-term relationship, a secondary or even a co-primary. Dating was hard though. I ended up with lots of turnover. Lots of 1st, 2nd or 3rd dates that went nowhere, for one reason or another. I did have longer relationships lasting 3 months to 2.5 years. The longer term relationships were very fulfilling (until they weren't!). 3 former bfs moved on in life but are still my very good friends. (I'm still very flirty with one of them, and another one might heat up again after Covid.) Some relationships were romantic, some were kink-based. Sometimes, I was a Domme/Top, sometimes (more recently) I was a sub/bottom.

Being open to poly means being open to many different kinds of relationship, I believe. It doesn't work to prescribe relationships. That's going to lead to disappointment.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I married my fav FWB. I knew I was poly before I had the word "polyamory." My spouse knew this about me when we were dating. It's not like it came out after marriage. We were friends in college because I liked his easy going agreeableness, and that he was smart. I thought he was cute. Later on I thought he could deal with an FWB arrangement without being a pain in the ass about it.

Some of my other FWB got weird -- they could not keep it in the "friends who spend time together, sometimes share sex, no strings" bucket. I found I could, but they couldn't and they'd get all possessive jealous weird and I'd have to end it. Or they would get too boyfriend-y like bringing me roses or wanting to do lavish "romantic" dates and I'd have to end it because they weren't being jealous, but they were wanting it to be more than it was and escalator me.

At the time I used words like "not exclusive" but really I was solo-poly wanting to focus on my degree. I wanted to enjoy dating, sex, companionship, without any big strings on it, being on the relationship escalator, etc. So I asked him, he said yes. We very much enjoyed that time of life and our FWB agreements were few and simple.
  • Safer sex practices / birth control / labs.
  • Date whoever else you want to date.
  • Tell me if another relationship is looking to go lover/went lover. Then I can decide if I still want to be in your network. I'll return the favor.
  • No deep talking to me about the past, your family, or a shared future. This is a relationship of the present, one day at a time.
  • Don't lie to me or cheat on agreements. Either renegotiate or end it clean. It's not supposed to be complicated.
Even with the same person, across the stages of life? You might change models several times. What you want as a young adult will be different than a middle adult, a senior, etc. It is fine to have and state preferences, personal boundaries, soft limits, and hard limits. I think that's part of why DH and I have worked for so long. We talk up front, renegotiate.

Nothing is happening other than talking about poly and thinking about it right? So try not to let worries and fears get the best of you.

You mentioned in another post that you and your wife have some regrets about not talking more before and are having to do some "catch up" with that. Also catching up healing past baggage. Now there's also these new poly talks. That's a lot to cover. So take the time, INVEST the time. Your level of preparedness for open marriage/poly is your responsibility. If you plunge forward into Open Marriage without taking any time to thinking ahead about some things or educating yourself about common pitfalls or problems? Well, bumps in the road are will be harder on you than if you had done some preparation and some educating.

Maybe think about doing the Opening Up worksheets since you can just print them now. And order the book.


  • Maybe do some of those in marker.
  • Green = go. I'm fine with that.
  • Yellow = proceed with caution. I'm ok with that, but I might have wobbles.
  • Red = Stop to check in. It might a soft limit that could change over time or it might be a hard limit. Discussion needed.
  • Black = Hell no. Never!
Spouse could do her set and you compare and talk about it. See what changes over time as you sit with it. Reading a book together doesn't automatically mean you agree to do Open Marriage. But you can agree to talk about it and educate selves.

What I am wondering - and I know there's no way to know - is what are the odds that she knows what type of relationship she really wants? As in, if we move forward with opening the marriage, is it likely that we will be able to keep the status as FWB, or is that wishful thinking, and should I anticipate the next step, a more intense secondary relationship?

I think there IS a way to know. Could ask her "I've been wondering... You told me the ones you don't want. Do you know what type(s) of relationship(s) you might want?" She answers, and then you know. Maybe you read Models of Open Relationships together and use that to help have the conversations.

What does "keep the status as FWB" mean to you? Could you please be willing to clarify? What about FWB is attractive or seems more "deal-able" at this time for you?

Close proximity and sharing sex does brain chemistry things to people.


Me? I would just anticipate. Because I rather think ahead and be emotionally and mentally prepared ahead of time than be caught of guard. I would think "Ok, say there was an FWB. It is now becoming a more intense secondary relationship. What issues or feelings come up for me?"
I would sit with that for a bit and examine what comes up. Any maybe anticipate the step after that too. What if a secondary relationship want to become co-primary? Then what? I would sit with THAT idea and examine what comes up.

And then flip it. What if it happened on your side of the equation? You seem to like the idea of a FWB for you. Well, what if you end up with a FWB. Then you and/or FWB wants it to be more like BF/GF. Or even life partners. Then what? Sit with THAT idea and examine what comes up.

A part of me worries that she is (unconsciously) easing me in to poly by keeping it "safe," but will eventually need more and more.

What's horrible about easing into things? You want something more like a cold plunge into the deep end? Some thing crazy town like her bullying or railroading you into opening the marriage?

What is the worry about, really?

You are not obligated as spouse to meet all her needs ever. If she wants more that you are willing and able to do? You can use your voice. You can say "Thanks for telling me. I'm sorry. I am not willing/able to meet those needs."

I wonder if you have having poly hell with the idea of poly? Or struggling with "Am I enough for her" or similar stuff. Are you?

Galagirl
 

vinsanity0

Active member
Hi Arc,

If you are not quite on board yet, I suggest holding off. A lot of couples with one semi-reluctant partner try to limit their relationships to FWB, or even something more casual. They think this will help them preserve their marriage. However, the goal shouldn't be to preserve the old marriage, but start over from a new place.

What happens with trying to limit the form of relationships is that one partner inevitably falls for someone else because there is no way to predict how feelings will grow. When this happens the other partner ends up feeling betrayed because their partner made a promise they couldn't keep. This can lead to big problems.

Can a person know they want only FWB type relationships? Yes. My wife was like that. She didn't want anything that would climb up the relationship escalator. She would make this known to potential partners up front, so it was on them if they wanted it to go farther. I would say she was an exception to the general rule. The key there was she was under no pressure to keep things FWB for my benefit. We were both free to pursue whatever type of relationship we wanted. If she had indeed fallen in love with one of her FWB that would have been fine.

In conclusion I will just say to not agree to poly with conditions such as her only having FWB type relationships.
 

Arc

Member
Nothing is happening other than talking about poly and thinking about it right? So try not to let worries and fears get the best of you.

You mentioned in another post that you and your wife have some regrets about not talking more before and are having to do some "catch up" with that. Also catching up healing past baggage. Now there's also these new poly talks. That's a lot to cover. So take the time, INVEST the time. Your level of preparedness for open marriage/poly is your responsibility. If you plunge forward into Open Marriage without taking any time to thinking ahead about some things or educating yourself about common pitfalls or problems? Well, bumps in the road are will be harder on you than if you had done some preparation and some educating.

Maybe think about doing the Opening Up worksheets since you can just print them now. And order the book.
Yes, we need to invest the time; however, we seem to be incapable of talking reasonably about this issue. It's almost the curse of getting along so well (overall) over 20 years - we don't have practice with big issues. We need to find a poly-friendly couples therapist and are soon to be working on that.

And yes, someone else recommended Opening Up, I just bought it and will read it soon. I'll check out the worksheets, too, as you suggested. I think it will be good to read together. Right now, she's reading Ethical Slut and highlighting the hell out of it. Like a new convert, it all makes so much sense (or would have made more sense 20 years ago when she was single and without kids.)

Also bought a workbook on jealousy in open relationships, which seems good.

I think there IS a way to know. Could ask her "I've been wondering... You told me the ones you don't want. Do you know what type(s) of relationship(s) you might want?" She answers, and then you know. Maybe you read Models of Open Relationships together and use that to help have the conversations.

What does "keep the status as FWB" mean to you? Could you please be willing to clarify? What about FWB is attractive or seems more "deal-able" at this time for you?
Okay, good question. There is a very blurry line between FWB and 'boyfriend', but your FWB list aligns somewhat with mine. What might be different is that I really don't want this stuff to mess with what I really value in my family (not the same as my relationship). I don't want my family dynamic to change (we are 5 people - us with 3 young kids). I like(d) it; it felt safe, nourishing, positive. I don't want anything to fuck with that. So in my mind, a FWB arrangement would be one that doesn't fuck with the positve feeling of family we share, and keeps the family primary. This is for my sake I suppose, but really for what I view as my kids sake (knowing that others have different perspectives on what kids need).

If it veers into "boyfriend" territory, we are talking investing significant time, emotional energy, affection, etc. into a relationship. Gifts; weekend trips; etc. When I envision myself going in that direction (with a girlfriend) I think: this is going to change my family dynamic, and not in the direction I prefer.
Close proximity and sharing sex does brain chemistry things to people.

I figured. Thanks for the reference! I'm trying to be realistic about this even though she isn't.
Me? I would just anticipate. Because I rather think ahead and be emotionally and mentally prepared ahead of time than be caught of guard. I would think "Ok, say there was an FWB. It is now becoming a more intense secondary relationship. What issues or feelings come up for me?"
I would sit with that for a bit and examine what comes up. Any maybe anticipate the step after that too. What if a secondary relationship want to become co-primary? Then what? I would sit with THAT idea and examine what comes up.
Okay, thanks - this is what I feel I have to do, too. Issues that might come up: jealousy, annoyance, the feeling of, "this is not what I bargained for".

If it went to co-primary, I would be out of there. We'd be getting a divorce. For once, amid all this process, I feel very clear about that.
And then flip it. What if it happened on your side of the equation? You seem to like the idea of a FWB for you. Well, what if you end up with a FWB. Then you and/or FWB wants it to be more like BF/GF. Or even life partners. Then what? Sit with THAT idea and examine what comes up.
Interestingly, in my process of getting less enmeshed, I've reached out to a few female associates who have become friends, at least nascent friends. Already, I am feeling how we could really become BF/GF. I am even thinking, "Wow, we have a lot more in common than I do with my wife." I want to go hiking and walking with them, hear about their lives, etc. In other words, even without the sex I can see how it could move from FWB to BF/GF pretty quickly (especially now, when I'm particularly annoyed by my wife! :) ) What comes up is, I imagine becoming less focused on my kids, I see my relationship with my wife deteriorate, and eventually maybe just saying, "I don't want to be married to you anymore." Whether that would be a good decision or outcome is very unclear.
What's horrible about easing into things? You want something more like a cold plunge into the deep end? Some thing crazy town like her bullying or railroading you into opening the marriage?

What is the worry about, really?

You are not obligated as spouse to meet all her needs ever. If she wants more that you are willing and able to do? You can use your voice. You can say "Thanks for telling me. I'm sorry. I am not willing/able to meet those needs."
No, nothing is horrible about easing in... I guess I just don't want to get my hopes up for one thing that feels okay, only to find out that that's not where things are going. So while I'm open to the idea of FWB, the idea of a thruple is a no go (no judgement there, just personal preference). I want to know what I'm getting myself into.

About meeting needs - that is interesting and I'll have to think about it. We've been mainly focused on how I can't meet all of her needs for relationship; and she can't meet all my needs for attention, exclusivity, etc. But I think she is really hoping that I will "meet her needs" by agreeing to all this, and being happy with it. I have been using my voice; she resists (it goes against her hopes) but I have been trying to be honest and clear about what I am ready to commit to.
I wonder if you have having poly hell with the idea of poly? Or struggling with "Am I enough for her" or similar stuff. Are you?
Do you mean, am I already in poly hell even though it's so far just an idea? I guess if you mean anticipatory demotion, anticipatory displacement, and anticipatory intrusion, the answer would probably be yes. So all the negatives of poly hell, but we don't even get the benefits of the fun parts!

I think my "Am I enough for her" is definitely an aspect of the jealousy, and one I think I can actually work through.

The harder thing, for me, is accepting the loss of the old arrangement that I felt was fine, and accepting a new arrangement that I have no solid confidence or trust will make me happy (although it might - maybe all I need is to meet the right woman).

 

Arc

Member
Hi Arc,

If you are not quite on board yet, I suggest holding off. A lot of couples with one semi-reluctant partner try to limit their relationships to FWB, or even something more casual. They think this will help them preserve their marriage. However, the goal shouldn't be to preserve the old marriage, but start over from a new place.
I have started to accept that we are starting a new marriage. Unfortunately my wife seems to think it will be the same marriage.
What happens with trying to limit the form of relationships is that one partner inevitably falls for someone else because there is no way to predict how feelings will grow. When this happens the other partner ends up feeling betrayed because their partner made a promise they couldn't keep. This can lead to big problems.
Yeah, that's what I was thinking too.
Can a person know they want only FWB type relationships? Yes. My wife was like that. She didn't want anything that would climb up the relationship escalator. She would make this known to potential partners up front, so it was on them if they wanted it to go farther. I would say she was an exception to the general rule. The key there was she was under no pressure to keep things FWB for my benefit. We were both free to pursue whatever type of relationship we wanted. If she had indeed fallen in love with one of her FWB that would have been fine.
I actually think that, knowing my wife, if anyone is going to be more okay with FWB relationships, it might be her. She's pretty unromantic and practical in a lot of ways. But if she meets that one person, then it's all out the window I'm afraid...

In conclusion I will just say to not agree to poly with conditions such as her only having FWB type relationships.
Yes I wasn't going to insist on conditions (that would inevitably be challenged). I was more just wondering what I might expect...
 

Arc

Member
Hi Arc,

Sure, your wife knows what style of poly she wants now, but there's no rule that says she can't change her mind in the future. That's not to say she *will* change her mind, it's possible she'll be able to maintain FWB statuses just fine. It's just hard to know which way things will go, from back here on the starting line. And yes, it's possible that at least on some subconscious level, she is easing you into poly, and that is why she is currently leaning towards FWB. So if I were you, I would try to prepare myself for the possibility that there may be a more intense secondary relationship later on down the road. Understanding that it is a possibility, not a certainty. Heck, it's even possible that she could have a boyfriend, and decide that she wants him to move in with you guys. Hopefully it doesn't come to that, and even if it does, your consent would remain a necessary part of the equation.

Right now, the best you can do is trust that your wife is sincere about what she says she wants *right now* -- unless the uncertainty that I've described here makes you think that you want to put the kibosh on poly. That would be a whole other kettle of fish.

Such are my thoughts,
Kevin T.
Thanks, Kevin! Sigh... you're basically telling me what I already knew, but needed to hear from others.

The moving in part is actually pretty clear to me. There's no question, I'd just say nope. I actually don't think she's likely to want that either; she'd be more inclined to get a divorce.

I think she is sincere in what she says she wants - which is something like a boyfriendy FWB, if that makes sense.
 

Arc

Member
I lived in FWB land for a very very long time. Knight and I were sexually open - hookups, though more of the swinger variety - shading into friends-with-benefits with some people for many years, took a break (for an intense phase in our hobby and for having a kid) and then started dating separately... and found ourselves in love with other people. (Long story that ended a bit badly, but in the long run is much better.)

I don't think it's possible to guarantee one will never catch feelings - emotional plus sexual intimacy often ends that way, although in other cases I've had FWB relationships for years that never even had a chance of turning romantic, the spark wasn't there in that way, no matter how much intimacy of thoughts or of bodies we shared. And certainly one of the biggest causes of drama in swinger communities is when that happens!

That said... I think it's a losing battle to try and predict or control your emotions. What you CAN control is the dynamics of your life - it's perfectly ok to say "I don't want to live with your other partner", for instance, or "I know you love your partner but there's a limit on how much time you can spend out of the house because we have children and other commitments," or even "I need to spend at least X amount of time with you per Y interval in order for our relationship to stay strong." See the difference there?

And it's definitely have a very intense relationship with someone you don't live with - I've loved my Artist for the last five years and really, I don't particularly want to climb the relationship escalator with him. Occasionally I wish we were together a bit more, but you can't miss someone who's always there...
Thanks, Icesong. Your input is helpful, and I have to remind myself that I can set those limits about what I'm able to tolerate. When it keeps coming back to her feeling "caged" in monogamy, it feels like any limit I put based on my own confort, even within a poly context, will still lead to a "you can't cage me" response. But I trust from your and others' responses that I have a right to express what I need too.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I have started to accept that we are starting a new marriage. Unfortunately my wife seems to think it will be the same marriage.

Good. Glad you see that. It's not "Just like before. Just adding new people."

It's emotionally like breaking up the old marriage. Then coming together again in a new model. Which may or may not work out.

There's going to be feelings of loss/grief for the old model, the old idea of what the future was supposed to be like. Like in any other break up.

There's going to be feelings of unease and uncertain just like with any other new undertaking or change. The transition time is weird. The old normal is gone, the new normal isn't here yet. (It's NORMAL to feel weird.)

And at this point, you aren't sure you even want to go there towards open marriage. Esp. with a partner who swings from only seeing the "sunshine parts" to "you can't cage me!" to "I give up! Wish I never brought it up in the first place!" Like moody all over the place. Not unusual if she's been gunnysacking a long time and you don't have a lot of experience in this marriage handling big/tough issues.

But dang! It's not fun to deal with for you. Esp on top of doing your own emotional management around all this. :(

I hope a counselor helps you both.

Do you mean, am I already in poly hell even though it's so far just an idea? I guess if you mean anticipatory demotion, anticipatory displacement, and anticipatory intrusion, the answer would probably be yes. So all the negatives of poly hell, but we don't even get the benefits of the fun parts!

Yes, that is what I meant. Anticipatory demotion, et al.

But I think she is really hoping that I will "meet her needs" by agreeing to all this, and being happy with it. I have been using my voice; she resists (it goes against her hopes) but I have been trying to be honest and clear about what I am ready to commit to.

GOOD! She might not like you being up front and honest. But that's what's needed here. Cards plain on the table!

You sound like as you work to detangle and un-enmesh yourself from wife's emotions, you are doing better at using your voice and laying some of your personal boundaries down. Good for you!

Interestingly, in my process of getting less enmeshed, I've reached out to a few female associates who have become friends, at least nascent friends. Already, I am feeling how we could really become BF/GF. I am even thinking, "Wow, we have a lot more in common than I do with my wife." I want to go hiking and walking with them, hear about their lives, etc. In other words, even without the sex I can see how it could move from FWB to BF/GF pretty quickly (especially now, when I'm particularly annoyed by my wife! :) )

Well, there is that possibility. That you meet someone you are more compatible with.

The harder thing, for me, is accepting the loss of the old arrangement that I felt was fine, and accepting a new arrangement that I have no solid confidence or trust will make me happy (although it might - maybe all I need is to meet the right woman).

Maybe you mean "accepting the old arrangement wasn't actually fine like I thought it was." Since you and wife were not really talking about anything deep for 20 years and wife has been bottling stuff up inside.

As for debating trying a new open marriage arrangement -- well, it's the great unknown. It's appropriate at this juncture to have no solid confidence about it. It's not like you have experience doing open marriage before to be able to guess/gauge how that will go for you this time.

I have to remind myself that I can set those limits about what I'm able to tolerate. When it keeps coming back to her feeling "caged" in monogamy, it feels like any limit I put based on my own confort, even within a poly context, will still lead to a "you can't cage me" response. But I trust from your and others' responses that I have a right to express what I need too.

You have every right to set your personal limits/boundaries. You have a right to express where you stand on things.

It's not like she can be a mind reader. For people to know, you HAVE to communicate.

If she goes into the "you can't cage me" response you can keep it simple and say "That's right. I can't. Nor am I trying to."

Galagirl
 

icesong

Moderator
Staff member
Thanks, Icesong. Your input is helpful, and I have to remind myself that I can set those limits about what I'm able to tolerate. When it keeps coming back to her feeling "caged" in monogamy, it feels like any limit I put based on my own confort, even within a poly context, will still lead to a "you can't cage me" response.
I'm curious, if only because I've talked myself about feeling caged sometimes - do you and your wife have kids? if yes, how old? and how is the childcare etc split between you? and are you both equally happy or unhappy in your careers?

I ask you this not because I'm trying to be nosy, I promise, but the times I've felt "caged" by my life tend to be when my child has been in a particularly difficult and high need phase AND I've been frustrated by not having success in my career equal to the success the Knight currently enjoys. Those two things combined, at least in my case, made me feel like I was living a life I didn't want that was sucking all of the shiny out of me. And monogamy would have exacerbated that, had I been mono at the time, and it would have been very easy to blame feelings that were caused by other things ON that monogamy.

Possibly I'm projecting, but it can't hurt to think about.

But I trust from your and others' responses that I have a right to express what I need too.
You 100% do! A lot of people find it useful to think of it in terms of rules vs boundaries - to elaborate on what I said before, you're not telling her what she should do, so much as saying what you WILL do in certain circumstances. In some cases this feels semantic - "I will leave this relationship if my partner has sex with someone else" vs telling the partner "You _can't_ have sex with someone else because you're in this relationship" - the outcome is the same, but the expression is wildly different in that the first version makes it so that each person has their own set of choices to make, as opposed to the second version where one partner is dictating to the other what to do. Just the difference in words can change a situation from cage to crossroads...
 

Inaniel

Active member
Hi Arc,

Something you said struck me today. The fact that your wife feels trapped in monogamy.

On this website you will see a lot of poly success stories. People like GalaGirl, whom I suspect came out of her mother’s womb knowing exactly what she wanted in life, and possessing a zeal and intelligence and success that is no doubt inspiring to all... The hard truth is, there are a lot of poly horror stories on this website as well. And from people whom are too wrapped up in a poly nightmare to care to respond to this thread.

In my relationship I was in your wife’s position. I wanted to sleep with other people. Why? I didn’t like feeling “trapped”. This was 10 years ago, and my wife (girlfriend at the time) agreed to open up the relationship. The progression went something like this:

1. Wife: You can have NSA sex on the side and with strangers only.
2. Wife: Okay, you can keep her as a FWB but I have veto and she’s not allowed in the home.
3. Wife: You can have FWBs but not from work or the friend group.
4. Wife: Seriously, stop fucking people in the friend group.
5. Wife: I’m sick of being your mother only to be disappointed. Do whatever you want.
6. Wife: I’m happy that you love your gf, I think I love her too…
7. Wife: Yes. Let’s all move in together.

I wish I had a really charming poly success story. The reality of poly for me was lot of surprises, broken boundaries, and lots of mending and therapy.

Every step in the poly journey, I thought I knew what I wanted and then something would pull me in another direction; I would turn a corner and suddenly be dealing with more information, more feelings, more urges, and I became more conflicted. And every step of the way I felt trapped, trapped in monogamy, trapped in my wife’s restrictions, trapped in parenthood, trapped in my job, ect.

I tried to fuck my way to happiness and freedom; however both were always slightly out of reach. What I really needed was therapy. And now that receive therapy weekly, I can say it’s the best investment I have ever made.

I am not trying to scare you. And I am not trying to say your wife is like me. I’m sure, and I hope she is not. I can offer my perspective based on a very small amount of poly wisdom: feeling trapped in one’s life is coming from within, and the best place to start solving the problem is from within with very good professional guidance. Poly often doesn’t solve big relationship problems.

There is no poly crystal ball that can tell you how it will evolve for you and your wife, and so you’re interested in the odds. Unfortunately we don’t have very good statistics for this type of thing either..

Anecdotally
Will someone get hurt at some point? – Odds are high, yes.
Will your wife fall in love with someone? – It is very possible, yes.
Does sex lead to time investment, emotional energy, affection, and love? – Often, yes

If it went to co-primary, I would be out of there. We'd be getting a divorce. For once, amid all this process, I feel very clear about that.

Then why aren’t you doing it already? If this is a hard stop for you, do yourself a favor and consider ending the relationship ahead of poly, it might be more amicable.

In your shoes, I might seek a decision making progression such as this:

- Get therapy, individually and as a couple, separate therapists, give it some time.
- Give it time for your wife to hone in on exactly what she needs.
- Give it time for you to hone in on exactly what type of poly you can tolerate and what you need.
- Make a decision, consider monogamy and poly with newfound wisdom from therapy:
-- Wife is solving her issues and wants to maintain monogamy = Great, join a different forum
-- You can be open minded to poly without restrictions = higher probability of success = consider poly
-- You cannot be open minded to poly without restriction = lower probability of it working = consider amicable divorce
 
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Arc

Member
Okay, this is a very belated reply. What can I say? I needed to take a break. But thanks for your response.
I'm curious, if only because I've talked myself about feeling caged sometimes - do you and your wife have kids? if yes, how old? and how is the childcare etc split between you? and are you both equally happy or unhappy in your careers?
Yes, we have kids, 9 and 11. We made it through the early years (0-6) quite well. It's my impression that years 6-10 of parenting were when my wife started feelings less more frustrated with parenting and limitations it (and monogamy) imposed on her; this is just based on her level of irritation and dissatisfaction. Maybe from birth to 6 was a very extended NRE with the kids? :)

Okay, about gender equity; I know men typically rate themselves as doing more than they do, but in our case, I think we are quite balanced. We both work part time, in the same field, splitting the week, and we are the "leads" in childcare the other half of the week. There are some differences - she's more annoyed by clutter so spends more time picking up; I do a lot of the boring bills/paperwork/call the roofer/file taxes stuff. I think she would say that it all balances out, or that I do more stuff.

I am a very dedicated and hard working dad/husband, maybe to a fault! (I'm not saying that as a humble brag; I really mean I try too hard because I fear being like my own shithead of a father). If anyone is unhappy in their careers it is me, and I'm working on making a shift. (on a side note, that shift takes a lot of energy, and the idea of integrating dating into my life would be kind of a time-suck. Meanwhile, my wife being satisfied with her career is I think looking at dating as a new hobby, not detracting from other directions of her life).

I ask you this not because I'm trying to be nosy, I promise, but the times I've felt "caged" by my life tend to be when my child has been in a particularly difficult and high need phase AND I've been frustrated by not having success in my career equal to the success the Knight currently enjoys. Those two things combined, at least in my case, made me feel like I was living a life I didn't want that was sucking all of the shiny out of me. And monogamy would have exacerbated that, had I been mono at the time, and it would have been very easy to blame feelings that were caused by other things ON that monogamy.

Possibly I'm projecting, but it can't hurt to think about.
No, I don't mind you asking - it's not nosy! I think you are partly right. The similarity might be this - she's not unfulfilled in career, but is burnt out on parenting - 11 years is a long time to be patient, "on-game", dedicated servants to several thankless entitled little creatures! (I'm exaggerating of course, the kids are great). And then yes, monogamy exacerbates this because it limits the number of adults in her life to balance things out. Why does it limit the number of adults? Well, that's part of the non-Poly problem (which is intimately entwined with the Poly problem) - that we have been in an enmeshed relationship for quite some time, and our work (small business and parents) has been socially isolating.

She (and I) really need more social (non romantic) outlets. We are working on that and it will be interesting to see if that impacts the "trapped" feeling for her; or if the romantic component is the real source of that feeling.
You 100% do! A lot of people find it useful to think of it in terms of rules vs boundaries - to elaborate on what I said before, you're not telling her what she should do, so much as saying what you WILL do in certain circumstances. In some cases this feels semantic - "I will leave this relationship if my partner has sex with someone else" vs telling the partner "You _can't_ have sex with someone else because you're in this relationship" - the outcome is the same, but the expression is wildly different in that the first version makes it so that each person has their own set of choices to make, as opposed to the second version where one partner is dictating to the other what to do. Just the difference in words can change a situation from cage to crossroads...
Thank you! I have been thinking about this since I read it a few weeks ago, and it has been helpful. It is really hard not to feel like the jerk for limiting her, when she limited herself by committing to a monogamous relationship and would be limiting herself by staying in one. The kids make it somewhat more complicated because their needs are also being taken into account.

I am currently quite clear that "I will leave this relationship if my partner wants another partner to move in with us," and "I will leave this relationship if she needs to start going on vacations with another partner."

What I'm still working on is what else I'm clear on... :)
 

Arc

Member
Hi,

Thanks for the response and I am sorry I only saw it today!
Hi Arc,

Something you said struck me today. The fact that your wife feels trapped in monogamy.

On this website you will see a lot of poly success stories. People like GalaGirl, whom I suspect came out of her mother’s womb knowing exactly what she wanted in life, and possessing a zeal and intelligence and success that is no doubt inspiring to all... The hard truth is, there are a lot of poly horror stories on this website as well. And from people whom are too wrapped up in a poly nightmare to care to respond to this thread.

In my relationship I was in your wife’s position. I wanted to sleep with other people. Why? I didn’t like feeling “trapped”. This was 10 years ago, and my wife (girlfriend at the time) agreed to open up the relationship. The progression went something like this:

1. Wife: You can have NSA sex on the side and with strangers only.
2. Wife: Okay, you can keep her as a FWB but I have veto and she’s not allowed in the home.
3. Wife: You can have FWBs but not from work or the friend group.
4. Wife: Seriously, stop fucking people in the friend group.
5. Wife: I’m sick of being your mother only to be disappointed. Do whatever you want.
6. Wife: I’m happy that you love your gf, I think I love her too…
7. Wife: Yes. Let’s all move in together.
I wish I had a really charming poly success story. The reality of poly for me was lot of surprises, broken boundaries, and lots of mending and therapy.
Can I just clarify - this seems like a poly success story. Am I reading it wrong? I think you are highlighting the fact that before you got to the success, it was very painful and took a long time. Just out of curiosity - was 1-7 a 10 year process? At what point did your wife get to 7 and is she happy about it now?
Every step in the poly journey, I thought I knew what I wanted and then something would pull me in another direction; I would turn a corner and suddenly be dealing with more information, more feelings, more urges, and I became more conflicted. And every step of the way I felt trapped, trapped in monogamy, trapped in my wife’s restrictions, trapped in parenthood, trapped in my job, ect.

I tried to fuck my way to happiness and freedom; however both were always slightly out of reach. What I really needed was therapy. And now that receive therapy weekly, I can say it’s the best investment I have ever made.
It is interesting that you say this, because it's one thing that is really bugging me about this situation. I have been in therapy off and on for about 15 years and have found it very helpful. I've been talking to my therapist about all of this stuff. My therapist is not exactly "pro-Poly" but she's also not critical, just thinks there are a lot of dangers - 'playing with fire' as they say. And that seems to be backed up by what you and others have said.

Meanwhile, my wife is refusing to go to therapy! She has said she's willing to go to couples therapy as long as it's a poly-aware therapist, but I think she has a lot of resistance to that in reality. The only people she has to talk with are 3 non-poly friends and a guy I mentioned in another thread who she seems to be having a platonic fling with and who's wisdom, advice, and experience are not of value.

So I'm in this position of doing the "psychological work", even though she's the one who's "figuring herself out". I'm going to therapy; I'm reading Opening Up while she's reading Ethical Slut; I'm trying to communicate my concerns while she gets defensive (I get defensive and jealous too of course). She thinks "we'll figure it out" and I want to address possible challenges before they hit us. Frankly, it's really annoying. I'm sure she'd see it differently, but... why would you not go talk to a (poly-friendly) therapist???

I am not trying to scare you. And I am not trying to say your wife is like me. I’m sure, and I hope she is not. I can offer my perspective based on a very small amount of poly wisdom: feeling trapped in one’s life is coming from within, and the best place to start solving the problem is from within with very good professional guidance. Poly often doesn’t solve big relationship problems.
Yes, I agree, I think her feeling of "trapedness" is multifaceted, and has to do with parenthood; monogamy; the boredom of modern life; social isolation; her own family issues; disappointment about life; all kinds of other things too.

I think that she thinks that Poly will solve her personal problems (feeling unsatisfied with one mate; wanting to flirt feel sexual with other men; not feeling like she can be her true self). She analogizes it to discovering/recognizing that she is trans. That would be very satisfying, right? So that's how she feels. I am not sure if that analogy is applicable. Is this an identity that needs expression for fulfillment?
There is no poly crystal ball that can tell you how it will evolve for you and your wife, and so you’re interested in the odds. Unfortunately we don’t have very good statistics for this type of thing either..

Anecdotally
Will someone get hurt at some point? – Odds are high, yes.
Will your wife fall in love with someone? – It is very possible, yes.
Does sex lead to time investment, emotional energy, affection, and love? – Often, yes
Yes, that's kind of what I've figured. And to make things more messy, if I start seeing people I will probably fall in love with someone, too. Do I even want that? Not sure. It would be easy to find someone who is more aligned than my wife with me as I am now. But I don't know if that's what I want. I like my family and the support and structure it provides.
Then why aren’t you doing it already? If this is a hard stop for you, do yourself a favor and consider ending the relationship ahead of poly, it might be more amicable.
Well, basically because she says she doesn't want another primary, she just wants a FWB situation. It would seem somewhat rash to end, since there seem to be so many possible poly-arrangements. I mean, your wife could have ended things at step 1-4. Would that have been a good thing?
In your shoes, I might seek a decision making progression such as this:
- Get therapy, individually and as a couple, separate therapists, give it some time.
Working on that. I think moving ahead without her in therapy would be a bad idea.
- Give it time for your wife to hone in on exactly what she needs.
Except... not sure she knows or will know until she tries it out, and then we're already in an open relationship.
- Give it time for you to hone in on exactly what type of poly you can tolerate and what you need.
Yes, I'm working on that. I want to work through my jealousy, so I have more clarity on what lies beneath that.
- Make a decision, consider monogamy and poly with newfound wisdom from therapy:
-- Wife is solving her issues and wants to maintain monogamy = Great, join a different forum
Unlikely...
-- You can be open minded to poly without restrictions = higher probability of success = consider poly
Unlikely too, but I guess your wife changed her mind so I can too? Not sure I want to dedicate a large chunk of my emotional energy to that project for the next 10 years though.
-- You cannot be open minded to poly without restriction = lower probability of it working = consider amicable divorce
By without restriction, what do you mean? Aren't there always some restrictions, even if it's "safe sex"?
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Just a note, it is shitty of your wife to be so resistant to the idea of therapy; however, I would still suggest you get therapy for yourself even if your wife refuses to come along for the ride. Not because I think you're "doing it wrong," because I don't think that. I actually think you are the more responsible party here so far, at least and especially as far as poly is concerned. The point in going to see a therapist without your wife would be to pick that therapist's brain, and get ideas for how to handle your wife and the situation. Just as it doesn't hurt to have more people here on the forum working on the problem, it also doesn't hurt to have a professional working on the problem. It would be an additional source of support for you, and you could use that. That's my take on it anyway.
 

icesong

Moderator
Staff member
By without restriction, what do you mean? Aren't there always some restrictions, even if it's "safe sex"?
I think at least for me there’s a huge difference between “what I currently agree to” and “what is possible”. For instance most people start out with pretty ironclad safer sex agreements, as you mention - and some people just leave those in place forever, some people move to “just have safer sex with everyone including spouse”, and for others... those restrictions start to feel very limiting and unreasonable after a certain amount of time. And what happens at _that_- point is a question of how relationships work. Is it something that can be talked about, with the potential of coming to a new agreement? Or is it something that “you made the agreement once and now you’re stuck forever”?

(Ironic, really, for poly people coming from mono to stick to that second version, given they already renegotiated monogamy itself...)

Anyway I _think_ the point @Inaniel is making and I agree, is that poly is more likely to work long term between people who are in the first category and willing to have their relationship be flexible over time than those in the latter category.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
Meanwhile, my wife is refusing to go to therapy! She has said she's willing to go to couples therapy as long as it's a poly-aware therapist, but I think she has a lot of resistance to that in reality. The only people she has to talk with are 3 non-poly friends and a guy I mentioned in another thread who she seems to be having a platonic fling with and who's wisdom, advice, and experience are not of value.

She won't go to individual therapy for her other issues but will go to couples therapy if it is a poly aware therapist?

All you can do is your end of it. Line up a poly counselor to help you through the consideration period. Make the appointments. Show up. Consider open marriage to see if it might be something you would be willing to do. After consideration decide what your final answer is on that.

She either shows up to the appointments or not. She chooses to work on herself or not. You cannot hold her end of the stick FOR her.

So I'm in this position of doing the "psychological work", even though she's the one who's "figuring herself out". I'm going to therapy; I'm reading Opening Up while she's reading Ethical Slut; I'm trying to communicate my concerns while she gets defensive (I get defensive and jealous too of course).

Doing your share of the work? Communicating your concerns? Both are part of you holding up your end of the stick for considering open marriage. How would would consider something without actually considering?

Her getting defensive? Hopefully talking with a counselor helps dial some of that down. You can always say "Look, you seem defensive. Let's take a time out and cool off. You tell me when is a good time to talk that is better for you."

If she's coming at you with porcupine needles, you don't have to continue the conversation. You can leave the room.

She thinks "we'll figure it out" and I want to address possible challenges before they hit us. Frankly, it's really annoying. I'm sure she'd see it differently, but... why would you not go talk to a (poly-friendly) therapist???

Only she knows why she doesn't want to address possible challenges or talk to a therapist.

If she just wants to jump in and you don't want to do it like that? Then you might have to say "No, thank you wife. I don't want to poly like that."

All you can do is be honest and let the chips fall where they fall.

Galagirl
 
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