Not on same page about bisexual wife exploring polyamory

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Hello. First time posting here. A year ago, I posted on Reddit a single time to get some advice. Unfortuantely, instead of anything helpful I got my head ripped off by the participants in that poly thread. I'm hoping this will be a safer community where a husband like me who's wrestling with some things yet is sincerely trying to move forward in good faith will get some thoughtful feedback instead of character assassination.

It's kind of hard to know where to start, so here goes nothing:

My wife and I have been happily married for five years. We're also parents. We deeply love one another. I feel like there's a high level of mutual trust and we're both 100% committed to our marriage. During the pandemic, we've only grown closer. Open and honest communication wasn't always our strong suit, but we've worked hard at that and made a ton of progress. We also have good and improving sexual chemistry. She has a very successful career. I'm an ordained pastor but with Covid became a stay-at-home dad for the time being. Both of us grew up in religiously fundamentalist homes with all the garbage that entails. While we've managed to keep our faith, you can imagine that it has required a ton of painful deconstruction and difficult reconstruction.

Having been repressed by her Purity Culture background, I was my wife's first everything: going out on a date, holding hands, kissing, making out, having sex, etc. Shortly after we got married, she slowly came to realize she's bisexual. This was completely not on my radar. I thought I'd signed up to be completely equal partners in a traditionally monogamous Christian marriage. At that point, even watching porn together was pushing our upper-limits. Having experienced recurrent childhood sexual abuse myself followed by a sexless first marriage--come to find out she was romantically attracted to men but sexually attracted to women--this whole sexual realm of life has never been particularly healthy or safe for me. That's why I tried hard to lean into compassion and understanding when I got this news. This has ben an uphill battle for me, but I didn't want her to experience a lifetime of sexual repression.

A year or so later we visited a swinger club in another city. That night she moved from bi-curious to bi-confirmed while making out with a beautiful brunette woman her age. To be honest, it was amazing. The sheer beauty of my wife making out with another woman really turned me on and I couldn't have been happier for her. We took our time and, after doing nothing more for a few years other than conversations + therapy, we spent summer 2019 secretly exploring the swinger lifestyle to fulfill her girl-girl needs. There were some ups and downs to be sure. It took some trial and error not to mention some professional counseling from a sex-positive therapist, but we agree that on the whole these were good experiences for us. No regrets. Not only did I feel a ton of compersion for my wife, but she felt sexually whole, our communication improved, and my own stifled sexuality was unexpectedly given fresh life. Win-win-win.

However, I feel like I've already pushed myself to the maximum I'm willing and able to go. While being a swinger has been wonderful and fulfilling in many unexpected ways, the truth is this transition into non-monogamy has also been acutely difficult for me. I'm a pretty cerebral guy. This has required me to not only rethink my values and worldview, but to potentially jeopardize my professional life. I've sincerely tried to be loving of my wife and supportive of her felt-need to explore/express her bisexuality but, as we explicitly agreed before going down this road, I really have no desire whatever to rebuild my whole life about this lifestyle. I'm not judging how anyone else lives, but for me non-monogamy is something to secretly do from time and time and not a way of life.

The trouble is, since December of 2019 my wife has been increasingly wanting to explore polyamory by having parallel romantic relationships with women. Again, I'm not judging anything as good or bad, right or wrong. This just is not what I want. It's not how I'm wired. I'm more than content being emotionally and romantically monogamous while secretly doing a little monogam-ish swinging 3-5 times a year. I've tried to be open-minded, though. We've now down 17 months of sex therapy about this and, as was asked of me, have studied up: devouring all the major recommended books, reading countless articles, listening to a ton of podcasts. Obviously I'm still learning, but I feel like I've pretty well got my mind around the concepts and the terminology. Still, this is just not what I want. Yet it is what my beloved wants.

OK, we've now arrived at the part where I hope I don't get my head ripped off. Please be gentle.

After the therapy wasn't going anywhere, I privately consulted with a philosopher I know at a major university with specialization in sexual ethics. She helped me understand that under the broad category of "ethical non-monogamy" there are actually two quite distinct sets of sexual ethics for swinging and polyamory. Again, I'm not saying either is good or bad, right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy. They're just different ethical models. Yet, personally, I only feel comfortable with the ethics of swinging. As just one example, I only feel comfortable with us having sexual experiences with other partners if these are shared experiences we have together in the same room. That approach flies in the swinging community, but in the poly community it's widely seeing as inappropriate.

After 4 outstanding years, I now feel like my trust for our sex-positive therapist is waning. She's continually pushing me to have an "openness to polyamory" and to "give your wife this gift" while subtly yet steadily suggesting that I'm growing uncooperative, controlling, distrustful, and close-minded. I just don't buy it:
  • I've already not only upended my entire ethical and religious belief system but also jeopardized my career to support my wife's bisexuality. Why is anything less than 100% of what she wants uncooperative? That seems absurd to me. That seems like a false dichotomy to me.
  • I've told my wife that I'm down with her have VERY emotionally close relationships with women up to and including a non-sexual QPR. I've even said I'm comfortable with things like, say, 4-5 weekend trips a year without me while I stay home and take care of the baby. How in that world could that possibly be controlling and distrusting?
  • Aristotle once said, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." I've thoroughly done that with my research of polyamory, so how could that possibly be perceived as close-minded? It's just not what I want out of life and marriage.
*sigh*

Honestly, I'm getting to the point where I feel like all their pushing is starting to backfire. I feel like my boundaries are being pushed instead of being honored, but because I'm a man for some reason that's OK? Seems jankey. Going back to my own history of sexual abuse and trauma, that doesn't sit well with me at all. I love my wife dearly. I understand and, as much as I'm able, sympathize with her frustration about not being able to have her bisexuality fully integrated in every area of her life. I get it. That sucks. But where is the balance here? Where is her concern for my feelings and my professional well-being? Sometimes things aren't ideal and you have to compromise. I feel like I've already done that as much as I can, so where is the reciprocity?

Anyway, this most certainly is NOT meant to be an attack upon polyamory as a way of life and relationships. As this point, I'm simply no longer able to understand where my wife and therapist are coming from. I don't understand what they don't understand. There's a growing disconnect. I've tried to be humble and open-minded, but maybe I really am still missing something? Maybe I am being a jerk despite not trying to be. That's why I'm posting here. I wanted to see if, perhaps, there's some piece of the puzzle that I'm simply not seeing. I'm coming to the end of my patience.

Thank you.
 
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Evie

Moderator
Honestly, I'm getting to the point where I feel like all their pushing is starting to backfire.
I'd suggest this needs to be communicated.

Also, it sounds like you've done an awful lot in 5 years!

Is this push for the romantic relationship because your wife has developed feelings for one of her swinging partners?

You're right that's there's an ethical divide between the two types of ENM, and here, obviously, you'll find people who are more about the incorporation of love into each relationship.

There is the possibility of heirarchical poly, where your marriage is your primary relationship and anyone else your wife sees independently may be for all practicality, a part time relationship without too much co-mingling of anything. This might even suit if she finds that type of relationship with another wife who also wants to keep her marriage of first importance.

My partner, Puck, has a wife and home that I have nothing to do with, and he doesn't have anything to do with my home and husband. Post pandemic, I'll have a couple of holidays with him a year when affordable. We talk daily, though, because we are best friends as well. (I have other best friends, including my husband, I don't see best as a single thing). I love Puck, but that doesn't diminish or change my love for my husband, Adam.

I had to Google a Queer Platonic Relationship. I can honestly see why this would be undesirable. That's like taking away two key bits I value in a relationship, love and the ability to express love with my body. Maybe your wife feels the same?
 

PinkPig

Active member
I don't think you're selfish. As you've said, you have researched, sought therapy, pushed beyond limits you never thought you'd push, and you've tried (and enjoyed) swinging. Knowing what you want is not selfish. Nor is it selfish to pursue what you want (in your case a monogamish marriage with all forays into non- monogamy kept secret.) Knowing ourselves and pursuing our dreams does not make us selfish.

However, by the same token, your wife is not selfish for wanting to share and express her love with another woman. Based on what you've written, it sounds like she's certain that she wants the freedom to express her sexuality separately from you/ your relationship. That isn't selfish either. It's just not compatible with what you want.

Contrary to what many of us have been told, love is NOT enough. We can love someone with every fiber of our being and still not be compatible. Sometimes the most loving act we can do for another is to set them (and us) free. I could be wrong, but it sounds like you may be slowly waking to this realization in your marriage.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
After 4 outstanding years, I now feel like my trust for our sex-positive therapist is waning. She's continually pushing me to have an "openness to polyamory" and to "give your wife this gift" while subtly yet steadily suggesting that I'm growing uncooperative, controlling, distrustful, and close-minded. I just don't buy it:

If you no longer trust the therapist? Could stop going to them. Because they are suggesting you subsume yourself to the relationship and "gift" this to wife. I think that's hurtful to a patient -- you.

Rather than you "gifting" going along with stuff you really don't want to be doing? You could gift something else -- freedom TO and freedom FROM.

You've done the work in good faith. The work sounds completed. If wife has asked you to do the work of consideration and you did it? And after deep consideration the answer is "Ok. Did it. Really considered hard. Still not my cup of tea. I think it is fine for other people but not for me" you do NOT have to feel bad about that. You are allowed to be your OWN person with your OWN preferences.

You could tell wife something like...

"Wife, I've done the work. I've read the books. I've been to the therapist. I have seriously considered.

I discovered that I'm only into swinging once in a while. Full on polyamory is not something that interests me. I'm also not into a (swinging for me/poly for you) marriage model. I just don't want to deal in any poly things in my life.

This makes me sad because it might be a crossroads place for us if you DO want poly things in your life. I love you. So if you really want this? Then the last loving thing I can do is to step aside and disband the marriage respectfully so you can pursue your dream without me. It is not my dream. I think it is fine for other people, but I know it is not for me.

That way you are free TO pursue the poly stuff you want, and I can be free FROM poly stuff I do not want. We can work towards becoming good exes and friends, and good coparents instead. A different family model. Something that DOES fit us better. "


And it is true. Then she can be free TO pursue poly that she wants. And you can be free FROM poly that you don't want. And you figure out how to be coparents and decent exes instead. A different kind of family.

Continue to be honest and up front with wife. That is my suggestion.

I'm sorry the other board was so awful to you when really it's just a situation where the wants no longer line up because the people have grown/changed in different directions.

It's hard on both to arrive at a crossroads and come to realize that parting ways might be the healthiest and most loving thing for both. :(

I understand and, as much as I'm able, sympathize with her frustration about not being able to have her bisexuality fully integrated in every area of her life. I get it. That sucks. But where is the balance here? Where is her concern for my feelings and my professional well-being? Sometimes things aren't ideal and you have to compromise. I feel like I've already done that as much as I can, so where is the reciprocity?

I get that you don't feel SEEN and HEARD by wife. If you need to hear wife say "I do see this is hard for you too" ASK HER TO SAY IT.

Compromise is for small stuff. You guys cannot come to compromise here.
  • Here you are talking about her compromising things she values. She should be the one to subsume to the relationship. Take one for the team.
  • Or you should be the one to compromise your values. You should be the one to subsume to the relationship. Take one for the team.
But wait! That is not healthy for either of you. And if you love each other, you wouldn't want to see your partner thrown under the bus like that or repressing. So going back and forth on that? Is not good.

I suggest changing the conversation. Disband the "marriage shape" if it no longer fits. Save the people instead of "save the marriage."

Because if you split up and divorce, you have a shot a becoming a relationship shape that DOES fit better -- good exes and friends, good coparents. A shape that allows each to find new romantic partners that DO share your values.

  • You can find your mostly monogamous, maybe swing once in a while person.
  • She can find her poly person and integrate her bisexual and poly life as much as she wants without that affecting your life or your career.
You can still be family and be a part of each other's lives. Just without all this banging head on wall or bending into weird pretzels angst.

As this point, I'm simply no longer able to understand where my wife and therapist are coming from. I don't understand what they don't understand. There's a growing disconnect.

I expect better from a professional therapist.

Wife? She may be hurting and dealing in "denial stage" and/or "bargaining stage" of anticipatory grief and not at "final acceptance" that you both have tried all the things already. There ARE no more things. You don't sound like you have totally arrived there yourself. But may be closer to contemplating it than wife is since your patience is running out and you are starting to question "what else is there to do?"

If the best solution is breaking up, and wife doesn't want to think or talk about it? Fingers in ears going "lalala" and not wanting to read the writing on the wall? Wife might be in denial. She might scrambling and pressing you to keep flying a kite that just doesn't fly any more trying to bargain... just to avoid talking about a break up. People do that sometimes.

Try to be kind. But be firm about what you want in YOUR life. Because after 17 months of sex therapy, maybe it's just time to make the call?

If you are done? At limit? Can do no more? That's it then. You are at limit and can do no more. You guys are no longer compatible for marriage if she wants to keep going.
Love alone us not enough to sustain a marriage. There must be compatible values, same vision for how to live life, etc.

If you both want different things now?
  • You want mostly monogamish with swinging a few times a year. And not being "out" about it.
  • She wants full on poly and being "out" both as bisexual and as poly from the sound of it.
These are not things that go together no matter how you twist and turn them. You cannot be happily married to each other doing them. Could aim for being happy NOT married to each other, but still family.

Life is not a dress rehearsal. You only get the one.

Galagirl
 
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I'm extremely cognizant that this forum is on polyamory.com, so any reason(s) given for not wanting to transition my marriage in polyamory will almost certainly be met with strong disagreement. Certainly I'm not here to preach or to convince anyone to think/feel/believe/behave differently in their lives. However, I did want to explain why I don't want to be polyamorous. It's not just about "the feels" like insecurity and jealousy, which is what my therapist seems to assume. It's about a principled disagreement. So far as I can tell, this is why my therapist is having so much trouble picking up what I'm putting down.

As I see things, there exists an interpersonal spectrum. On one extreme is dependence (or enmeshment) and on the other is independence (or autonomy). In my experience, a lot of people see these polarities as the only options. I disagree. It seem to me there's a middle way: self-differentiation. Having just Googled it, here's the first definition/description I saw: "Self-differentiation involves being able to possess and identify your own thoughts and feelings and distinguish them from others. It's a process of not losing connection to self while holding a deep connection to others, including those you love whose views may differ from yours." Yup. That's my view and that's precisely what I'm aiming for in marriage.

My therapist keeps pushing this theme of autonomy... autonomy... autonomy like it's the best and healthiest option in a marital relationship. Anything else she apparently perceives as being unhealthy co-dependence, control, etc. Having studied the hell out of this stuff, I respectfully I disagree. I think that understanding is overly simplistic. A spouse who is self-differentiated is not subsumed by the marital relationship but neither is her or she independent anymore. Again, I reject that premise as a false dichotomy.

In my understanding of marriage, a husband or wife has unique thoughts, feelings, beliefs, experiences, personality, friendships, preferences, hobbies, skills, and so forth yet the idea is that in getting married you're giving up your single-ness. In other words, to be married is to lose autonomy (i.e. absolute independence) yet gain a life partner (i.e. community). Five years ago, I made a conscious choice to bind my life together with my wife, to always take her into account, so that the two truly do become one. For me it's not just an intimate relationship, legal contract, cultural construct, symbolic gesture, or solemn commitment. It's a union of two individuals spiritually connected and mystically becoming one. No, I don't believe any one person can fulfill all of their partners needs but, yes, I do believe there's something distinct--and dare I add "sacred"?--about the connection between two people within a marital union.

This is why I'm not down with polyamory and this is what my therapist can't seem to grasp. Though I see her earnestly trying to be respectful of my religious beliefs, cultural values, and the like, her own worldview seems premised upon autonomy and self-actualization being the ultimate virtue whereas I affirm self-differentiation and community-actualization as the ultimate virtues. After much consternation and even more study, I became comfortable with having these sexual encounters with my wife and other women in order to fulfill her bisexual needs. The reason I'm comfortable there is that these experiences draw us closer in together, though. They're shared experiences in the same room about which we can fondly reminiscence later. I'm just not comfortable with treating that marital relationship as just one of the available and separate romantic-sexual relationships. Again, I know most if not all others will disagree with this take and I truly do respect those who see these things substantially if not completely differently, but that's my reason. That's why I'm not comfortable pursuing polyamory.

*sigh*

I'm just trying to find a middle-way forward.
 
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I'm the primary caregiver and take care of our baby in the middle of the night most nights, so I need to hit the hay. For now THANK YOU to the thoughtful replies that have come in so far. Please know I'm reading them carefully and meditating upon them. Hopefully tomorrow I'll get a chance to reply individually. But, again, thank you.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hello straighthusbandbiwife,

I guess the main point I want to make, is that you are not obligated to be okay with polyamory, especially if you are not wired that way, and that does seem to be the case. To me your wife and your therapist are trying to push you into being accepting of poly in your own life, they are trying to force you into it. That is not cool. As you said, you have already made numerous concessions to your wife's bisexuality, and she has yet to reciprocate.

You might want to consider looking for a different therapist, one that won't encourage your wife to be uncompromising in this marriage. As it stands, you are inclined towards monogamy, while your wife won't be happy with anything less than full-on polyamory. This is a fundamental incompatibility between the two of you, and if you don't divorce, you may come to resent each other as the years go by. That is unless your wife changes, and I don't know how to convince her to do that.

You want to try for self-differentiation in your marriage. Your wife (at your therapist's prompting) wants to try for total independence/autonomy. As long as that therapist remains in the equation, your wife is going to continue to want this. It is incompatible with what you want. I fear that this therapist is going to ruin your marriage. If you are going to look for a different therapist, do it soon. Before the damage is complete.

With sympathy,
Kevin T.
 

Evie

Moderator
For me, the healthy middle ground between dependence and independence is interdependence. My husband and I have chosen to be interdependent as in we share a home, finances, goals for growing old together, knock on wood.

While we have a number of things that we share with each other, we also have our own hobbies and interests. Well, he's more of a hobby person and I'm more of a people person. I relax by talking to my friends or reading and writing here or my couple of other corners of the web. Currently, he's painting and playing with war game miniatures. I don't join in.

It sounds like you cherish the sanctity of marriage specifically to in the romantic and sexual realm, which is understandable given your religion. I'm guessing your wife and you have hobbies that don't overlap, maybe also friends that don't overlap, but you draw the line at lovers that don't overlap. There's a qualitative difference in the relationship that means you aren't comfortable with a female friend becoming a lover, emotionally and sexually. And probably won't be for the foreseeable future, to the point you're getting sick of hearing about it.

Do you know precisely why your wife wants that romantic and sexual independence? Full autonomy? Would she afford you the same autonomy if you wanted to date someone else you were attracted to, or is the autonomy not actually mutual? Does she just want a girlfriend, or does she want autonomy to date anyone she's attracted to?
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I hope you feel better for airing out some.

As I see things, there exists an interpersonal spectrum. On one extreme is dependence (or enmeshment) and on the other is independence (or autonomy).

Kathy Labriola talks about that in "Love in Abundance." It is going to be a compatibility issue in any relationship model, not just poly ones.

A spouse who is self-differentiated is not subsumed by the marital relationship but neither is her or she independent anymore.

I agree with you. I don't want to be "joined at the hip" like some couples are. Being something like a CoupleBlob. My parents function like that and I would find that sort of thing suffocating. I didn't give up being my own individual self when I got married. But I AM married, and we are an interdependent partnership. We are not single, and we cannot behave like total free agents. What I do affects him and what he does affects me. He can't just run out and quit his job without telling me. I can't just run out and buy a new house without telling him. Neither one of us can change the marriage model without telling the other one. There's things you just don't do. One doesn't make unilateral decisions in a marriage. There's a natural give and take, and yes, sometimes one comes to compromise.

But one does not compromise on core values. Not even for a spouse. You have to be able to say "I love you a whole lot. But not even for you will I do stuff that goes against the grain, or stuff that hurts me."

I'm just not comfortable with treating that marital relationship as just one of the available and separate romantic-sexual relationships

Could you please be willing to clarify? I will guess. I might guess wrong.

What you value is that you are the only person wife shares BOTH romance and sex with? Because you seem ok with her sharing sex in a swinging context. Because no romance. And you are willing for her to bend things a bit with a QPR...but then no sex.

What you value is being valued? You don't want to be treated like "disposable" or "interchangeable?"

Something else?

This is why I'm not down with polyamory and this is what my therapist can't seem to grasp

Even if the therapist's own worldview seems premised upon autonomy and self-actualization being the ultimate virtue?

After many months of consideration and doing all this work? You can decide for your own self and make the autonomous decision that you just don't want poly for yourself. And just because you don't want to do poly doesn't mean you are not self actualized. Self-actualized people are those who are fulfilled and doing all they are capable of. If you know your own self? You have already gone as far as you can go and are willing to go? You know you do not want to deal in poly things? You have no interest in it? That's fine. You know your own interests and capabilities! You do not have to be up for everything in life.

I don't understand why this therapist seems to think you should be bending into pretzels to please wife rather than living out your own authentic self. Why does wife get encouragement to live out her own authentic self and you don't get to be your authentic self?

It is unfortunate when couples come to a crossroads place. If you cannot be true to your own selves while married to each other because you want different things that just don't go together? Your therapist could be helping you through the process of accepting that. Rather than making things worse.

I'm just trying to find a middle-way forward.

When the things one person wants are incompatible with the things the other person wants? I don't know where "middle ground" is other than "We accept we want different things from life that just don't go together. We accept we can't go on like this banging heads on wall."

If you value community actualization? You may have to expand from "spouse-community" to "family-community" and figure out how to keep thriving as a post-divorce family. Allow your relationship with your wife to change.

"Self-differentiation involves being able to possess and identify your own thoughts and feelings and distinguish them from others. It's a process of not losing connection to self while holding a deep connection to others, including those you love whose views may differ from yours." Yup. That's my view and that's precisely what I'm aiming for in marriage my relationship to her.

Blue is mine. Took the liberty so you could see it and maybe think on that.

Because then you can have your self-differentiation that you value in a way that doesn't bonk heads with her. You get to change the relationship shape you share with her. And still carry on with community actualization which you also value.

If both are compromising their core values just to hang on to the marriage shape when it doesn't fit right any more? Eventually the marriage is going to feel like "just going through the motions" and not actually fulfilling either one. There aren't shared values here. Or competing values that are at odds.

Even if wife says she wants both of you to have the freedom to polydate other people and share romance and sex with them? Not just her? Like this would be great for all? Trying to sell you on it?

If that's not what you want to be doing in your personal relationships? It's gonna be like "So what I can polydate? Are you not listening to me? I don't want to participate in any polyship at all. I do not joyfully consent to do this. Respect my limit."

If wife cannot hear you because she's in denial stages or bargaining stages? Desperately trying to fly a kite that doesn't fly here? The therapist could help to her to hear you. Because you are not a CoupleBlob. Married, yes. But you are still your own persons, with your own thoughts, your own feelings about things.

But if the therapist has her own ego involved here and isn't listening? I can only imagine how frustrating it must feel.

Galagirl
 
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Read the comments from overnight. Want to slowly ponder them in my heart and mind before replying further, but I will get back to the insights you've graciously offered and the questions you're gently raised. For now I just wanted to say THANK YOU again. Now... off to feed the baby.
 

Magdlyn

Well-known member
It sounds like because of the fundamentalist Christian purity idea, your wife was a virgin until she met you. First date, handholding, kissing, sex. (Maybe you actually had sex before marriage though, oops!)

But at any rate, she had few ideas about her own sexuality going into this relationship/marriage. You had a head start since you were married once before. (Whether that ended in death or divorce, I do not know. If divorce, I don't know what the reasons were for that breakup, but it would be interesting to know.)

Now it sounds like your wife has finally started to become an adult. Many of us do not begin to figure ourselves out until we hit 30, at least. And here she is, married to a pastor, and she realizes she's bi, and merely swinging just isn't enough. Despite having just had a kid, she wants to get her Christian pastor husband's consent to her practicing as a full-on bisexual polyamorous woman. That's a big ask, huh?

You might not get rehired as a Christian pastor once word got out your wife was polyamorous/bi. (Oh, do Christians gossip and judge, despite what Jesus said!) That's not a "Christian marriage"!!! You can't be bi and Christian, huh? Or if you are, you have to suppress it. You've made a leap to the idea that a "Christian" wife (of yours) (if she even still is Christian) can love women platonically, but not romantically or sexually. If she feels romance for a friend, or sexual attraction, she'd have to repress it. If she felt lustful for another woman, that's OK somehow, as long as she doesn't feel affection.

That's a big ask too, huh?

I'd like to suggest that you and wife have grown, changed, and have irreconcilable differences. You're an intelligent guy. You don't need to force yourself to try and accommodate your wife. That kind of thing causes spiritual death. As GG said, you choose to divorce. You'd be free to find an entirely straight woman who would be completely content to be in a relationship (maybe marriage) with a divorced Christian pastor with a kid. I'm sure there is someone out there like that. Maybe you'd meet her in your new church, once you start working again. Meanwhile, I hope you qualify for alimony, since your wife has a great job and you're currently unemployed.

I wish you well.

And now, may I just curse fundamentalist Christianity and the purity moment for a bit? It's fucked up! $##%^&^$#%!!
 
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It sounds like because of the fundamentalist Christian purity idea, your wife was a virgin until she met you. First date, handholding, kissing, sex. (Maybe you actually had sex before marriage though, oops!)
It's a bit more complicated than that.

My wife's mom is a lifelong, ardent atheist and her dad is a "whatever works for you" agnostic, but her parents had a completely dysfunctional marriage. It only grew worse over time due to her mom's deepening personality disorder and overall deteriorating mental health, which was met with judgment rather than compassion from her dad. As a result, growing up she never saw any love or affection expressed between them, so there was no model for this stuff. Home life was hell. So, it was actually he church community that provided a sense of stability and warmth. The pastor looked out for her and her friends' parents kinda served as surrogates. At the same time, they also provided the fundamentalist Purity Culture. In other words, my wife kinda got themes of sexual suppression from her atheist mom, agnostic dad, and religious community. The ol' triple whammy.

But, yes, we did shag a great many times before our wedding. There was no oops about it. ;)

But at any rate, she had few ideas about her own sexuality going into this relationship/marriage.
That's correct.

You had a head start since you were married once before.
I'm older, yes, but that's probably giving me too much credit since my first marriage was a sexless marriage from the outset and I also grew up in the toxicity of the fundamentalist Purity Culture albeit a different type of church.

(Whether that ended in death or divorce, I do not know. If divorce, I don't know what the reasons were for that breakup, but it would be interesting to know.)
Yes, it was a divorce. Well... OK... I'll be open about this.

Some (or all?) of you might roll your eyes at this as bullshit religious gobbledygook, but after interviews with both parties and my therapist at the time (I authorized it) the institutional powers that be declared an "ecclesiastical annulment." To be clear, that doesn't deny that a wedding ceremony took place nor that we were legally married in the eyes of the state. It does, however, acknowledge the reality that this union was broken from the get go and never truly functioned as a marriage. Perhaps the best and most simple way to explain is that we were excellent roommates but it never was like we were husband and wife. Yes, we had a deep connection emotionally, intellectually, socially, and even physically--to be honest, I miss elements of it--but there was extreme sexual dysfunction. (As mentioned in my first post, my first wife was romantically attracted to men but sexually attracted to women.) Because of the seriousness with which I take vows I stayed with it as long as I could and did everything possible to make it work for a decade, including a shit ton of therapy that she wouldn't attend, but eventually I decided it's just not a marriage and I couldn't live that way any longer.

Now it sounds like your wife has finally started to become an adult. Many of us do not begin to figure ourselves out until we hit 30, at least. And here she is, married to a pastor, and she realizes she's bi, and merely swinging just isn't enough. Despite having just had a kid, she wants to get her Christian pastor husband's consent to her practicing as a full-on bisexual polyamorous woman. That's a big ask, huh?
Well, when you put it that way...

lil bit, huh? LMFAO

You might not get rehired as a Christian pastor once word got out your wife was polyamorous/bi.
Precisely why I want to scrupulously keep it private, but here's the more nuanced version:

Our church is publicly (and rather emphatically) known to be LGBTQIA+ affirming. In a role as an associate minister, I worked hard on that issue. Yet we're not just a bunch of hardcore left-wing Christians. I've played an integral role in making sure the church has room for participants who are progressive, moderate, and (sane) conservative. We really work hard to be civil, listening with reason and empathy amid our disagreements. We don't put up with gossipy bullshit or hate, but we also treat people who disagree on this stuff with respect and honor to the point that they still feel comfortable being part of the community. We try to inclusive, and not just of those who value inclusivity because how else are you going to build bridges? In a hot take culture, our church takes more of a slow burn approach. Again, I've played an integral role in that. Yet LGBTQIA+ issues are settled in terms of the church's official position.

You might be interested to know we have some openly poly folks who participate in the church. I'd say 10 in a church of about 250-ish? Having built close relationships with them, they've privately confided that, yes, they've had a couple unfortunate experiences but on the whole they feel truly loved and welcomed. HOWEVER, even in this environment, a member of the clergy having a bi, poly wife? That's probably a bridge too far even for this group. And even if our local church were OK with it, I'd probably get deposed from the same people in the denominational leadership structure who graciously protected me after the legal divorce and declared the ecclesiastical annulment.

I don't have a fallback career. This is it. I studied the humanities undergrad, went to seminary after that, and have spent my whole adult life serving in various segments of the church world... I was not fired nor let go from our church, but due to budget restrictions as fallout from Covid they couldn't afford to pay me anymore. I still do a little volunteer work for the church and am still officially recognized as a pastor within the church, but for the time being I've transitioned into doing the stay-at-home dad thing. It's unclear if/when the church will recover financially and be able to pay my modest ($25K) salary again, so we're in a bit of limbo about what the future holds.

(Oh, do Christians gossip and judge, despite what Jesus said!) That's not a "Christian marriage"!!! You can't be bi and Christian, huh? Or if you are, you have to suppress it. You've made a leap to the idea that a "Christian" wife (of yours) (if she even still is Christian) can love women platonically, but not romantically or sexually. If she feels romance for a friend, or sexual attraction, she'd have to repress it. If she felt lustful for another woman, that's OK somehow, as long as she doesn't feel affection.
Yes, my wife still professes faith in The Way of Jesus.

That's a big ask too, huh?
To quote the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want." Sorry if that comes across as glib--genuinely not my intention--but I guess my perspective is this: Yes, of course I feel romantic and/or sexual attraction for lots of women that aren't my wife, but I exercise self-control like a grown-ass man. I don't need to act on a thing just because I feel a thing like I don't have a functional prefrontal cortex. Why don't I, though? Honestly, it's because I would rather pour that time, energy, and other resources into deepening my relationship with my wife, exploring new avenues of life with her, understanding her better, growing and developing with her, and creating a healthy, safe, stable environment in which to raise our child unlike either of us experienced growing up. I have no problem with my wife feeling urges toward romance or lust with another woman. I don't even have a problem with her acting on the lust while I'm present so it's a shared experience that draws us closer together.

I'd like to suggest that you and wife have grown, changed, and have irreconcilable differences.
It's possible, but I remain all-in for this marriage.

You're an intelligent guy. You don't need to force yourself to try and accommodate your wife. That kind of thing causes spiritual death. As GG said, you choose to divorce. You'd be free to find an entirely straight woman who would be completely content to be in a relationship (maybe marriage) with a divorced Christian pastor with a kid. I'm sure there is someone out there like that. Maybe you'd meet her in your new church, once you start working again. Meanwhile, I hope you qualify for alimony, since your wife has a great job and you're currently unemployed.
*sigh*

That's just completely not what I want out of life.

I wish you well.
Thanks.

And now, may I just curse fundamentalist Christianity and the purity moment for a bit? It's fucked up! $##%^&^$#%!!
lol... I feel ya. Trust me, I've been doing a done of therapeutic work on sexual trauma, religious trauma, and the intersection thereof. I get it.
 
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First of all, thank you for the warm and gracious replies. I know you guys probably emphatically disagree with me, so it means a lot that you've chosen to engage with kindness and concern rather than the hateful shit show I encountered last year on Reddit. I'm sincerely grateful.

I'd suggest this needs to be communicated.
I have. Repeatedly.

Also, it sounds like you've done an awful lot in 5 years!
Agreed.

Is this push for the romantic relationship because your wife has developed feelings for one of her swinging partners?
Context to the forthcoming answer: my wife is not overly emotive or naturally communicative. In some ways, we're inversed from traditional male-female stereotypes. She's also a super-ethical person and, so far as I get tell, never lies--not even little white lies. Her word is her bond.

I've asked her if she has developed feelings for a friend, co-worker, or one of our swinging partners. She has repeatedly assured me that is not the case. In fact, just as of a few weeks ago, she told me that after her own therapy she now believes herself to be greyromantic. Apparently she experiences alterous attraction (new term to me) where the line between emotional attraction/connection and romantic attraction/connection is awfully fuzzy. This is another complicating variable I'm trying to make sense of and figure out what to do with. That's where the whole QPR thing that she'd brought up before started to make sense. She wants to have deep, connected friendships with girls and doesn't want to stress/worry too much if it subconsciously begins to take on a bit of a romantic dynamic that she's not even aware of because that's not how she naturally processes things. At least that's the best I've been able to understand it. And I've actually said I'm comfortable with that. Hell, I've even said I'm comfortable with them in private regularly cuddling to watch movies and whatnot. I'm just not interested in, or comfortable with, a full-tilt romantic and/or sexual parallel relationship.

(I should mention: She does her own individual therapy, I do my own individual therapy, and we do joint couples therapy... but it's starting to financially bleed us dry. We cannot keep this up much longer, especially with a baby and me not working.)

You're right that's there's an ethical divide between the two types of ENM, and here, obviously, you'll find people who are more about the incorporation of love into each relationship.
Yup. I know. Hopefully I've been adequately respectful of that dynamic.

There is the possibility of heirarchical poly, where your marriage is your primary relationship and anyone else your wife sees independently may be for all practicality, a part time relationship without too much co-mingling of anything. This might even suit if she finds that type of relationship with another wife who also wants to keep her marriage of first importance.
So, yeah, I've look at that a lot.

Obviously I'm already well-aware of the strong push-back and hesitancy about hierarchical relationship structures within the poly community, which gives me even greater pause. If--and I do mean IF--she kept things as her priortized focus as 1) her physical health (she's had some real medical challenges since we got married), 2) our marriage, 3) our family (parenting our baby), 4) her high stress job, 5) our extended family (which at this point is more "Family of Choice" than "Family of Origin"), 6) our faith community, and then and only then 7) a kitchen table poly relationship with a woman who she only has sex with if I'm present AND this arrangement would be forever absolutely private, THEN I juuuuuuuuust might... might!... be be able to stretch just a little more enough to consent to that.

The thing is, we both know that ain't gonna fly. Whoever this theoretical female partner would be, she'd no doubt get pissed off with the constraints and would eventually push for more freedom, more public recognition, more allocation of resources (sorry to put that so forensically), etc. And ya know what? Now I'm being able to give up even more quality time with my wife (my #1 love language), take on even more parenting responsibility (I love this baby but, to be honest, this transition into life as a stay-at-home dad during a pandemic has been extremely difficult and taxing on my mental health), have even less discretionary income for us (poly relationships cost money), get even less emotional attunement from her (the baby is taking up a lot), and jeopardize my career all for something I don't even want (if we get outed, I'm fucked)? That math just doesn't add up.

Honestly, I just plain fail to see the reciprocity in this. How is my life not just getting significantly worse? Having experience a shit ton of abuse and neglect in my life, I'm just not taking one for the team to make others happy. Those days are over. Hopefully that doesn't sound I'm being a selfish asshole. I want my wife to be happy and whole, yes, but the cost-benefit analysis had damn well better work out so that a) I'm not just getting hosed out of the deal AND b) our daughter's life is less stable.

Does that make sense?

My partner, Puck, has a wife and home that I have nothing to do with, and he doesn't have anything to do with my home and husband. Post pandemic, I'll have a couple of holidays with him a year when affordable. We talk daily, though, because we are best friends as well. (I have other best friends, including my husband, I don't see best as a single thing). I love Puck, but that doesn't diminish or change my love for my husband, Adam.
Gotcha.

I'm not desirous of a poly relationship, but all these dynamics always fascinate me in a good way. :)

I had to Google a Queer Platonic Relationship. I can honestly see why this would be undesirable. That's like taking away two key bits I value in a relationship, love and the ability to express love with my body. Maybe your wife feels the same?
The thing is, Queer Platonic Relationships are one of those ambiguous terms that are meant to capture the essence of nebulous without nailing much down. It's kind of like the term "postmodern." Depending upon what you Googled, and who you read, it may mean very different things. For example, the other day I listened to a podcast hosted by a poly woman in a major Southern city who, if I'm remembering correctly, has committed relationships with three different guys yet her most long-term, serious relationship is a non-sexual, borderline romantic QPR with a woman who was described as her "life partner." It was all very intriguing.
 
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I don't think you're selfish. As you've said, you have researched, sought therapy, pushed beyond limits you never thought you'd push, and you've tried (and enjoyed) swinging. Knowing what you want is not selfish. Nor is it selfish to pursue what you want (in your case a monogamish marriage with all forays into non- monogamy kept secret.) Knowing ourselves and pursuing our dreams does not make us selfish.
Thank you. That's assuring. I needed that.

However, by the same token, your wife is not selfish for wanting to share and express her love with another woman. Based on what you've written, it sounds like she's certain that she wants the freedom to express her sexuality separately from you/ your relationship. That isn't selfish either. It's just not compatible with what you want.
I think what is bothering me is this tacit expectation that I be the one to compromise... to arbitrarily quantify it... 80/20 or 90/10 in this area. I've never said she's selfish, but I do think that sometimes in life our felt-needs (and, yes, I'm carefully saying "felt-needs" instead of "wants") conflict. Sometimes you can't get/do everything you not only want but actually feel like you need. That's life.

After 14 months in quarantine due to a history of severe respiratory ailments, I'm wanting to get out and about now that I'm vaccinated. Truth be told, I feel like I need some freedom. I have a felt-need to drop everything, hop in the car, and do a great American road trip. But ya know what? I'm a grown man with responsibilities to my familly that can't just be put aside.

The point is, life has taught me that sometimes felt-needs conflict. It sucks but sometimes you have to compromise not only your wants but your needs. Welcome to being an adult. Maybe I get a 6-hour day trip to the beach instead of the cross-country road trip I desperately long for? In these situations, I'll take what I can get. I feel the same way here about my wife's bisexuality. I've pushed myself to the limit to make compromises I never would've imagined. I know she has a felt-need to be with women romantically and sexually. I readily acknowledge that. At the same time, she also has a felt-need to have a strong marriage AND a felt-need to be a mom AND a felt-need to have a partner who's the primary caregiver so she can focus on her career AND a felt-need for a thoughtful yet strong man to fulfill *those* sexual desires AND... AND... AND...

I just don't think the perfect, ideal situation is out there. I'm loathe to quote John Boener, but I think he was right about his fundamental critique not only of Congress but of our whole society. I'm paraphrasing from memory here, but he said something like, "These days too many people allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good." We genuinely have a very good marriage that I feel is only building postive momentum, which she has also said in therapy. Why those all that goodness away in pursuit of a perfect ideal that almost certainly doesn't exist, anyway? Pardon a silly little analogy from a sports fan, but that's like throwing away NBA season tickets because you're halfway up the lower-deck and kind of in the corner instead of being courtside right at mid-court.

Contrary to what many of us have been told, love is NOT enough. We can love someone with every fiber of our being and still not be compatible. Sometimes the most loving act we can do for another is to set them (and us) free. I could be wrong, but it sounds like you may be slowly waking to this realization in your marriage.
I don't think I'm there, but I do think I'm to the point where I'm getting to the end of my willingness to compromise further.
 
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If you no longer trust the therapist? Could stop going to them. Because they are suggesting you subsume yourself to the relationship and "gift" this to wife. I think that's hurtful to a patient -- you.
Obviously I can't make the decision unilaterally, but this thread has convinced me that this change needs to be made. It just sucks when a therapist was really super-helpful for a long time and then things pivoted. I kept hoping for some kind of breakthrough. Maybe this is weird, but I think I'd almost have grieve the end of that professional relationship a little.

Rather than you "gifting" going along with stuff you really don't want to be doing? You could gift something else -- freedom TO and freedom FROM.
Hmmmmm...

You've done the work in good faith. The work sounds completed. If wife has asked you to do the work of consideration and you did it? And after deep consideration the answer is "Ok. Did it. Really considered hard. Still not my cup of tea. I think it is fine for other people but not for me" you do NOT have to feel bad about that. You are allowed to be your OWN person with your OWN preferences.
Thank you. That's assuring.

You could tell wife something like...

"Wife, I've done the work. I've read the books. I've been to the therapist. I have seriously considered.

I discovered that I'm only into swinging once in a while. Full on polyamory is not something that interests me. I'm also not into a (swinging for me/poly for you) marriage model. I just don't want to deal in any poly things in my life.

This makes me sad because it might be a crossroads place for us if you DO want poly things in your life. I love you. So if you really want this? Then the last loving thing I can do is to step aside and disband the marriage respectfully so you can pursue your dream without me. It is not my dream. I think it is fine for other people, but I know it is not for me.

That way you are free TO pursue the poly stuff you want, and I can be free FROM poly stuff I do not want. We can work towards becoming good exes and friends, and good coparents instead. A different family model. Something that DOES fit us better. "
I hear ya, but I'm not interested in going down that road again... and this time with a kid. We fuckin' love each other to such a crazy extent. And it's so hard to find someone who's general beliefs, values, cultural perspective, peculiar hobbies, and all that align. This is why I think this is so stupid. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but that's what I'm feeling right now. Why throw away all this incredible goodness because there's incongruity in one area? That doesn't add up to my way of thinking.

And it is true. Then she can be free TO pursue poly that she wants. And you can be free FROM poly that you don't want. And you figure out how to be coparents and decent exes instead. A different kind of family.
Not what I want out of life.

Continue to be honest and up front with wife. That is my suggestion.
Thank you for sharing.

I'm sorry the other board was so awful to you when really it's just a situation where the wants no longer line up because the people have grown/changed in different directions.
Yeah, that was the painful experience. Usually I have pretty thick skin when dealing with the trolls on the internet, but this situation is so... raw? sensitive? confusing? frustrating? disheartening?... that I wasn't emotionally prepared. I thought my carefully worded post would be met with kindness and understanding. Instead it was patriarchal dick this, controlling asshole that. Apparently, for those people, anything less than absolute freedom and absolute autonomy is evil.

It's hard on both to arrive at a crossroads and come to realize that parting ways might be the healthiest and most loving thing for both. :(
I hear what you're saying, but I refuse to give up. This whole thread now is an attempt for me to maybe learn some things and find a new path forward even if it's creatively unorthodox.

I get that you don't feel SEEN and HEARD by wife. If you need to hear wife say "I do see this is hard for you too" ASK HER TO SAY IT.
This just made me cry. Dammit.

Compromise is for small stuff. You guys cannot come to compromise here.
  • Here you are talking about her compromising things she values. She should be the one to subsume to the relationship. Take one for the team.
  • Or you should be the one to compromise your values. You should be the one to subsume to the relationship. Take one for the team.
Hope you don't mind me copying and pasting what I said to PinkPig above in order to save time:

I think what is bothering me is this tacit expectation that I be the one to compromise... to arbitrarily quantify it... 80/20 or 90/10 in this area. I've never said she's selfish, but I do think that sometimes in life our felt-needs (and, yes, I'm carefully saying "felt-needs" instead of "wants") conflict. Sometimes you can't get/do everything you not only want but actually feel like you need. That's life.

After 14 months in quarantine due to a history of severe respiratory ailments, I'm wanting to get out and about now that I'm vaccinated. Truth be told, I feel like I need some freedom. I have a felt-need to drop everything, hop in the car, and do a great American road trip. But ya know what? I'm a grown man with responsibilities to my familly that can't just be put aside.

The point is, life has taught me that sometimes felt-needs conflict. It sucks but sometimes you have to compromise not only your wants but your needs. Welcome to being an adult. Maybe I get a 6-hour day trip to the beach instead of the cross-country road trip I desperately long for? In these situations, I'll take what I can get. I feel the same way here about my wife's bisexuality. I've pushed myself to the limit to make compromises I never would've imagined. I know she has a felt-need to be with women romantically and sexually. I readily acknowledge that. At the same time, she also has a felt-need to have a strong marriage AND a felt-need to be a mom AND a felt-need to have a partner who's the primary caregiver so she can focus on her career AND a felt-need for a thoughtful yet strong man to fulfill *those* sexual desires AND... AND... AND...

I just don't think the perfect, ideal situation is out there. I'm loathe to quote John Boener, but I think he was right about his fundamental critique not only of Congress but of our whole society. I'm paraphrasing from memory here, but he said something like, "These days too many people allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good." We genuinely have a very good marriage that I feel is only building postive momentum, which she has also said in therapy. Why those all that goodness away in pursuit of a perfect ideal that almost certainly doesn't exist, anyway? Pardon a silly little analogy from a sports fan, but that's like throwing away NBA season tickets because you're halfway up the lower-deck and kind of in the corner instead of being courtside right at mid-court.

But wait! That is not healthy for either of you. And if you love each other, you wouldn't want to see your partner thrown under the bus like that or repressing. So going back and forth on that? Is not good.
Yes, feeling stifled and repressed is not good. But neither is throwing away an incredible life you've built together because you're not getting 100% of your wants and needs fulfilled. I think wisdom requires a little more perspective.

I suggest changing the conversation. Disband the "marriage shape" if it no longer fits. Save the people instead of "save the marriage."
There might be something here I can use, but maybe not in the way you intend. I shall ponder. :)

Because if you split up and divorce, you have a shot a becoming a relationship shape that DOES fit better -- good exes and friends, good coparents. A shape that allows each to find new romantic partners that DO share your values.

  • You can find your mostly monogamous, maybe swing once in a while person.
  • She can find her poly person and integrate her bisexual and poly life as much as she wants without that affecting your life or your career.
You can still be family and be a part of each other's lives. Just without all this banging head on wall or bending into weird pretzels angst.
We've both acknowledged that we're overwhelmingly compatible and are we enjoy our life together. It's just this one area...

I expect better from a professional therapist.
Agreed.

Good thoughts. Even if I end up agreeing with only, say, 25%, that's 25% I didn't necessarily have before. Great food for thought. Thank you. Sincerely.
 
Hello straighthusbandbiwife,
Hola.

I guess the main point I want to make, is that you are not obligated to be okay with polyamory, especially if you are not wired that way, and that does seem to be the case. To me your wife and your therapist are trying to push you into being accepting of poly in your own life, they are trying to force you into it. That is not cool. As you said, you have already made numerous concessions to your wife's bisexuality, and she has yet to reciprocate.
Thank you.

You might want to consider looking for a different therapist, one that won't encourage your wife to be uncompromising in this marriage. As it stands, you are inclined towards monogamy, while your wife won't be happy with anything less than full-on polyamory. This is a fundamental incompatibility between the two of you, and if you don't divorce, you may come to resent each other as the years go by. That is unless your wife changes, and I don't know how to convince her to do that.
I've been reading and rereading this paragraph since last night. You convinced me. It's time for a new therapist. I can't make that decision unilaterally, but I think it's clearly time for a change. Again, thank you.

You want to try for self-differentiation in your marriage. Your wife (at your therapist's prompting) wants to try for total independence/autonomy. As long as that therapist remains in the equation, your wife is going to continue to want this. It is incompatible with what you want. I fear that this therapist is going to ruin your marriage. If you are going to look for a different therapist, do it soon. Before the damage is complete.
I have the same concern.

Thanks again, Kevin.
 

FallenAngelina

Well-known member
We've both acknowledged that we're overwhelmingly compatible and are we enjoy our life together. It's just this one area...
Sex and romance are a pretty big area. I left my husband over sex - not even polyamory. Sex. We have been able to re-negotiate our contract and free each other to be with much more compatible partners, not breaking up our family but expanding our family. We divorced and remain close friends and co-parents. It really doesn't matter that sex and romance are just one area, it matters how important that one area is to you.
For me, it became unmistakably important.

John Boehner's wit and wisdom aside, you get to want what you want. You really do.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I think what is bothering me is this tacit expectation that I be the one to compromise... to arbitrarily quantify it... 80/20 or 90/10 in this area. I've never said she's selfish, but I do think that sometimes in life our felt-needs (and, yes, I'm carefully saying "felt-needs" instead of "wants") conflict. Sometimes you can't get/do everything you not only want but actually feel like you need. That's life.

I get feeling grumpy that you do most of the compromising. Rather than bend into pretzels some more you could just be firm. "Nope. This is as far as I can go with it." And leave the ball in her court.

I get wondering where the mutuality and reciprocity is if wife isn't doing her fair share of that. In a marriage it doesn't have to be a perfect 50-50, but something more liveable like 60-40 at least. Or if it has to go out to 80/20 during times of great illness, ok. But not permanently out there, right?

The part in bold... you see that applies here to you right? I see that you really want to stay married. But it may not pan out that way if you both are still struggling with "happy except for this ONE THING!"

You remind me of my kid. She broke up earlier this year with her BF and she was doing that very thing. "WHY?!!!! When it's it SOOOO close?! It's just this ONE thing!"

So while I hope for the best and you both get to stay together like you want?

You might consider precontemplating a divorce with your individual therapist so you aren't caught with pants down. You are responsible for your emergency preparedness.

Obviously I can't make the decision unilaterally, but this thread has convinced me that this change needs to be made. It just sucks when a therapist was really super-helpful for a long time and then things pivoted. I kept hoping for some kind of breakthrough. Maybe this is weird, but I think I'd almost have grieve the end of that professional relationship a little.

Of course. They were a useful couple therapist up to a point. It's natural to grieve the end of that professional relationship.

GalaGirl said:
But wait! That is not healthy for either of you. And if you love each other, you wouldn't want to see your partner thrown under the bus like that or repressing. So going back and forth on that? Is not good.

Straighthusbandbiwife said:

Yes, feeling stifled and repressed is not good. But neither is throwing away an incredible life you've built together because you're not getting 100% of your wants and needs fulfilled. I think wisdom requires a little more perspective.

Of course. One does not make the decision to divorce lightly. I'm not telling you to.

I hope you and wife do some serious thinking and figure something out.

I just cannot see what that might be, given present information.

You seem to recognize that you are at your personal limit:

The thing is, we both know that ain't gonna fly. Whoever this theoretical female partner would be, she'd no doubt get pissed off with the constraints and would eventually push for more freedom, more public recognition, more allocation of resources (sorry to put that so forensically), etc. And ya know what? Now I'm being able to give up even more quality time with my wife (my #1 love language), take on even more parenting responsibility (I love this baby but, to be honest, this transition into life as a stay-at-home dad during a pandemic has been extremely difficult and taxing on my mental health), have even less discretionary income for us (poly relationships cost money), get even less emotional attunement from her (the baby is taking up a lot), and jeopardize my career all for something I don't even want (if we get outed, I'm fucked)? That math just doesn't add up.
Random internet forum people are not in this marriage. YOU are. So it doesn't matter the "pushback." It sucks to be trolled, but in the end? You are a real person living your real life and YOU are the one who decides what you are and are not up for. Not internet people.

I think if people want a poly hierarchy and they all consent to practice that together? They can do that. But you seem to already see that that a poly hierarchy thing won't be on the list of things to try next because it is not the right fit for YOU.

The math does not add up for you to give a "joyful yes" consent to poly like that. Esp when you don't even want poly to begin with.

Because of the seriousness with which I take vows I stayed with it as long as I could and did everything possible to make it work for a decade, including a shit ton of therapy that she wouldn't attend, but eventually I decided it's just not a marriage and I couldn't live that way any longer.

I don't think it's gobbledegook. Your vows were/are important to you.

I am concerned about that it took you ten years to accept that it was just not a marriage and that you could not live this way any longer though. Was this another example of you giving and giving and giving... maybe giving too much for too long?

It's a hard lesson. When love is not enough.

You aren't planning on banging head on wall for 10 years here in your second marriage are you?


I'm paraphrasing from memory here, but he said something like, "These days too many people allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good." We genuinely have a very good marriage that I feel is only building postive momentum, which she has also said in therapy. Why those all that goodness away in pursuit of a perfect ideal that almost certainly doesn't exist, anyway? Pardon a silly little analogy from a sports fan, but that's like throwing away NBA season tickets because you're halfway up the lower-deck and kind of in the corner instead of being courtside right at mid-court.

Well, is that corner seat enough for both you and current wife for the duration of these "season tickets" to the marriage?

What are the dealbreakers? When is the season over? Are you both clear on those?


I hear ya, but I'm not interested in going down that road again... and this time with a kid. We fuckin' love each other to such a crazy extent. And it's so hard to find someone who's general beliefs, values, cultural perspective, peculiar hobbies, and all that align. This is why I think this is so stupid. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but that's what I'm feeling right now. Why throw away all this incredible goodness because there's incongruity in one area? That doesn't add up to my way of thinking.

You two are going through a rough patch. And when money is tight and you cannot keep a therapist for her, a therapist for you, AND a couple therapist indefinitely... you face some tough decisions.

I get you don't WANT to break up. And that's fine. But you also can't be living in a marriage where you do 80/20 or 90/10 of the giving and compromising for the rest of your life. That wears one out.

Something has to change somewhere.

1) You could let go of some of this "selfish cloud" that seems to hang over your words. I don't know if that's leftovers from the fundamentalist religion or the past abuse. Or maybe still reeling from the other Reddit board that was so awful.

It is NOT selfish to consider your own self, your own well being, your own preferences, etc. It is necessary. It is ok for you to take up the space you do in the world! Just like in a plane crash you put your mask on first before trying to help other people with theirs. If you don't? You keel over. No good for you, and you cannot help as many anyway.

  • Selfish is -- "Mememememe! Attend to me! Screw everyone else, even you!" (That doesn't sound like you.)
  • Selfless is "Themthemthem! I neglect me. I'm busy attending to other people." (This sounds a little like you, esp if you have been overextending to 80/20 or 90/10 of the giving.)
  • Self full is a more balanced place in the middle.
    • Where you attend to your own stuff and your own well being first. So you are not running on fumes or burning out.
    • Then you help others with their reasonable and rational requests from a full tank of gas.
2) You mentioned communication. Maybe look into non-violent communication books by Marshall Rosenberg.

3) You could be firmer. You have reached max limit. You have given and compromised all you can. You can give no more. You do not want full on poly. What you CAN offer? It is either enough for wife or not. Ball is in her court.

4) You could change couple therapists. See if you and wife can figure out something with a new person that has new ideas. And at minimum, a new person who is going to encourage BOTH OF YOU (not just wife) to be your authentic selves.

Galagirl
 
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I get feeling grumpy that you do most of the compromising. Rather than bend into pretzels some more you could just be firm. "Nope. This is as far as I can go with it." And leave the ball in her court.
Yeah, I think that's part of where I'm ending up.

Of course. They were a useful therapist up to a point. It's natural to grieve the end of that professional relationship.
Nods.

I am concerned about that it took you ten years to accept that you could not live this way any longer. You aren't planning on banging head on wall for 10 years here are you?
If need be, as much as I've enjoyed it I'm prepared to stop swinging. I feel like I'm just being thorough in turning over all the rocks with polyamory to make sure there's nothing I'm missing or I'm not somehow unconsciously being a selfish dick. Once I finish this process (maybe this month but certainly in the next couple), I'm willing to say, "I thought about it a lot. I researched. I talked about it. I went to therapy. Polyamory is just not what I'm willing or able to do. I'm done discussing it." Then I move forward. If she can't or won't accept that, then the ball is in her court... Does that answer your question?

Well, is that enough for both you and current wife? If so, why are you in therapy?
I guess time will tell, but the reason we're in therapy is she asked me to be willing to be open-minded and to discuss this with a therapist because it was important to her. That's exactly what my first wife wouldn't do for me, so I wasn't about to act that way. If nothing else, I want to always be able to know to myself that I made a good faith effort.

Are you saying you don't want to divorce again because you divorced before?
I would say that is a motivating factor, but I wouldn't say it's the motivating factor nor even a primary motivating factor.

You remind me of my kid. She broke up earlier this year with her BF and she was doing that very thing. "WHY?!!!! When it's it SOOOO close?! It's just this ONE thing!"
When we're both Christians, both rejected fundamentalist Christianity for Mainline Protestant Christianity, both love reading, both pretty ideologically moderate, both value hospitality, both enjoy nerd culture like board games, both enjoy sports culture like working out and playing basketball, both enjoy traveling, both enjoy camping, both enjoy hiking, both enjoy similar TV shows and movies and music, both are pretty culturally cosmopolitan, both are critical of patriarchy and value gender equality, both have a saver/cautious approach to money, both enjoy our conversations, both like one another's friends, both enjoy our shared sex life, both have Quality Time as our #1 love language, both love our kid, both want to raise her in the same offbeat ways, both despise Trump and QAnon, both enjoy road trips, both want to explore castles in Europe, both enjoy going to jazz clubs on date night, both have a competitive streak, both are Thinkers on the Myers-Briggs who are suspicious of making unwise decisions because they're "from the heart," both enjoy playing old school video games, both can't stand it when people you're hanging out with spend the whole time in their phones, both enjoy the same aesthetics in interior decorations, both hate being cold and would prefer being a bit warm, both love exploring hole-in-the-wall restaurants, both enjoy kinky sex............ yyyyyyeah, good luck finding anything close to that. This woman is my soulmate, which I honestly thought was bullshit before I met her.

You can't keep enjoying each other's company and compatibility while not married?
That's not what either of us wants.

I get you don't WANT to break up. And that's fine. But you also can't be living in a marriage where you do 80/20 or 90/10 of the giving and compromising for the rest of your life. That wears one out.
That I agree with. It's time to make some important changes. The precedent started when my dad got sick, she was dealing with some major medical problems, and all that. But, yeah, time to break some difficult habits.

Something has to change somewhere.
Agreed. And I thank you for making the point rather firmly. I don't agree with everything, but I needed to hear an important part of that message.

I guess you could change therapists and see if that helps any. But if you wind up not finding other solutions still banging head on wall?
Both of us started out more dispositionally conservative and are moving toward being more dispositionally liberal. (I say dispositionally as opposed to politically or culturally, which I think are two different things. Ironically, a lot of today's cultural and political "conservatives" are, in fact, not very conservative. So please know I'm parsing out the two.) So, I'm taking a more conservative approach in being slow and steady in this stuff. But, yeah, I do think it's time for a new conservative. That's something I've been convinced of by this thread, and I'm grateful for the feedback.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
We were posting at the same time while I was still editting.

I guess time will tell, but the reason we're in therapy is she asked me to be willing to be open-minded and to discuss this with a therapist because it was important to her. That's exactly what my first wife wouldn't do for me, so I wasn't about to act that way. If nothing else, I want to always be able to know to myself that I made a good faith effort.

This. You ARE making a good faith effort.

FWIW, I think you are being sensible about it with the "slow and steady" approach.

But yes, something somewhere has to change. From the sound of it? the 80/20 or 90/10 thing is the path to you burning out.

If need be, as much as I've enjoyed it I'm prepared to stop swinging. I feel like I'm just being thorough in turning over all the rocks with polyamory to make sure there's nothing I'm missing or I'm not somehow unconsciously being a selfish dick.
Understandable.
Once I finish this process (maybe this month but certainly in the next couple), I'm willing to say, "I thought about it a lot. I researched. I talked about it. I went to therapy. Polyamory is just not what I'm willing or able to do. I'm done discussing it." Then I move forward. If she can't or won't accept that, then the ball is in her court... Does that answer your question?

Yes. Glad to hear you are becoming more firm of purpose.

"Going around in circles" or "up in the air" when the money for therapy is running out? Gotta decide something somewhere for things to start to change.

Galagirl
 
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