Needing help with a poly marriage

As of right now I have not talked to my personal therapist, like I said I wasn't really getting anywhere other than what I knew I wanted from the situation. We haven't talked to our marriage counselor and a few weeks but my wife is still talking to her personal therapist and going over her ADHD and her past trauma with her family. I unfortunately have been dealing with situational depression and relationship trauma due to everything that has happened being lied to being disrespected and just the overall disregard for anything that I needed or wanted out of what was going on. I'm fighting a lot of guilts, self-esteem issues, and a lot of inability to control my emotions because I still feel like a lot of what happened is my fault and I don't feel like I'm ever going to be enough for her. I'm doing more and more research every day to try to help myself through everything going on and making sure that I don't keep everything to myself and try to make it a situation where I think it's easier for me to be alone than being a marriage.

We are honestly doing better now then 2 months ago when I thought that for sure that I was going to have to get a divorce and be single for a while to try to heal from everything. We've had many days that have been very meaningful to both of us and have allowed us to connect on a deeper level than when she was constantly talking to somebody that was feeding off of her energy the entire day . Not long ago my wife brought up what polyamory will look like to us in the future and I immediately started crying because I don't know how that sort of subject could be brought up so soon with all the pain that was caused. For now we're not going to talk about polyamory and just focus on us as a couple but I think it's going to end up being the same thing as I see a lot in different situations where somebody got burned through a certain circumstance that happened and no longer wants to be polyamorous because it's just going to be too much work and too much heartache. I told my wife that I hope that in the future we can possibly look back at polyamory as something we may want to do but in my heart I'm pretty sure that it's not something that I'm going to ever want to do ever again because of how badly this whole situation has gone.
Please end your relationship with each other. Absolutely nothing here is healthy.
I will say it again... Love cannot be stomped out...

You are stuck in a cycle; it is clear Wife has chosen to deceive you rather than leave you. For whatever reason. Back on the emotional carousel ride again, until you catch her in another lie. When will you choose to get off the ride? Just think of all the amazing people you could have an honest relationship with, but you just keep passing them by on your carousel ride to hell...

So Wife's personal birthday trip. The one you aren't invited to... Do you think I would be surprised to hear that Robert happens to show-up at the hot springs? Maybe you are naïve, do you have issues with that in other areas of life? Like dealing with sales people, or scammers? If not, maybe there is a part of you that refuses to see, or desperately wants to believe something that is not true... Is it possible you see it and deep down you accept it? Or saving the marriage is worth looking the other way? So long as Wife can be minimally convincing with an acceptable story.. There must be some reason you can't escape this thing... Self-esteem? Self-worth? Personal image? Fear? Religion?... If you could find basis of your persistence you could work on that, like what are the personal baby steps to empower you to leave...

If three therapists between the two of you cannot get this figured out I'm useless to you. I sense desperation, and I just hope you will keep an eye on yourself. Desperation can lead to really bad decisions with very real regrets. And I hope you know you can get out at any time. You can leave whenever you want to. You just have to choose to do so.

Maybe you could think about new criteria to base your participation in the relationship on; something other than being fed more lies about Robert... For example, regardless of Robert, if you catch her in "x" number of additional lies you are going to exit the relationship, lies about anything, not just lies about Robert. Giving yourself some sort of hard limit might be the first step in exiting the carousel.

I think Robert has been a red herring distracting you, while your marriage crumbled beneath your feet.
I hope you feel better for the vent. That's a lot to have happen. I mean this kindly, ok?

Could you please be willing to clarify where this is at?

For now, Robert's been cut off. Therapists are telling her this has been wacky. She's kinda listening. Maybe.

1) Is the goal to get her on stable footing after this narcissist experience first? Then you go file for divorce when she's a little stronger and more stable? So now you are trying to figure out how to live in the same house while saving up money to break up and disentangle yourself? Figuring out what the boundaries are now as a STBX having to live there with her in the interim? Is that where this is at?

So when she brings up stuff like poly in the future you do "little white lies" for the patient's benefit? Like "Sure hon, we could talk about that later" because she's too addled right now to talk serious things and you are conserving energy and healing in the meanwhile til you get to filing?

2) Or are you still in anticipatory grief, like in the bargaining stage? Hoping that despite all this wacky that she will change her poor behavior, start being considerate of you, stop cheating, stop the lies... so you and her can somehow reconcile... even though she wants polyamory and you want monogamy?

3) Something else?

We are honestly doing better now then 2 months ago when I thought that for sure that I was going to have to get a divorce and be single for a while to try to heal from everything.

"Better" does not mean "healthy." Again... not trying to be mean here.

We've had many days that have been very meaningful to both of us and have allowed us to connect on a deeper level than when she was constantly talking to somebody that was feeding off of her energy the entire day .

Of course. Robert is being held at bay so who ELSE is around but you? Enjoy the moments, but don't go thinking this is all ok now.

I cannot tell where you are at or what your current goal is. So I have no idea how to support you or in what direction. All I can say is...
  • It's ok to want to stop hurting.
  • It's ok to want this wacky to end.
  • It's ok to decide where your limit is
  • If that line gets crossed, it's ok to decide you ARE gonna end it, even if you don't like it coming down to that.
I'm hoping that you plump for HEALTHY -- even if it means breaking up with her, being single, and starting over so you can finally have some PEACE and not living in this constant chaos.

I'm hoping you decide to tell her "I love you a lot. But not even for you will I stay in stuff that hurts me. I have to love me first."

I hope you are able to open up with your therapist/counselor and they encourage you to make healthy choices for yourself.

I hope she gets it together and stops behaving poorly. Whether or not you two stay together.

She told me that she was an adult and she wasnt going to stop talking to him so I told her that I was no longer going to be apart of her life if she couldn't seperate a fling from her marriage.

You made this statement.

If you and her are trying to work things out and reconcile? And then she goes off with Robert again or some "new Robert" in another cheating /lies drama thing?

I hope you hold yourself accountable to this statement and FOLLOW THROUGH even if you dislike doing it.

I hope you really do remove yourself from her life even if post-divorce life is hard to imagine. There's been enough chances. No need for you to become a doormat.

I hope that you decide you deserve a shot at living the rest of your life WITHOUT this chaos drama. And you are gonna give yourself that shot. If being healthy on your own is easier than enduring a chaos marriage that is slowly sucking you dry? Go for healthy.

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We have absolutely no evidence that Robert is a narcissist. None. He honestly sounds like someone who is trying to help a woman out of a failing marriage, albeit because they met due to the opening of said marriage.

We do have evidence that the OP and his wife are unhealthily attached, sharing almost all hobbies and spending 90% of their time together.

We do have evidence that she's tried to break away from this relationship with OP, and failed, at least once, possibly more times. What's the average before a woman finally leaves?????

We've got evidence that she feels unsafe being truthful with the OP.

We do have evidence that she is expected to check in with OP regularly and in very few hours apart or be threatened with a police welfare check.

I hope her therapist is seeing the bloody obvious.
True. Robert may or may not actually be. At the same time... does it really matter? I'm with Inaniel. All this Robert mess? Is a side trip.

To me this sounds like a couple that needs to make a firm decision to part rather than keep dragging on circling the drain.

She decided she wanted poly. Rather than be honest about it? Diverdude went along with it to "make her happy" but at heart knew/knows he prefers monogamy and doesn't want anything poly.

If the bottom line is that one wants polyamory, the other does not? Rather than pussyfoot around that some more with MORE side trip shenanigans? I think it is better to make the call before this gets worse.

Right now? Neither spouse really trusts the other one. There's been a lot of drama with the lies and cheating and phone peeking and hovering/helicoptering and so on. Both treating each other very poorly. Things just escalating more and more.

Even though in the original post the idea of separating was scary to each due to such deep enmeshment and/or codependency?

At various points both spouses have started to consider breaking up and life without this. They started talking about what a separation could be like with the therapists. They've taken the rings off and one sleeps in the bed and the other on the couch.

I think they could keep going and make plans for separate homes. If they can't manage outright divorce? Or too scared to? Then a trial separation to take a time out from all this drama in separate homes. One moves out or both do. Figure out who they each are APART from being spouses. Then maybe making the final divorce decision becomes easier because they don't have to be afraid of living alone. Already crossed that bridge. Sometimes one must physically leave first. So that mind and heart can finally settle down and finally start to really heal. Without doing that? It just drags on like a big circle thing.

Why separate? Because they don't really get along any more, and they don't want the same things. But separating after being 90% deeply enmeshed is gonna be hard. Hence the pain and the dragging out. I sympathize with both because they are IN it. It is easy for internet people who aren't in it to guess, comment, or suggest and remain calm. Harder on the people who are in it with the emotions and all that.

Even so? I think eventually this back and forth dragging things out thing is going to to get old. I think it may might become fertile ground for resentments to grow. Not to mention expensive with 2 personal therapists and one marriage counselor on retainer.

But... sometimes people just need to go the long way around. Nobody wants to be decisive. So they just wait for one or the other to finally get resentful or angry enough to POP! And finally make needed changes.

Diverdude, you sound lonely, sad, tired, frustrated and more. :(

I really encourage you to think about what you need to be HEALTHY. If you are struggling with situational depression? What needs to change in your situation that you can do?

I'm fighting a lot of guilts, self-esteem issues, and a lot of inability to control my emotions because I still feel like a lot of what happened is my fault and I don't feel like I'm ever going to be enough for her. I'm doing more and more research every day to try to help myself through everything going on and making sure that I don't keep everything to myself and try to make it a situation where I think it's easier for me to be alone than being a marriage.

If being single is easier than enduring a wonky marriage circling the drain? What's wrong with making the call and your life becoming easier? So you can be healthy again?

Then you can be free of this wacky and free from poly things you do not want.

And then she can free of this wacky and she's free to pursue poly things she does want. (Whether she does it ethically or not... well, that's her biz at that point.)

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Hi Diverdude,

Thanks for the update on your situation, I'm glad your wife has finally stopped communicating with Robert, it sounds like you and she are slowly getting back on the path to healing your marriage. Poly is definitely unhealthy for both of you, I even think open is unhealthy. I don't think you'll ever be okay with poly due to how badly things went with Robert. You are struggling with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Your wife is only beginning to value the marriage, she is still thinking a lot about her own gratification, hence bringing up what poly will look like in the future. There will be no poly in the future. She needs to make peace with that fact.

Hang in there and I hope we can help.
Sympathetic regards,
Kevin T.
Sorry for your situation but you are at the point in my opinion that you might be better served on an infidelity forum than this one. As kdt just said correctly, you are not interested in a poly or open marriage, never really were, and never should entered in it in the first place. Nothing surprising there when one partner is either bullied, coerced, or manipulated into agreeing to something they are only doing to please someone else.
At this point, you are not in a poly marriage but are in one tainted by multiple counts of infidelity and all their lying that goes with it, and that is on your wife not you.
This crap about never being able to turn back is nonsense. There are people who reconcile after every kind of affair that you can think of, but it takes sometimes years of work by both partners with the offender doing the heavy lifting. It is not a straight linear healing. It does not appear based on her actions that she is committed to that work.
If I were you, unless you still want to continue this poly farce that she thinks you were in, I would scrap the “poly friendly” therapist and get yourself in one who specializes in infidelity because that is what has occurred more than once.

She is an adult woman and this crap about she needs to be poly to have friends is so lame it silly.

My big question for her, if you decide to still give it a go, is for her to explain to you how she is going to rebuild your trust in her over time In a monogamous relationship. And that will certainly include you two not spending 90% of every waking hour together, but it will not include her becoming romantically attached or sexually active with other men. And it is her responsibility to enforce those boundaries, not yours.

Based on everything she has done, it appears, and none of us know for sure, that you have dragged her kicking and screaming to give up Robert, or at least telling you for the third time that she is. But it is time for you to protect yourself and make a decision on what you are going to do if it occurs again and have your ducks in a row. And I wouldn’t’ threaten her but I would tell her in no uncertain terms that she is not a cat, doesn’t have nine lives, and she can do whatever she wants to do with Robert she can but not as your wife. And if you make her believe that, you will increase your chances to reconcile. Until she believes that you are not going to absorb the blows and come back for more, your chances of another incident will be increased.

Good luck to you, whatever you decide.
There a lot to unpack with everyones responses so here we go. Robert has been cut off. There is no more communication for the time being. My wife has relized that involving him is not healthy for either of us albeit she struggles with wanting to contact Robert but there in lies the narcissistic string pulling as my 2 personal therapists and our marriage counselor have put it. He said and did everything he could to make himself seem like a perfect partner for her but when there were boundaries set. He wasnt going to follow said boundaries set by the primary couple or persuaded for the boundaries to be broken by my wife.

We have had constructive conversations about what poly means for us in the future and she hopes that it is something that we can explore later on but I made sure to reiterate that me being burned so many times may or may not all me to persue it in the future and that is something we will have to look at when we cross that bridge. When I was actively engaged in the open relationship aspects, I can admit it was fun. But at the same time, I relized how much it was taking away from my primary relationship and the things my wife needed and that's when I called it quits. That's where things went very south was the fact that she couldn't because of what robert was saying and doing. I had someone who was respectful of my decisions and boundaries and my wife had someone who was in it just for himself.

Better doesnt mean healthy I u understand that but we are getting to a point where things are healthy again. Yes I still have times where I go through a lot of emotions but we have both agreed time and time again that our future is being with eachother. The life plans we have individually, involve eachother wholeheartedly. She told me the other day that losing me would be the worst thing imaginable and doesnt want a future that doesnt involve me. Our plans for a home and life are the same and have been for a long time.

I've been a burden to her, I admit that with going over the things that she been talking to her therapist about. And it's mostly monetarily, but life happens sometimes and you've gatta push through and right now her biggest struggle is that she feels like she stuck at the same dead end job and she cant persue her passions and weve talked about getting her to that point but it's going to take time. She wants it right now but all good things just dont happen over night.

If and/or when we try poly or a open relationship again, boundaries and limits are going to be communicated better by both of us and for me there is going to be a big line of trust that has to be gained. I was preparing myself for being single for quite some time because I was being led to belive that everything was my fault and my wife even told me she wanted me to break things off so she didnt have to deal with the emotional turmoil of setting the divorce in motion. If we set boundaries and any of those get crossed to a point where it causes any amount of hostility then I'm done. I've let myself get hurt 3 times, and I'm not about to let it happen again.

Like Sexyserb mentioned, I havnt divulged every bit of information but I want to make one thing clear. I've had three seperate professionals who deal with marriages in terms of open/poly tell me the robert shows 100% signs of NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) and even my wife told me at one point that it was something he was looking at with his own counselor. I never once brought that up to her from my own opinion, but only mentioned it once I was told about it. I didnt even know what it looked or had any experience with it like until then. No matter what the case is, if he is or not. He has non of my respect as a human being for what he has done and caused and I will never trust him to be apart of my life with or without my wife.

My wife and I have had some tough times with everything that has happened and all of the turmoil that was have caused eachother. But we both still belive deep down inside that we will get through this and heal and be better partners for eachother in the end and we have plenty of people, both professional and not, saying that we can and I want to belive that with every ounce of my heart. We are just going to have to take it day by day until we can figure everything out.
I HIGHLY suggest that you stop having the "if/when we decide to explore poly again" with your wife. You know it's something she wants, but you also know that it feels very unlikely for you. Giving her that hope that maybe she'll get to be poly again someday means that you're at risk of her doing ALL of her current processing under the assumption that hope is there and she just needs to get you comfortable with trying again. And sure, that MIGHT happen, but it's probably a small chance and she and you would both be better served if she instead considered it from the perspective of "he might never want this again and I need to do all my processing assuming that might happen." If not, the healing you're doing is likely to have strings and caveats attached. Drop the poly talk, period. Focus on your monogamous relationship and healing since monogamy is all you really want right now.
Thank you for more clarifying information. Let me repeat back in my own words so I know I got it how you meant it. You correct me, ok?

Blue just to visually set off.

Robert is out of the picture.
  • You want no further contact with him ever.
  • Neither does wife, even though she's struggling with "narcissist string" stuff right now and will address with her therapist.
  • Both are committed to no contact with Robert.


  • At this time there is no open/poly stuff. Focus is on marriage repair.
  • Both spouses are committed to this.

Open/poly stuff in future:
  • A huge amount of trust would have to be rebuilt before you even consider it again.
  • Boundaries would have to be better communicated on both sides.
  • Some other work as well (?)
Couple Goal:
  • Take things day by day at this time.
  • To keep working with therapists with a goal to make marriage repairs and reconcile.
  • Heal from all of this, and then continue with shared plans for a home and life together
Wife personal goals:
  • Work through "narcissist string" stuff with therapist.
  • Figure out how to leave dead end job/improve career.
  • Make time to pursue her passions.
  • Stop blaming you for everything. Own her fair share.
Your personal goal
  • Emotional management -- try to navigate emotional up and downs through this process
  • Stop taking responsibility for everything/blaming self. Own your fair share.
  • Commit to following though on the limit you set for yourself. ("I've let myself get hurt 3 times, and I'm not about to let it happen again.")
Is that about it? If so? It seems a reasonable enough list to me for this point in the journey. I encourage you both to keep going. Keep showing up at the table and keep being up front and honest with each other in and out of counseling.

I hope things get better for you both.

Now with more context, it sounds to me like you need a space to go "Blaaaarrrgh! All the stuff!" to vent so you CAN keep going with therapy/counseling/healing.

Is that true? If so... I think you are doing what you can right now.

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Drop the poly talk, period. Focus on your monogamous relationship and healing since monogamy is all you really want right now.

Breathmisic gave you exacrly what to do. YOU are NOT in a polyamorous or open marriage and you do not want to be. Unless that changes, which is unlikely, any conversation about it is wasted talk. I will repeat what I said before. When she believes totally that there will be no non monogamy as your wife, it will either help fix your marriage or end it. Stop putting the "carrot" out there. If she wants you to stay married, that should be motivation for her to put Robert in her rear view mirror. Because until that is accomplished you are threading water.

If your best friend tolk you that his wife has been lying to him and cheating on him how long would you tell him to sit around and let her long for her AP. Her therapist and youtrs need to make it clear to her she needs to accept its over and stop trying to analyze his charascter.

And do not be surprised if somehow he continues to fish from her for another opening. The quicker she stops the grieving for him the easier that will be for her.
Please end your relationship with each other. Absolutely nothing here is healthy.

This whole thing honestly reads like an extensive warning label of how to NOT live your life and how to NEVER have a relationship. It's just one big red flag after another, stating loud and clear that this is a fundamental mismatch and the relationship has no business even existing.

After a couple weeks of maintaining contact with our marriage counselor he finally got to a point where he was done being the neutral party and had a very Stern conversation with her about what she was doing, what she was causing, and where her life was going with me, she finally let her wall down and stop talking to Robert. She has blocked his phone number, facebook, and several other social media Outlets but she still hasn't blocked him on Instagram. I made sure that he could not interact with any of her posts even though he can see them and he cannot comment or message her through Instagram..... and I don't need a lecture on what I did. She needed somebody to force them to be separate because he was just going to try to drag her into the same situation. I know it's going to take her a while to fully remove him from her life but she needed somebody to start the process. She brought a box full of stones a shirt and a few other things home that he bought for her and it currently sits in a box in our living room and like our marriage counselor said there comes a time and a place that that box needs to be trashed or gotten rid of.

Speaking of red flags. Any time a therapist decides they just can't hack it, picks a side, and then joins the tribunal to crush someone out of their current life choices... you need a new therapist.

I feel for this poor woman; what a life she's found herself in. I hope she manages to stand up for herself and pull herself out of this crushing situation she's in.
Well, it finally happened. We separated. She didn't feel like I was a healthy partner anymore. After realizing what she truly wanted from me, and what we needed to work on to make things better, she left.

She told me several times that she didn't want to be poly. But now that she is gone, that's all she wants. There isn't a way to sugarcoat it. We established she used poly as a means for her to cheat on me with.

She told me in the beginning of October that she was leaving. But she still wanted me to support her for the last couple of weeks she was in the house, and I did because that's the type of person I am.

She lied to me multiple times about who she was going to be living with. She lied that she had found a job and that he was supporting her with all of her bills, even though she keeps telling me she wants her independence. It has now almost been a month and she wants to still be friends after all of this.

I know that she consistently lied to me for the last year, and is now living with him. I honestly don't want anything to do with her if she is going to involve the one person everyone told her was a narcissist and manipulator. I learned I have a trauma bond. I don't want to lose her, but I know that if she is going to want poly from a relationship standpoint, poly was ruined for me from this whole situation. I'll probably never want it ever again.

I've come to terms the fact that she is going to have to make her own decisions from here on out. Whatever consequences the choices bring will be hers to deal with, not mine. This is not the end I would have imagined an 11-year marriage would come to, but life has a way of kicking you in the butt when you least expect it.
Even if it's the best decision in the end, I'm sorry to hear you are dealing in break-up grief, new lies from her and new mess.

It has now almost been a month and she wants to still be friends after all of this. Knowing now that she consistently lied to me for the last year and is now living with him and i honestly dont want anything to do with her if she is going to involve the one person everyone told her was a narcissist and manipulator

Who'd she end up with? Back with that Robert guy?

It is okay to tell her you want to be just plain exes and not bother trying to be friends.

I learned I have a trauma bond.

I hope you are working with a therapist to heal this.

I've come to terms that she is going to have to make her own decisions from here on out and whatever consequences the choices bring will be hers to deal with. and not mine.

Yup. She's your ex now. Whatever decisions she makes and where that might lead are her life and her stuff.

Not the end i would have imagined a 11 year marriage to come to but life has a way of kicking you in the ass when you least expect it.
It's okay for an 11 year marriage to come to a close if that is the healthiest option.

I can imagine it's been a difficult 2022 with all the ups and downs. Now, hopefully all of that can STOP for you and you can create your own stable post-divorce life.

I wish you healing and peace over time.
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Hi Diverdude,

Thanks for updating us on your situation; I'm very sorry to hear that you and your wife have separated. It probably is for the best -- what with all the lying she did, and now I take it she is living with Robert -- the one person you would not want her to associate with. Sometimes you have to separate -- when all of your boundaries have been crossed.

I hope you can get some healing in the future. If there's any way we can help, we will.
Kevin T.
Hello again, everyone. It's been a full year and some after I should have just ended it with her. Update, thus far. Things between us have ceased to be, for the most part.

She did move in with Robert. She started working a dead end pet store job which she told me me she would never do again. I'm finding it amusing that she still hasn't furthered her life goals. She still tries to insert her life into my hobbies with spearfishing tournaments and associates herself with the people who she said "I'm not friends with those people. I'm just a shadow to those people."

I've moved on with my life, still teaching scuba diving and traveling with my new girlfriend and her two kids, which is a new experience, not having kids of my own. She has shown me what a healthy, monogamous relationship looks like and she's helped me realize how controlling of every situation my ex-wife was. Things in my life have been great and I just wanted to give my final update on things to be. I do agree, I was stubborn in not listening to the recommendations to end things sooner, but I thank everyone for the help.
I'm glad to hear that you have moved on and are enjoying your new life, new GF, and that things for you got a lot better/healthier.


Hi Diverdude,

Thank you for that latest update. Glad to hear you are picking up the pieces, and moving forward with a much better life. This isn't how you would have predicted things would have turned out, but honestly, it is better than anything you could have predicted. Your ex-wife has her own life to live, she chooses her actions and it is on her to live with the consequences. You don't have to be in the path of that bullet anymore. Good for you. I wish you the very best, and I hope we will still hear from you sometimes in the future.

Kevin T.