New to polyamory

hfist67

New member
Good evening all, I am a 55yo married male. I recently developed emotional attachment to a person I have worked with for 16 years. This relationship has not included sex but I think about her constantly and have had a lot of contact in person and via messenger. My wife and I have gotten increasingly distant over our 31 years of marriage. My wife knows about this and it is causing a lot of additional strain in our marriage. We are in couples counseling. To her credit, my wife has not mandated I terminate all contact. I fact, the only restriction is that I not be with the other person without a 3rd party present. I refuse to not see this other person. My wife has met and likes my friend but still gets distressed when I talk to her frequently. Any ideas what to do next? I don’t want a divorce and am extremely fearful of what would happen if we separate, but also fear staying in a marriage where we are more like roommates than husband and wife.
 

Evie

Kaitiaki
Staff member
Have you actually tabled opening your relationship during the couple's counseling? Is your counselor equipped to help you discuss this?

Have you done any work to examine and possibly dismantle core beliefs or values around monogamy?

Have you done any work to examine your fear of divorce? It's not uncommon for people to find that they can't open an existing relationship and have to leave it in order to build new relationships that never include monogamy in the first place.

You've obviously done a little reading to discover polyamory. Do you truly believe that this is a love style you identify with wholly, or is this you falling for a colleague and being afraid of divorce? How will you feel/react when your wife meets someone she wanted to date? Will you try and control her interaction with them the same way she is trying to control yours?

Opening up to polyamory is very much about letting that control go and seeing your long term partner as an autonomous person and capable adult who can make decisions for themselves about who they date and how, who they love and how.

So, next, really dig deep into your own psyche about what if the boot were on the other foot. From a place of empathy you might then find a way forward. Perhaps into dating work colleague (is that really a good idea?) Or into meeting less messy people to date, and enabling your wife to do the same if she chooses to.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
I'm glad you're in couples counseling to help you negotiate new understandings in your marriage, or learn how to split up amicably, if it comes to that.

Making the leap into the unknown is always difficult. I was also in a 30+ year relationship/marriage that we had to end because we had grown apart. We still had an active sex life, but many many other things were just not working out. We'd done therapy 4 times over our decades together, but this time we just couldn't reconcile things. We'd gotten married so young and we'd both just changed a lot.

I got to the point that I wasn't even scared of splitting, even though I was going to take a huge financial hit (my ex was the main breadwinner). But let me tell you, it was a great choice for me. I got a whole new lease on life. I bet, even if things don't continue with your new love forever, you'll be better off. You can stay friends with your wife, hopefully, but be able to become your authentic self and rediscover romance and excitement all over again. I wish you well.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hello hfist67,

You mentioned that your wife gets distressed when you talk to your friend frequently. Can you talk to your friend less frequently? Does your friend know that your marriage is struggling, and that you don't want to lose your marriage? Do you talk a lot to your wife about your friend? It sounds like you and your friend are experiencing NRE with each other -- this can happen even with your 16 years of history with her. And while there is nothing wrong with NRE per se, it must be handled with care or it can result in you neglecting your wife (and further damaging your marriage).

Can you carry on with your wife and your friend with circumstances as is, not dating/having sex with your friend, and always having a "chaperone" when you are with your friend? Do you want more now? Do you think you'll want more in the future? If so, you'll need to talk more with your wife about your feelings. It's good that you and your wife are in couples counseling, hopefully the counselor can help. You are in a difficult situation, your marriage is already struggling, and your feelings for your friend are adding pressure to your marriage. I hope you and your wife don't split up, although I guess it's possible that could happen.

Hang in there, and keep posting,
Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 

hfist67

New member
Have you actually tabled opening your relationship during the couple's counseling? Is your counselor equipped to help you discuss this?

Have you done any work to examine and possibly dismantle core beliefs or values around monogamy?

Have you done any work to examine your fear of divorce? It's not uncommon for people to find that they can't open an existing relationship and have to leave it in order to build new relationships that never include monogamy in the first place.

You've obviously done a little reading to discover polyamory. Do you truly believe that this is a love style you identify with wholly, or is this you falling for a colleague and being afraid of divorce? How will you feel/react when your wife meets someone she wanted to date? Will you try and control her interaction with them the same way she is trying to control yours?

Opening up to polyamory is very much about letting that control go and seeing your long term partner as an autonomous person and capable adult who can make decisions for themselves about who they date and how, who they love and how.

So, next, really dig deep into your own psyche about what if the boot were on the other foot. From a place of empathy you might then find a way forward. Perhaps into dating work colleague (is that really a good idea?) Or into meeting less messy people to date, and enabling your wife to do the same if she chooses to.

You bring up some very good points. I have not mentioned opening up the relationship during our couples sessions. I don't think our counselor is properly equipped in this area. I would be interested in examining and possibly dismantling monogamy core beliefs. Any suggestions. I have talked to my wife about meeting emotional needs and I know that I am not filling her needs just like she is not filing mine. Of the two of us, I am the jealous one. About 1.5 weeks ago, I told her that if she felt she needed to go outside our relationship to get the emotional fulfilment she needs, I would be OK with that if that made her more happy. She asked, "do you mean you want me to have an affair"? I said, "I want you to be happy and emotionally fulfilled, and be able to do what you need to obtain that, and if that means going outside our relationship, that is OK". I continue to dig deeply into my brain to find out why I fear divorce, why I fear being alone, what will allow me emotional fulfillment, and how do I proceed without hurting my wife. She is a very good person, and I want to make sure she is taken care of, no matter how this turns out
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hi hfist67,

There is a book that may interest you; it is called, "Sex at Dawn: how we mate, why we stray, and what it means for modern relationships," by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá. If you read it, it may help you examine, and possibly dismantle, some of your core monogamous beliefs. If your wife is willing, ask her to read it too.

Other than that, as you continue to post here, you can raise more questions, and express the thoughts and beliefs that you have. Especially the ones that you want to examine and dismantle. Monogamy has so many ingrained beliefs, that make us feel like polyamory is impossible. One of those beliefs is that jealousy is healthy, it is a sign of how much we love our spouse/partner. Think about how crazy that really is ...

Thanks for your posts so far; I hope we can continue to help.
Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
I would say that it seems to me to be extremely important to talk in therapy about having made a deep emotional connection to your friend.

You may not be polyamorous. It sounds like you have fallen out of love with your wife of many years. You're not alone in this, as of course you know. It's as common as dirt.

One reason might be, as was my case, that you have grown apart in your interests, and even spiritually. Another reason is that your marriage has been on auto pilot for many years. You've stopped all romantic gestures, have stopped planning and going on nice dates and vacations. Sometimes changing things up in this way can help. Hotel sex being better is a common experience.

But if you've truly grown apart, and you're only staying in the marriage out of habit and from fear of change, this is worth examining.

This might sound like a stereotype, but I have read articles about aging men and women that indicate that widowed or divorced men want to rush into marriage, or at least living together, when they date women. But the women want their independence and turn down proposals often. This happens because women often feel forced into taking care of their husband as if he was a child, doing his laundry, cooking, most of the housework. They also care about his emotional well-being, since men are (often/usually) afraid to share their emotions with anyone except their wives. After decades of this, once they get free, they just want their own place and do not want to have to care for a man in this way ever again.

I am talking about the boomer generation here. Things are changing, thanks to feminism.
 

Evie

Kaitiaki
Staff member
You bring up some very good points. I have not mentioned opening up the relationship during our couples sessions. I don't think our counselor is properly equipped in this area.
They may be willing to upskill, or they might be able to make a recommendation about someone else who can help.

I would be interested in examining and possibly dismantling monogamy core beliefs. Any suggestions.
I'm sure there are resources out there for this but I'm afraid I don't have any to hand. I'd start with sitting down with pen and paper and writing down everything that monogamy means to you. You may want to do this with your wife, but start doing it as a separate exercise then share your ideas with each other and see where they overlap. Core beliefs are usually formed in childhood, modeled by the adults around us, both nuclear and societal, or even by what we watched on TV/read in books. Then ask yourself, can I identify where this belief came from? How is it serving me? What could be an alternative? Would that alternative serve me better?

Often our core beliefs go uninspected, I know I fell into that trap in my late 20s/early 30s when I believed it was time to "settle down" with my then partner. We didn't have the communication skills or even self awareness to build a life that we really might have thrived in. But I learned about myself during that relationship and didn't allow the same mistakes to happen when I met my now husband.

I have talked to my wife about meeting emotional needs and I know that I am not filling her needs just like she is not filing mine.
Have you simply grown apart? Do you envisage growing back together? Or should the conversation really be about kindly moving on from this status quo?

Of the two of us, I am the jealous one. About 1.5 weeks ago, I told her that if she felt she needed to go outside our relationship to get the emotional fulfilment she needs, I would be OK with that if that made her more happy. She asked, "do you mean you want me to have an affair"? I said, "I want you to be happy and emotionally fulfilled, and be able to do what you need to obtain that, and if that means going outside our relationship, that is OK".
But right now she still thinks you're encouraging an affair rather than a mutually defined open relationship. You might want to look into developing your vocabulary (because that's a large part of what learning is) so you can communicate more effectively about what an open marriage could look like for both of you. You also may not have considered that she might not just stop at one extra person but might develop emotional connections to a few until she's polysaturated (see, vocab).

I continue to dig deeply into my brain to find out why I fear divorce, why I fear being alone, what will allow me emotional fulfillment, and how do I proceed without hurting my wife. She is a very good person, and I want to make sure she is taken care of, no matter how this turns out
Oh, I suspect she's already hurting, you can't start discussing extramarital partners after 30 years and not experience some emotional reaction that is likely to resemble hurt and fear.

But let's examine emotion for a moment. We have colloquial terms that reflect what part of the body something is felt in. "A lump in the throat" (sadness) or "heart is jumping out of your chest" (fear) or "get something off your chest" (relief) or "butterflies in your stomach" (often excitement) indicating the upper abdomen or "gut feeling" more related to the lower abdomen. All of these have a physical cause, but are generally preceded by a thought, however fleeting or potentially subconscious, that signals the endocrine system to react accordingly. But if the thoughts can be developed positively then the body is likely to react favourably and the resulting emotions become enjoyable ones.

I hope that you and your wife can navigate the retraining of the thought patterns from monogamy to whatever form of ethical non-monogamy that you settle on. I hope that any notions of scarcity and lack (which I suggest might be fueling your fear of divorce) can get tempered with ideas of abundance. Jealousy is, at its root, a fear of loss, projected outward. If you learn to not fear loss (by choice such as divorce), either due to secure attachment or acceptance that sometimes letting go is a way of moving forward, then the jealousy is likely to greatly diminish.
 
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