"Scaling back" and loneliness...


New member
Just for backgrounds sake, I'm in a quad. Im dating both the husband, Matt and the wife, Maria. And my husband, Steve, had been dating the other wife. Maria has recently become very overly needy of her husbands affection. (My husband is very distant with us all lately due to outside factors) and she has basically asked Matt to scale back his relationship with me. That it is getting too serious. They were fighting about something new everyday and she was really struggling with a new issue everyday. Matt and I are in love. It's still in the NRE phase and I'm head over heels as I know he is. But he also feels like he has to keep the peace in his home. They have been together for nearly 20 yrs and our relationship is less than a year old. I wish my husband, Steve would pick up some slack and help with her neediness but he is barely paying me or her any attention, emotionally or physically.. I feel like I can't help much because I am a big source of her insecurities. Because she gets uncomfortable knowing how strong me and Matts bond is (the deepest of the group) and how she doesn't have that type of bond yet with Steve or me.

So, in short, I'm with three people and feel incredibly alone right now. This primary/secondary structure is just really hard. Why does their relationship mean more than mine! Why are her feelings more valid than mine? I'm not getting my needs met from anyone right now. Granted, I'm not fully verbalized that to anyone. I am always the rock, the unwavering one... So I'm trying to be strong for everyone. Matt says that it will only be temporary until she 'gets over it'... And that we at least know in our own hearts how we feel about each other even if we can't fully do what we want with each other right now. He is getting so frustrated with her constant issues tHat their relationship is really strained right now.
And I don't even know what's going on with my own marriage. Steve is so preoccupied with work responsibilities that I am an afterthought. We are more like roommates than friends, or lovers. And Matt has been the most passionate person towards me... We are electric together. It was like it was meant to be... And I can see the longing desperation in his eyes to want to be with me.... But I'm not his 'wife'... She is.
I guess I'll keep being the one who never has any issues and stays stoic through it all. But in reality, I know iI need to speak up. We have always communicated really well. Any advice...?
This is so typical. The one who is insecure, needy, demanding, gets the attention while the one who is understanding and secure is left to her own devices. In these situations, it is hoped that making such adjustments will prove to the needy that she need not feel so insecure, and give her time to become more confident in herself. That rarely happens. Instead she (or it could be a he) learns that by making a fuss, she gets what she wants. Problem is that when she gets it, it doesn't allay her fears because she is still aware of the depth of the relationship between her spouse and her metamour. So she fusses some more asking to scale back even further trying desperately to mold external circumstances in such a way that she no longer feels fearful. But it doesn't work, because the fear is in her head, and no amount of external molding changes that.

Yes, I have had experience with this one. I am so sorry you find yourself in this place. I don't know what the answer is. While it's hard not to empathize with her obvious distress, giving into demands to curtail external relationships does not fix it.
Chances of her getting over it are low. This could easily lead to a split between Matt and Maria. Consider just how much Matt means to you and how much fighting to make this work you're willing to do. This won't be an easy relationship.
Speak up. You have needs and are allowed to voice them and you can do this without denying another person their feelings or accomodations. It sounds like maybe focussing on your relationship with your husband right now would be the best way to stabilise the whole structure if that's what you want. It sounds like his absence is what is making it unbalanced. I can only imagine how it must feel to Maria having your husband so distant and not having the background you have with him to know whether or not it is serious while still having to navigate the growing closeness between you and her husband.
I'm a fan of the idea of going at the pace of the one who is struggling the most. I know other people are not always, but my experiences have convinced me that true understanding, honest discussions and patience help unbelievably when someone is struggling.
When you feed someone's negative behavior by reacting to it you just reinforce the behavior and feed the fire.

It is NOT your husband's job to pick up the slack it is Maria's job to own her shit and act like an adult.
I don't believe in any law that says, "Someone has to be the rock." Everyone has wants and needs and should be allowed to give them voice. I'm thinking you guys could use a four-person sit-down where each person could get a turn (or three) speaking their mind. I can only hope that everyone -- e.g. Maria -- would be civil, respectful, courteous, kind, and compassionate, in how they express themselves.

I know work tends to be an uncompromising demand, but Steve, too, needs to find a way to be more responsible for the personal relationships in his life. Things that are really important to us, we make time for them.
You all are the dialogue in my head. I'm very rational and logical. I have said all of these things while trying to figure this thing out.
And yes, Matt and Maria's relationship has been strained to the point he has contemplated leaving. How realistic that is another story.
My marriage is strained, not from this scenario. In fact, I've spoken so little to my husband in weeks that he doesn't even know that this is happening. He thinks everything is just rolling along as it was. And I'm not going to force anyone to put any effort in to their relationships with me. If they want to be with me, they will. I put in effort, and give my all... If I do not receive the same... Well, then I know I put my heart and soul into it. I always hoped that what I put in, I would get back... Unfortunately that is not the case right now. Maybe I should try being the needy one huh???? :)
On one hand, I want her to be ok. I want to go as slow as we need to... On the other hand I say... Ya know, I'm a person too. I have feelings. I have a heart, I have passions and so much love to give. Why do I have to take a backseat to everyone? To jobs, to other relationships, etc. I have a very busy demanding, strenuous career as well.. But I guess it is what it is.
I am starting to feel like I need distance from everyone. My husband, and Matt and Maria. Get clarity.
I think speaking up about what you need from a relationship is owning your own shit. And there is no law that says that you aren't allowed to go through phases of needing more reassurance or time with your partners. Healthy relationships require people to ask for what they need and desire and as long as everyone is doing the same thing and open to hearing that other people might have opposing needs then negotiation starts there. Not speaking up and just attempting to deal with everything alone or assuming you know what the other person thinks or feels or how they would react if you spoke and making decisions based on those assumptions are harmful things to do in any relationship.

I don't believe most people are inherently manipulative or just out to get their own way, I believe that most people will try to make others happy as long as their own needs are being met. My personal motto is Do the best you can, be as honest and kind and forgiving as you can to others and to yourself and assume they are trying their best to do the same. Punishing or judging people for the times they slip up, are afraid, or have higher needs for the time being just isn't something I want in my nature.
There is a difference in asking for what you need in relationship, and controlling the spouses other relationship.
If your husband doesn't even know anything is wrong he doesn't have the chance to try and help any of you out. You said in your first post you wished he could help pick up the slack but you haven't asked him? Radical (but kind) honesty about all our emotions, desires, needs and reactions has been really helpful for my husband and I this last five years both in our marriage overall and in our poly situation.
People don't like to have unpleasant truths pointed out to them, and you're bound to get flak for it. Probably yelled at and accused.

But you do need to be strong and stand up for what you need, rather than cater to others' insecurities.

Wish you all the best!
If you do get yelled at and accused, try really really hard to take the higher road and set the better example. Say that you needed to express your needs and concerns, that you're sorry if it offends but we can't just bottle things up ...

Could be that pulling Steve aside in private and informing him of the state of things in general would be the thing to do before planning the four-person sit-down. Maybe he'd step up to the plate on his own without being asked. If not, well ... that's one reason why you'd have the sit-down.

You're in a tight spot. I feel for you.
Hi TangleDiamond,

I understand your position, but I also understand Maria's.

It is incredibly painful to want to fully explore and express your love for Matt, but to be hindered by other factors. It is also no doubt incredibly painful for Maria to feel that she is 'old driftwood' after 20 years.

To offer a different angle on all that has been said so far - isn't it Matt's decision, at the end of the day, to "scale back"? Maria can literally say "look, can you cool it for a while and do some repair work on us?" - but Matt doesn't have to say yes. Matt could say "I want to do some repair work on us, but I cannot change a relationship that is already in existence. It's not fair to the human beings invested in it."

Hey, on the other hand, it could be possible that you could say "I'm in a quad. I'm in a poly dynamic. I'm actively happy to take it as slow as Maria needs for a while, because she is the love of my love - therefore, I care about her happiness and want to be able to give her the helping hand she needs for the short-term."

As a sidenote, it's not fair to expect Steve to "pick up the slack". You are each responsible for voicing your own needs and for finding ways to get them met. Steve isn't obligated to give anything right now, though it sucks for his partners when he isn't emotionally present. You're not obligated to help Maria, though Matt has chosen to do what he can to help his wife of 20 years, which sucks for you.

Things you could do:
- Speak up - kindly, calmly, empathetically
- Realise that Matt ultimately made this decision, not Maria
- Realise that you and Matt aren't in a solo relationship - there are four people to consider, and time will not move exactly as two people wish it to, however sad that it - you have all made a commitment to love and help each other... not just to facilitate the two that are in NRE
- Express that you are sad that Steve is not present
- Express that you are sad that Matt has chosen to scale back
- Ask Maria what you might be able to do to help her
- Request a set time frame for this "scaling back", to give Matt and Maria time to repair their relationship - 1 / 2 / 3 / 6 months
- Consider that if Maria feels neglected there *is* a chance that Matt is *not* doing his bit as a husband
@ TangleDiamond2 ... just out of curiosity, have you any idea what it is that's putting the distance between Matt and Maria? What kinds of things have they been fighting about?
Oh my gosh. This community is amazing for the support! Differing viewpoints, etc... I appreciate it all.
I had a heart to heart with Maria tonight. It was great and we hashed some things out. She expressed how hard it was to see the man she loves swoon over me and look at me in ways she hasn't seen on years. We worked it out and came to an understanding that she needed things to slow down for a bit... It was a great conversation. We all hung out together having a great time for hours...
Then it erupted. Ten minutes ago. Me and Matt were talking alone, for
About 5 min. She was already on bed. She came out in a fury saying she was done and it was over. We were about 10 feet away from one another. No romance, no flirting... Just friends having a chat. I walked away and left and went home. I'm not playing high school childish games at this point in my life. I tried to ask what was happening and she kept saying she was done.
Ok. Done. Really. Is that how this goes?
I feel like I am in a tail spin!

I'm so sorry to hear it went down like that after a positive conversation.

It sounds like Maria felt foolish in bed alone while Matt stayed with you. She may have felt like the two of you were talking about her, or sharing words of longing while she was out of earshot.

It also sounds like her and Matt have some work to do. It might have been more sensitive, given the conversation, for Matt to have gone to bed with her in that moment. She may have felt extremely vulnerable... Honestly, if I put myself in her shoes and imagine the embarrassment of opening up about my struggles, only to be in bed alone wondering what was being said downstairs, it would probably be excruitatingly painful. I imagine she felt that she'd said all this... but by Matt staying with you, she felt like he had ignored everything she had just said. She may have felt that he was so wrapped up in you that he had to squeeze just a few more minutes alone (basically push his luck), and that may have reinforced what she was feeling - that he's starry eyed and that she's been forgotten.

At the same time, blowing up isn't the way to go. Saying she's done isn't the way to go. It sounds like she's pushed to her limits... I wonder why that is? Is Matt not 'present' in their relationship? Has he just thrown her over for you? Or is it that she just needs to work on herself? I don't know.

It sounds like the best thing to do right now would be to let things simmer down some, and then decide if you want to stick around while Matt works on his marriage with Maria... And decide whether her communication style is ok with you to be involved with.
It sounds like Maria may be experiencing some paranoia. I don't see much choice except to back away from that situation for awhile. And professional (poly-friendly) counseling might be something Matt and Maria need right now (in case they're asking for your advice).
My heart feels broken....
We are 'taking a break', ending things... Giving space. Whatever you want to call it.
This makes my husband feel like getting emotionally invested in other people is wrong... He doesn't want to feel hurt.
I would rather feel hurt than live a life without feeling the love I have felt from Matt.
Thank you all for your support ... It's not over my any means yet. But right now I am contemplating taking a spiritual break from my marriage as well. And just working on myself.