Poly-bombed

MTC33

New member
Hello Everyone,

I just found this forum and it seems like a wonderful place, so I just decided to join. Here is my situation: my wife (46f) and I (51m) have been married for over 11 years, and have been together for almost 14 years. It is the second marriage for both of us. I have three older children from my first marriage and my wife and I have a 10-year old daughter together. For the first roughly 10 years of our marriage I thought things were perfect. We were inseparable, best friends who loved to do everything together, had amazing sex, loved to travel, had rewarding careers.

During the pandemic my wife got a new job, her dream job, which she initially started doing remotely. Once they went back into the office she began developing a very close friendship with a co-worker. I discovered a text string between them (yes, I suspected something was up and checked her phone, which I should not have done) and was floored by what I discovered. Nothing sexual, but clearly, in my mind, she was having an emotional affair with this guy.

I confronted her. She disagreed that there was anything over the line about the texts and accused me of being controlling. We got ourselves into therapy to work things out and for about the next 18 or so months we tried to deal with this situation. I initially insisted she pull back from him and treat him as a co-worker and casual friend only, which she agreed to do. But over time. she asked me again and again if she could re-kindle her relationship with him. I refused for a while, then relented when I knew I couldn’t stop it if I wanted to.

All the while, she insisted that although she had strong feelings for him and cared deeply for him, it was nothing compared to what we had together.

She initially called him a very good friend, which evolved into a best friend, which eventually evolved into a relationship that she could not live without. I had a lot of anger and resentment over this, did not handle things well, we fought a ton. But neither of us wanted to give in, so we also fought for each other.

Some time last fall, my wife (who is also doing her own work in therapy) starting talking about the fact that she thought she was polyamorous, and that she might love this guy, but not in the same way she loved me. Then last week she finally came completely clean. She is polyamorous, has always been, but never knew it. She claims she (unknowingly) put this side of herself away when we met because of the strength of our bond together, and likely because she knew I would have a hard time with it.

She is in love with this guy (who is also married, but who also found himself in an open marriage, whether he wanted to be or not). She still claims our marriage will remain her first priority, and that the two of them do not have or want a physical relationship, but that she would like to start spending more time with him, meeting his kids, introducing him to our daughter, etc.

Meanwhile, I do not think I am polyamorous, at least not in the way that she is. I am intrigued by the idea of an open marriage from a physical perspective, and think I could get used to some form of ethical non-monogamy, if we were talking about sex only. But, I don’t find the idea of having a secondary emotional relationship intriguing at all, and find myself very jealous of my wife’s other relationship. I wish we could go back to the days when we were inseparable and did everything together, but I know there is no going back.

We are about to start negotiating boundaries with our therapist this week. I am petrified of what she is going to ask for. I love her more than I could ever love another person, so much so that I understand that I have to love her for who she is, not who I want her to be, and that she cannot be happy in our marriage without being true to herself. And I very much want to try to make things work, because I cannot imagine my life without her.

At the same time, I am scared that I am not going to be able to do this. She’s given me permission to see other people, developing FWBs or even a relationship like hers. I’ve started experimenting with the former. but remain uninterested in the later, and honestly would be happiest going back to being monogamous, even though I know that is not going to happen.

I should note, her friend’s open marriage is emotional only. His wife is not sleeping with her other partner, and he claims (I’ve met him) to not want that with my wife.

I’d love any advice on how to handle the situation. Can this work?

Am I kidding myself that she will never want this relationship to become physical? Over the years, sex has become less and less important to her, which I was okay with, but it would bother me if she were sleeping with someone else while our sex life was less than fulfilling for me.

Am I better off ending things now, and just becoming really good friends and co-parents, and letting her do her thing without enduring the pain that is surely ahead of me as I adjust to this new situation? If I put myself out there, could I possibly develop feelings for another person while remaining in love with my wife, or does that kind of thing just not happen?

Thanks in advance for hearing me out. Sorry for the long post.
 
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I do not think I am polyamorous, at least not in the way that she is. I am intrigued by the idea of an open marriage from a physical perspective, and think I could get used to some form of ethical non-monogamy, if we were talking about sex only. But, I don’t find the idea of having a secondary emotional relationship intriguing at all, and find myself very jealous of Haley's other relationship. I wish we could go back to the days when we were inseparable and did everything together, but I know there is no going back.
I'm sorry you're going through this. Let's call your wife Haley and her friend Carlos for clarity.

You've been "poly-bombed." I am going to edit your generic title to reflect the subject of your thread.

I think it's a great thing that Haley has been open and brave, and gotten therapy, and realized she's been polyamorous all along, but was unaware until recently. Good for you for trying to respond to this rationally, despite how devastated you feel.
We are about to start negotiating boundaries with our therapist this week. I am petrified of what she is going to ask for.
I am not sure how your therapist defines boundaries. Here we talk about personal boundaries, not the relationship's boundaries. Boundaries are something you identify for yourself, things you will or will not do, or be party to. For example, your boundary may be "I won't be in a relationship with a person who has another lover. I will leave if that is the case." Or, "I will be in a relationship with someone with another lover, as long as they don't have sex." You have the power and right to establish your own boundaries.
I love her more than I could ever love another person, so much so that I understand that I have to love her for who she is, not who I want her to be, and that she cannot be happy in our marriage without being true to herself. And I very much want to try to make things work, because I cannot imagine my life without her.

At the same time, I am scared that I am not going to be able to do this. She’s given me permission to see other people,
In polyamory, one's partner/spouse does not have the right to give permission. Permission is reserved for authority figures, not equal partners. What is negotiated is consent. Each person owns the rights to what they do with their heart and body. You aren't "sharing your wife" with another man. She is sharing herself with both of you. You do or do not consent to being in this marriage with a person who is in love with two people and can't stop loving either or needing to be with them.

Haley can request you stay with her while she continues seeing Carlos. You can grant her request, or not.

You can change to ex-partners, and be good friends and co-parents and stay in each other's lives. You don't have to lose her completely.
developing FWBs or even a relationship like hers. I’ve started experimenting with the former. but remain uninterested in the later, and honestly would be happiest going back to being monogamous, even though I know that is not going to happen.
You don't need to date and start having casual sex right now...
I should note, Carlos's open marriage is emotional-only. His wife is not sleeping with her other partner, and he claims (I’ve met him) to not want that with Haley.
Hmm...
I’d love any advice on how to handle the situation. Can this work?

Am I kidding myself that Haley will never want this relationship to become physical? Over the years, sex has become less and less important to her, which I was OK with, but it would bother me if she were sleeping with someone else while our sex life was less than fulfilling for me.
We have no way of knowing, but usually adult affairs of the heart, especially at first, are passionate and sexual. Now, if Carlos's wife is fine with just emotions, that's no guarantee that Haley and Carlos are the same. Maybe they really do desire to have sex but are tamping that down. They've been tamping everything down until recently. Sometimes long-term sex can get stale, but a new partner can seem very desirable; let's be real.
Am I better off ending things now, and just becoming really good friends and co-parents, and letting her do her thing without enduring the pain that is surely ahead of me as I adjust to this new situation?
Only you can decide, but that is definitely an option. You and Haley had a great run. Maybe now that she's discovered she can love more than one, she'd be better off with Carlos and perhaps another partner or two who are poly. She can be poly, just not with you.

You don't believe you are poly. You think you could have emotionless sex with more than one person, but not love more than one. Sometimes we discuss whether some people are wired to be mono, and some are wired to be poly. I myself think we are all capable of being poly, but we are brainwashed into monogamy by our 3000 year-long patriarchal culture. You'll have to work this out in your own head and heart.

It's not recommended to bend yourself into pretzels just to keep having full access to Haley. You have to be true to yourself first.

But don't make any snap decisions. Most successful formerly mono couples do at least a year, if not two, of research before opening. Unfortunately, Haley has put the cart before the horse. Carlos is already here. This is some serious shit. You have the right to request she take a break from talking to Carlos, or seeing him romantically, for a set period of time, as you two work out your negotiations.

I suggest you both read Opening Up and Polysecure for starters, to get an idea of what she's trying to get you to agree to here. Your therapist might not be very informed about healthy poly either.

Do a search here for poly bomb or newbies and other such terms.


If I put myself out there, could I possibly develop feelings for another person while remaining in love with Haley, or does that kind of thing just not happen?
It happens, but I don't think trying to start a new relationship of your own is wise at this point in time. You've got enough on your plate dealing with this new revelation, don't you think? Haley may be trying to lessen the blow by telling you, "Hey, you get to be with others too!" But that's a whole other kettle of fish.
Thanks in advance for hearing me out. Sorry for the long post.
 
Thank you for the reply and for all of the advice and knowledge. I have never heard of the term “poly bombed”, and obviously a lot of this is very new to me. There’s a lot for me to think about here. I appreciate it.
 
I'm sorry you struggle.

I think you are grieving. You seem clear you don't want anything to do with polyamory, but are thinking about doing it anyway, to avoid a break-up with Haley. That sounds like the "bargaining stage" of grief, to me.

I love her more than I could ever love another person, so much so that I understand that I have to love her for who she is, not who I want her to be, and that she cannot be happy in our marriage without being true to herself. And I very much want to try to make things work, because I cannot imagine my life without her.

I think in this case you need to be able to say, "I love you a lot. But no, not even for you will I do things that hurt me. I have to love myself too. I would like a trial separation for a year's lease while continuing therapy. You date on your side (or not) as you wish, and I date on my side (or not) as I wish. We'll see in therapy if we can reconcile, or if we are best moving on to divorce and changing to a healthy divorced, coparenting family."

Then you get to see what life without her is like. You don't have to be around when she goes out on her dates or has sleepovers to share sex, and you get to practice coparenting. You both get some time and space apart.

At the same time, I am scared that I am not going to be able to do this. She’s given me permission to see other people, developing FWBs or even a relationship like hers.

She's not giving you "permission." She is asking you if you want to participate in a poly thing where both of you could poly date. That is fair. Why would anyone agree to one-sided poly? I think both sides could have the option, and then, whether or not they use it is up to them. It's not like the option doesn't even exist for them.

Be leery of her trying to "sell" you on poly and how great it is gonna be just because she wants to date Carlos.

Remember, this is a time-out period to contemplate, and you do not HAVE to consent. Your consent to do things or not belongs to YOU. So, if you don't want to do poly stuff, don't.

We are about to start negotiating boundaries with our therapist this week. I am petrified of what she is going to ask for.

Your "personal boundaries" are agreements you have with just yourself. They define what you will and will not do, what you will and will not put up with.

"Shared agreements" are something you make with Haley. You do not have to agree with whatever ideas she proposes in therapy.

If you are petrified that she's going to want a full-on BF, if not with this coworker, then with someone else, sharing both romance and sex, maybe even all the way to being life partners, you could examine why this idea fills you with fear, and why you would agree to practice poly like this.

Be SUPER honest in therapy. I imagine it is hard, and perhaps painful, but it's better to sort it out early, rather than drag it out into bigger weird.

Am I better off ending things now, and just becoming really good friends and co-parents, and letting her do her thing without enduring the pain that is surely ahead of me as I adjust to this new situation?

Yes. I think so. You are not poly. If you see pain coming ahead, why WOULDN'T you step aside and skip it, if skippable? A trial separation and possible divorce is already one load of pain. Why make it a "double load" by doing poly stuff you already know you don't want?

If I put myself out there, could I possibly develop feelings for another person while remaining in love with my wife, or does that kind of thing just not happen?

It's possible, in the sense anything is possible. Sometimes the reluctant partner is better at poly practice than the one who initially wanted it originally. If that happens here, then the problem may become Haley wanting you to quit, and asking to go back to just you two, and you not wanting to break up with your new partner just because she asked you to.

Another way it could go is you meet someone who wants monogamy like you do, and you move on to be with them.

There could be other outcomes.

You could think about having an individual session with your counselor to discuss YOUR core values.

I don't know if this helps you assess:


You can read "Opening Up" online for free here:


I'm not really sure what you and wife think "fighting for each other" is for, or really doing. Is your child aware of this fighting in the home?

Sometimes the loving thing to do is to LET GO, and then allow the relationship shape to change, and be in each others lives as exes, coparents and perhaps friends.

It's unfortunate that Haley didn't realize this about herself before marriage. But it is what it is. So now she is suggesting changing to poly, which, from the sound of it, is a dealbreaker for the original marriage promises. You can't stop her from not wanting to do that any more and ending that deal. But you don't have to sign up for some NEW deal that you don't want. You are not obligated to try polyamory if you just don't want it.

Whatever you all decide in therapy, I hope you are able to be at peace with it.

I also hope you consider family therapy for your child so she is also supported through this transition. Sometimes kids blame themselves when the parents are rocky, so don't lose sight of the kid's well-being in all this.

Galagirl
 
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Hello MTC33,

You are struggling with hierarchical poly (primary/secondary), when truth be told there is such a thing as equilateral poly (multiple primaries). People can and do have multiple partners, all of whom they love equally (in a way comparable to a parent who loves all of their kids equally). You don't have to do that, of course. I am just saying that the hierarchical poly (with which you struggle) is well within the range of what is possible.

You do not seem to know whether you can endure/tolerate a poly situation/setup with your wife. Since you don't know, and since breaking up with her seems to be the very last resort for you, I would suggest you give this poly a trial run, and then if you can't stand it, get a divorce. I hope it doesn't come to that.

Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 
Hi all,

Thanks for all of the responses, sincerely.

I just read the post in the articles section on platonic polyamory, that’s pretty much exactly how she describes the relationship she has and wants with this other dude. I’m not sure if that changes anyone’s opinion of anything.

I’m still not sure I can live with it, but we had a very productive couple's session today where we spent some time fleshing out the differences in the relationship she has with me and the one she has/wants with him. Maybe I’m an idiot, but at least for right now, it has me feeling better about things.

I’m open to any additional advice anyone has to give. Just trying to figure out this new world I have been thrust into.

Thanks again,
MTC
 
It's interesting to me that you are being told, and seem to believe, for lack of any other evidence, that Carlos and Haley are just emotional "platonic poly" lovers, and do not crave sex with each other. Either they are greysexual, or are somehow just not attracted to each other physically, for whatever reasons. It's unusual, but I'm not ruling out the possibility.

Is emotional connection missing in your relationship with Haley? It sounds like you've always been really close, and connect well in your hobbies. It's too bad the "amazing sex" disappeared. Sometimes when emotional connection starts to wane, sex does too.

Maybe Haley has grown as a person since finding her dream job, and that has moved her out of your exclusive dyad (or family threesome with your growing, but no longer as needy daughter) and out into the realms of a new world. Carlos is meeting her in that world, and it's irresistible and exciting there with him.

We all grow and change throughout our lifetimes. I know I did. I outgrew my ex-h when we were in our late 40s. We'd met in college and had both really changed a lot (me, especially). We did have an amicable break-up in our mid-50s, after 30+ years together. We both move in different circles now, but will always be coparents and now, grandparents.

I get squicked when I hear people get married (irl or in media), vowing to be together forever. How the hell can they know that? (Don't get me started on Mormons, who seem to want to be with their earthly spouses/wives/families forever in the celestial kingdom lol) Stay together for as long as it is mutually beneficial. It's okay to move on with grace and well wishes for each other. It's not easy, but it can be well worth it in the long run.

That might sound jaded, and maybe not helpful to someone who is sensing some kind of end and not happy about moving on to the next new beginning, so I am sorry.
 
We’ve had very candid discussions about how each of us have changed since we were first married. As noted, it was the 2nd marriage for both of us. I was close to 40 and she was in her early 30s, so it wasn’t like two 20-somethings. Nonetheless, we have both changed and find ourselves in different places, and a lot of what you are saying about her job and how it has changed her rings true. So while we intended to be together forever when we got married, we are not so naive now and recognize that our relationship may come to an end. If so, it will be amicable. I will always love her and we’ll always be great friends and co-parents. But, at this stage neither of us want that to happen; we want to see if we can make a different kind of relationship work. We will see.

In terms of the sex, we still do have what I would consider a very robust sex life. It's not what it was when we first met, but I would wager as good or better than most middle-aged couples at this stage of life, with all of the other demands we juggle. She has been honest with me, though, that sex is just not a motivating factor for her. She enjoys it when we do it, but it doesn’t drive her behavior either in our marriage or in this other relationship, and it isn’t what she is looking for out of this other relationship. She wants and needs that close emotional connection. She has been clear that the other relationship serves a completely different purpose to her than our marriage. Obviously, I have no way of knowing what he expects, but I do know my wife, and that it will only happen with him if SHE wants it, regardless of what he wants. I’ve asked her to be brutally honest with me if things change and that’s what she wants, and she has agreed to do that. There’s no reason for her to lie to me about it, everything is out in the open now. So I guess we’ll see.

I recognize that this may all seem hopelessly naive on my part to people who have been in the poly community for a long time. All I can do is trust what she is telling me, and right now I’m still in it to make this work. That obviously could change quickly, depending on what she wants this other relationship to be. To be honest, at this point, what I am most afraid of is how she wants to spend her time. I’m good with giving her some space to explore this relationship, but I have needs, too. So we’ll see if we can balance that out in a way that works for both of us.
 
In your shoes? I'd prepare for this to become a romantic/sexual relationship and not wait on wife to give you a heads up. You could talk that out with a counselor so you are prepared, emotionally, mentally and if this is the dealbreaker line for you? Prepared financially to break up.

Then if it happens? You are already prepared.

If it never happens and stays "platonic poly" -- no skin off your nose. You were prepared either way.

Galagirl
 
We’ve had very candid discussions about how each of us have changed since we were first married. As noted, it was the 2nd marriage for both of us. I was close to 40 and she was in her early 30s, so it wasn’t like two 20-somethings. Nonetheless, we have both changed and find ourselves in different places, and a lot of what you are saying about her job and how it has changed her rings true. So while we intended to be together forever when we got married, we are not so naive now and recognize that our relationship may come to an end. If so, it will be amicable. I will always love her and we’ll always be great friends and co-parents. But, at this stage neither of us want that to happen; we want to see if we can make a different kind of relationship work. We will see.

In terms of the sex, we still do have what I would consider a very robust sex life. It's not what it was when we first met, but I would wager as good or better than most middle-aged couples at this stage of life, with all of the other demands we juggle.
Oh, I'm glad for more information. So, you'd say you still have a close emotional life together and a mutually satisfying sex life?

Yet Haley still wants her deep emotional connection with Carlos. And that's okay. It's healthy to have deep emotional connections with others, whether it's with people you actually consider poly partners, or just close friends.

It's not super-typical for women to have deeply emotional non-sexual connections with men other than their husbands. Generally we women have deep emotional connections with other women, friends, sisters, our moms, etc. Now and then in my life I've been lucky enough to have that perfect gay male friend to spend time with. What a joy that can be. But usually, guys want the sex. No shade, it's just all that testosterone.
She has been honest with me, though, that sex is just not a motivating factor for her. She enjoys it when we do it, but it doesn’t drive her behavior either in our marriage or in this other relationship, and it isn’t what she is looking for out of this other relationship. She wants and needs that close emotional connection. She has been clear that the other relationship serves a completely different purpose to her than our marriage. Obviously, I have no way of knowing what he expects, but I do know my wife, and that it will only happen with him if SHE wants it, regardless of what he wants. I’ve asked her to be brutally honest with me if things change and that’s what she wants, and she has agreed to do that. There’s no reason for her to lie to me about it, everything is out in the open now. So I guess we’ll see.

I recognize that this may all seem hopelessly naive on my part to people who have been in the poly community for a long time. All I can do is trust what she is telling me, and right now I’m still in it to make this work. That obviously could change quickly, depending on what she wants this other relationship to be. To be honest, at this point, what I am most afraid of is how she wants to spend her time. I’m good with giving her some space to explore this relationship, but I have needs, too. So we’ll see if we can balance that out in a way that works for both of us.
It's fine. I don't think you're naive. But her having a deep emotional connection with Carlos has seemed like, well, emotional cheating to you for some time now. Yet, it's something she can't live without. So, despite the alleged lack of sex in this situation, it's still challenging. I hear that.

Try not to be afraid of setting up some agreements about time spent with each of you. If she is poly, and still loves you a lot, she should crave plenty of time with you, despite her NRE for Carlos. Work out an arrangement for quality time to spend together. In polyamory, you can't just get first dibs on all her free time, as you might in a mono relationship. Make arrangements for actual dates and trips, as well as how you spend your time at home. Limit time she spends on the phone or text with Carlos when it's supposed to be couple time for you two.

The more time she spends with Carlos, the more time you will need to make alternative plans for yourself, exploring hobbies, exercising, seeing old friends or making new ones, volunteering, dating others if you feel ready, etc., etc. I've got 2 primary partners and I split my time about 60-40 with them. If I have a day off in between seeing one or the other, I see other friends, or enjoy my me-time for grooming, shopping, gardening, reading, watching a show or movie neither of them might be interested in, getting housework projects done with no one under my feet or interrupting me, etc., etc., ad infinitum. I have a LOT of hobbies. :)
 
It's fine. I don't think you're naive. But her having a deep emotional connection with Carlos has seemed like, well, emotional cheating to you for some time now. Yet, it's something she can't live without. So, despite the alleged lack of sex in this situation, it's still challenging. I hear that.

Try not to be afraid of setting up some agreements about time spent with each of you. If she is poly, and still loves you a lot, she should crave plenty of time with you, despite her NRE for Carlos. Work out an arrangement for quality time to spend together. In polyamory, you can't just get first dibs on all her free time, as you might in a mono relationship. Make arrangements for actual dates and trips, as well as how you spend your time at home. Limit time she spends on the phone or text with Carlos when it's supposed to be couple time for you two.

The more time she spends with Carlos, the more time you will need to make alternative plans for yourself, exploring hobbies, exercising, seeing old friends or making new ones, volunteering, dating others if you feel ready, etc., etc. I've got 2 primary partners and I split my time about 60-40 with them. If I have a day off in between seeing one or the other, I see other friends, or enjoy my me-time for grooming, shopping, gardening, reading, watching a show or movie neither of them might be interested in, getting housework projects done with no one under my feet or interrupting me, etc., etc., ad infinitum. I have a LOT of hobbies. :)

Yes, it has been very challenging even before she discovered that she is polyamorous. I did not like the relationship from Day 1, and actually saw it for what it was way before she did and called it out for what it was. She was lying to herself about what it was so there was no way she could be honest with me about it. She tried to step away from it several times for me and for us but ultimately could not. It took over a year of therapy (individual and couples) to get to this point.

And yes, it scares me that she has gotten this close to this guy even without investing a significant amount of her free time in the relationship, and I do worry it will turn into something else. I recognize there is a significant chance this could happen. Still, at this stage I am trying to accept her for who she says she is and what she says she wants. I’m not poly, I love her and nobody else, in fact I love her so much I doubt I could ever have feelings for anyone else the way I feel about her. It is why I am trying to make this work, I do not want to lose her from my life (in that way, she’ll always be in my life but I don’t want to transition to just friends and co-parents, at least not yet).

We had a great couples session yesterday where she spent some time trying to show me how the relationships differ, how the love she feels for me is different than the love she feels for him, and how the two relationships fill different needs that she has. At this stage I trust she’s telling the truth, so I am going to try to live with it.
 
I will add that at this point she is saying all of the right things about wanting to continue to spend a lot of time with me and our daughter, and me alone. I’ve made it clear I need regular date nights if she’s going to go out on regular date nights with him. I’m worried about weekends, we’ll see what her expectations are around that, I don’t really know yet.
 
We had a great couples session yesterday where she spent some time trying to show me how the relationships differ, how the love she feels for me is different than the love she feels for him, and how the two relationships fill different needs that she has. At this stage I trust she’s telling the truth, so I am going to try to live with it.

Of course that would be pretty self-evident. You guys are two different people, so she is going to love each of you differently, in quality and maybe degree.

I will add that at this point she is saying all of the right things about wanting to continue to spend a lot of time with me and our daughter, and me alone. I’ve made it clear I need regular date nights if she’s going to go out on regular date nights with him. I’m worried about weekends. We’ll see what her expectations are around that. I don’t really know yet.

What she want might differ from what you want, as far as weekly time spent. This can be negotiated. You can ask her to start our slowly, with just one date per week, for X amount of months, and then increase it a bit as you get used to filling up the time you would have spent with her. Make sure to schedule a sitter sometimes, or sleepovers or whatever for your daughter, so it's not always Haley off with Carlos and you're hanging out with the kid.
 
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