How do I introduce the idea of a polyamorous relationship?
April 23, 2010 1:20 PM   Subscribe

How can I tell my very monogamous husband that I am polyamorous and would like an open relationship?

This is anonymous as it's a delicate question, close to my heart.

I've been happily married to my very monogamous husband for three years. We've known each other for over eleven years and have been extremely close since the beginning. I love him dearly, eternally and know this will never change. I don't want to leave him 'nor do I want a divorce. I do, however, have very deep, strong romantic and sexual feelings for a good friend. Someone I have also known for a large portion of my life and dated briefly. I ended the dating relationship with this person as I felt they deserved better. I didn't feel I could fulfill them due to my own perceived flaws and insecurities. Time has passed and we are still very much in each other's lives. There was a period of two years when we felt it best to stop all contact. As usual, we were again brought together and our emotions hadn't faltered.

Having said this, I need to make clear that I love my husband to my very core. I value him as a person, mate and lover and I do not compare him to my good friend. I do not wish to have one over the other. I also love my good friend very passionately. I love what they both deem as faults and I rejoice in each of their triumphs.

I feel a tremendous amount of guilt. While my husband knows of this other person's existence, he doesn't know the profoundness of my emotion. Each of them give me something amazing and I can't imagine life without either. If this was revealed, I'm positive that my husband would consider the relationship an emotional affair. Although we both want to, neither of us have taken anything to any physical level.

I've often wondered just what's wrong with me. Why can't one man's love be enough? What makes me feel as though I'm special or deserving of more? I discussed my situation with a close female friend who introduced the idea of polyamory. I researched this and was surprised to find the ideals were close to my own. I don't want sex with multiple partners, I simply want to enjoy, return and cultivate the pure love I feel for both of these men with honesty. I do feel that sexual intimacy is an important part of any relationship, but this is not a must.

I'm very frightened as I don't know where to go from here. Once, my husband and I playfully discussed the idea of a threesome. Conversation was not in a serious tone, the idea was mostly "for fun" and to explore our own thoughts. My husband answered that he was very much against this as he could never share and would be hurt by the idea of anyone else interacting with me in that way.

I would like to gently suggest the idea of an open relationship, but I don't know how to start. I feel that he also loves me a great deal and I would hope we could reach a compromise, but I understand there is a high chance the mere suggestion could spell the end of our relationship.

If the tables were turned and I found myself in my husband's place (or if my good friend happened to start a new relationship with another woman) I would simply want them both to be happy. As long as I was still included, loved and appreciated no less than I am now I could definitely be on board. Depending on the women, I could very probably develop emotions for them also. I would above all else seek a bond and treat them with respect. I would ask the same respect in return.

I should add that I am an ENFP personality type and that my good friend is also monogamous in thought. On more than one occasion he's stated that his ideal would be for me to leave my husband and solely be with him, but he understands my emotions and commitments and would never insist that I betray them.

Throwaway e-mail is: polyanon@fastmail.co.uk

Thanks for reading.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (98 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
It sounds like you want to pursue a polygamous relationship with two men who both want you in a strictly monogamous way. It won't work. There is no point in looking for a subtle way to "introduce" this idea -- you need to speak directly with both of them and, if you are set on pursuing this course, be ready to put an end to one or both relationships.
posted by Behemoth at 1:31 PM on April 23, 2010 [19 favorites]


Generally speaking, the way to tell your husband you are polyamorous and would like to be in an open relationship is to invent a time machine, travel back in time to before you got engaged, and tell him then so that he may decide if he wants to marry you.

You give no indication that your husband has even hinted that this sort of thing is on his radar much less something he'd be interested in. In fact, his reaction to even the idea of a threesome indicates that he's not remotely open to the idea and would never go for it.

It sounds to me like you're going to have to choose between your marriage and this other person. Even bringing it up will likely, as you seem to realize, be a huge bone of contention that may harm your relationship with your husband. Note that I'm not saying don't bring it up if you really can't live with monogamy. But I honestly can't see a good outcome here.
posted by Justinian at 1:33 PM on April 23, 2010 [40 favorites]


Wow, this seems like a bad idea and a world of hurt. Everyone in a polyamorous relationship needs to be totally on board. If you were truly polyamorous, I believe this is something you would have shared with your husband a long, long, long time ago. As it stands, this sounds more like you want to have an affair and yet call it polyamorous just so it seems all above board. It is not.

Also, big trouble will come with your guy on the side who also does not sound polyamorous, he just wants you all to himself. Honestly, I think you need to nip this emotional affair in the bud pronto and start having some deep discussions with your husband, preferably with a couples' counselor present.
posted by ejazen at 1:34 PM on April 23, 2010 [43 favorites]


it's not the rule, but my opinion is mostly that approaching polyamory seems a lot more honest when you don't already have the other partner lined up. you're not only asking your husband to rethink his vows and his feelings on fidelity, you're also asking for forgiveness/absolvement for the emotional affair you're already engaged in. i also think that a poly marriage like you're wanting, one where you open up a long term monogamous marriage means that one of the ground rules has to be absolute veto power on the part of your primary partner. since you already know who the other guy you want is...well, that gets messy. it's further complicated by the fact that the other guy also would prefer monogamy out of you. poly relationships where 2 of the 3 people want monogamy and the only ones that wants polyamory is the one who has 2 lovers...well, that doesn't sound terribly good or healthy.
posted by nadawi at 1:34 PM on April 23, 2010 [21 favorites]


my husband and I playfully discussed the idea of a threesome... My husband answered that he was very much against this as he could never share and would be hurt by the idea of anyone else interacting with me in that way.

He's answered the question already. If he is not at all open to any sexual interaction with a third party, he's more likely to be even less able to cope with a more serious non-random encounter; especially an ongoing one.

It doesn't matter how much he loves you, it is not a compromise for you to get what you want over his already clearly stated wishes. You want to have a relationship that isn't what either of the two men involved would truly want, and to try and work it against both their preferences is more than a little selfish.

Your husband pretty clearly wants to be with just you. The 'friend' pretty clearly wants to be with just you. You want to have your cake and eat it, unfortunately. That is, from my perspective, the cold reality of the situation. If you want to be polyamorous, you have picked two incompatible men to have that with.
posted by Brockles at 1:37 PM on April 23, 2010 [17 favorites]


Which do you value more, the ability to explore a polyamorous relationship, or your current husband? It seems as though you can enjoy one or the other, but not both.

Likely introducing the topic to your husband will be a game changer - it won't necessarily mean the end of your marriage, but in the best case just the end of your marriage as you possibly know it, and even in this best case it will not be easy. In the worst case, your marriage will end.

If you're prepared for this risk (or if the benefits of a polyamorous relationship outweigh the risks), initiate discussion with your husband.

For the record, he's already told you what he thinks of the idea.

If the tables were turned and I found myself in my husband's place (or if my good friend happened to start a new relationship with another woman) I would simply want them both to be happy.

I think it's fair to expect your husband to want you to be happy. However, I think it's unfair to expect your husband to want your friend to be happy by sacrificing you.

He never got married expecting a polyamorous relationship.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:39 PM on April 23, 2010 [12 favorites]


I think you should tell him while having a piece of cake and also eating it.

Look, you want something that you know he fundamentally does not want: "My husband answered that he was very much against this as he could never share and would be hurt by the idea of anyone else interacting with me in that way." He surely wants you to be happy as well, but asking for him to wish you happiness while you do this thing that will hurt him to the core is unfair.

I guess I don't have any advice on how to you should bring it up. And I wish you no ill will at all (nor am I judging), but I think you to ask yourself this question:

If he says 'no,' I will a) respect his wishes and never bring it up again, b) do it anyway and not tell him, or c) leave him and be who I want to be.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:40 PM on April 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


You want what they both don't want. It doesn't work that way. You either need to decide to stay with your husband or decide to leave him. He's made it clear that he doesn't want to share. If that's a dealbreaker for you (and, really, it okay if it is), then you have to tell him and let him decide if it really is a dealbreaker for him. I suspect, due to what he's said, that it is.

So, in short, there is no subtle way to break it to your husband that you want to see other people. There's no joke that can break the ice. There's no meal so good that it will cause him to not be hurt if he's so inclined to be by this news. But if you need it, he has to be told...and he has to be allowed to make an informed decision.

Bottom line: is this something you want...or something you need?
posted by inturnaround at 1:40 PM on April 23, 2010


it's not the rule, but my opinion is mostly that approaching polyamory seems a lot more honest when you don't already have the other partner lined up. you're not only asking your husband to rethink his vows and his feelings on fidelity, you're also asking for forgiveness/absolvement for the emotional affair you're already engaged in.

I think this is exactly right. From the outside, this whole things sounds more like you are incredibly tempted to have an affair and want to slap the polyamory label on it to make it not-deceitful. But it's pretty clear your husband isn't going to be on board.
posted by Justinian at 1:41 PM on April 23, 2010 [20 favorites]


If you take this any farther than you already have, you stand a chance of losing both of them. You already made your choice three years ago when you married your husband. Cut the other guy out of your life entirely, but this time keep it that way.

That's the only way this is going to turn out well for you.
posted by relucent at 1:42 PM on April 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Speaking from experience: do not want! When I tried to be poly, it was bc I was feeling really squirrelly and didn't realize or accept that I was unhappy with the person I was with. I behaved very selfishly and hurt a lot of people. That is my own experience, YMMV.

That being said, who am I to judge? Do be aware of the hurt this might cause others. Do what you like, if you are prepared for whatever consequences might arise.

All the people I know who have had succesful and happy poly relationships have been doing so from nearly the get-go; they 'always felt that way.' People who have a sudden urge to bang someone other than their SO are not necesarily poly. Tread carefully.
posted by wowbobwow at 1:44 PM on April 23, 2010


Everything KokuRyu said. You need to decide which man you want.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:44 PM on April 23, 2010


I'm certainly no expert, but it seems to me that if you wanted an open relationship, or polyamory, which is basically the converse of bigamy (something most modern societies frown on), you probably shouldn't have married this person in the first place.

That said, the only way I know to tell anybody anything is to come out and tell them. You know your husband, his moods, his vulnerabilities, you need to pick a time and place and just tell him what you want. But... before you do that you should consider how important this really is to you. Is it worth ending your marriage over? Seventy years from now - or whatever - when you're laying there dying, which will you regret more: not having sex with this other man, or ending your marriage? How would you feel if your husband wanted to have sex with another woman on a regular basis?

I don't know you, but I read this as a simple infatuation that will likely pass. Also, the other man's motives aren't necessarily all that pure.
posted by lordrunningclam at 1:44 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Based on your telling of each of these persons' self descriptions ("he could never share and would be hurt by the idea of anyone else interacting with me in that way" and "his ideal would be for me to leave my husband and solely be with him") I think it's very unlikely that you could have a poly relationship with these people. Trust them when they describe themselves to you. From what you've shared here, it seems that your options are: 1) Be poly, but not with these people. 2) Be monogamous, with one of these people.

Given those likely outcomes, I think you need to assess how important polyamory is to you: is it necessary and intrinsic to your identity, or is it just one aspect of how you might love others? If it is necessary and intrinsic (which I suspect it is), your husband needs to know no matter what. You have to tell him, even if you think it might undermine your relationship with him, because it changes the circumstances under which your marriage operates.

Even if you think (as I do) that your relationship with your husband won't withstand your sharing this with him, you should make sure you talk with him about this aspect of your sexuality in a positive way. He may not like it, but there's nothing intrinsically wrong with it. Don't bring it up as if it were a bad thing. Explain to him that you didn't know that such a concept existed, but that once it was explained to you, you realized that you were that kind of person. Be open and honest. Once you explain what it is, and why you identify with it, then you can discuss how this self-definition changes your relationship.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:45 PM on April 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


If this was revealed, I'm positive that my husband would consider the relationship an emotional affair. . .

I understand there is a high chance the mere suggestion could spell the end of our relationship.


You're right.

What more needs to be said?

Telling him your thoughts and feelings about this would seriously risk ruining your marriage. Surely you don't think that would actually be worth it, do you?

I'm not saying it's impossible for a polyamorous marriage to work out, but the time to broach that topic would have been 3+ years ago.

I'd be interested to know if any commenters here can point to a single counterexample, i.e. successfully introducing polyamory into a marriage, when monogamy had always been understood to be the norm and there hadn't been so much as a jokey hint of mutually going beyond that.

I also think it's worth emphasizing here that no amount of delicate phrasings, or citations to other people who have expressed similar preferences to yours, are likely to change his reaction.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:45 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your husband was very much against a once-off, purely sexual experience that involved you and somebody else. He said he could never share and would be hurt by the idea of you interacting with anyone else in that way.

So now you want him to give you his blessing to not just sleep with someone else, but to do so with with someone you have an intense romantic and sexual connection to?

Based on what you've written, I can't imagine any way he'd be alright with that. It sounds like he'd be hurt enough just finding out about the depth of the relationship between you two, let alone your desire to explore it further. Though you may very well be fine with it if the roles were reversed, that's no reason to presume or expect that he will be alright with it as well.

I'm sorry if that's harsh. It sounds like you genuinely care for both men and have done your best to avoid hurting either one. Many others in your situation would have simply started an affair.

To answer your question: I think the best way to broach it with him, if indeed you are determined to, would be to sit down and tell him straight up that you need to talk about something serious. Before you do so, however, you should be ready to accept that he will almost certainly be against the idea, and the mere discussion of it will be painful for him. Also, if you mention your friend's name, your husband will now have to deal with that as well (very different to an open relationship with strangers and one night stands). It's possible that the discussion would end with no open relationship and a hurt husband.
posted by twirlypen at 1:46 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


You don't need yet another answer telling you this won't work, and yet, here one is. It is doomed for all the reasons others have already given. Sometimes what one wants just isn't available and insisting on it leaves you with less than you started out. Sometimes you have to make a choice. It looks like you have two good choices which is more than many people get.
posted by Obscure Reference at 1:53 PM on April 23, 2010


Once, my husband and I playfully discussed the idea of a threesome. My husband answered that he was very much against this as he could never share and would be hurt by the idea of anyone else interacting with me in that way.

You need to accept that your husband does not want to share you sexually or romantically with anybody else right now, probably ever. He probably assumed that this romantic and sexual exclusivity was an entailment of your lifelong commitment to each other through marriage. And he's reiterated that through comments to you. The level of deception you are already engaged in – desire for romantic emotional reciprocity from another man; not working out this issue with him; sharing things with the MetaFilter community that you haven't shared with him, in the hopes you can find a way to get him on board with your agenda; hiding your years' long love for another man; entering into the commitment of marriage without full disclosure of your desires and needs – is enough to do some serious damage here. If I were you, I'd focus on what's already been done, and how to address it in an honest, healthy manner, while mitigating the crushing blow that is well on its way for both of you.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:53 PM on April 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


One of the most useful things I've heard on MetaFilter is that you should trust what other people tell you about themselves. In your effort to rationalize this to yourself, it doesn't seem as if you are listening to, or trusting, what either of these men have been telling you about themselves.
posted by colfax at 1:54 PM on April 23, 2010 [23 favorites]


If the tables were turned and I found myself in my husband's place (or if my good friend happened to start a new relationship with another woman) I would simply want them both to be happy. As long as I was still included, loved and appreciated no less than I am now I could definitely be on board.

Hmm, I think you are singing the words but you don't get the music. Love isn't about what you think your husband or your would-be lover should want, much less about figuring out why they are wrong not to give you what you want. Love is about seeking what actually makes them happy. Your husband is happy with monogamy, period. So is your "friend." If you love either of them, you will respect that and put your own desires aside. And by the way, you need to either stop leading your friend to hope for more than you will ever deliver, or stop playing games with your marriage.

Beware of destroying what you are very lucky to have -- a loving husband and a dear friend -- as you grab for what will please only you.

Sorry, but you personally make me think of the fisherman's wife.
posted by bearwife at 1:59 PM on April 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


How can I tell my very monogamous husband that I am polyamorous and would like an open relationship?

Like this:

"Hubby, I love you but we need to get divorced because I want to be romantically intimate with at least one other person in addition to you, and I know you signed up for the traditional monogamy thing. Sorry I didn't realize this aspect of my personality until I met this other really sexy guy. I hope one day that you can come to understand this, forgive me, and maybe even join me in lovemaking again."

-
posted by General Tonic at 2:00 PM on April 23, 2010 [22 favorites]


There's a difference between "I believe that humans are capable of handling multiple romantic relationships and I want our lives to be open to that possibility" and "I'm committed to one guy but there's this other guy I have the hots for." The former is a view some people don't share, but others can accommodate. This sounds entirely like the latter. Even with giving you the benefit of the doubt, with the assumption that you have completely changed your perspective on the nature of human relationships and are going to be a paragon of how to handle polyamory with the utmost maturity and respect and grace for all parties involved, introducing it now is most likely going to come across as self-serving.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:02 PM on April 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


I would simply want them both to be happy.

What makes him happy is monogamy.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:04 PM on April 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't have the time to give this an excellent answer now, but just to let you know you're free to memail me at any time, I sympathize with you enormously.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:10 PM on April 23, 2010


I certainly don't want to pile on or make you feel guilty, but what you did was simply wrong.

It's false advertising - you entered into this relationship, and either by omission or deception, you left out a critical detail, and he thinks that you intend to be faithful to him and him alone. The ideal time to tell him that you did not intend to be monogamous was well before you got married - but it's too late now. If you truly "love [your] husband to [your] very core" and "value him as a person" you'll respect his wishes and the relationship that you agreed to. Otherwise, I think your marriage could be in danger. Basically you have put yourself in a situation where you have several bad choices:

1. Tell him - the result of which is unclear
2. Say nothing, do nothing, and continue the relationship
3. Leave

Don't be an ass and have an affair.

I just want to say that there is nothing wrong with you for being polyamorous - please don't feel guilty about that. But it IS wrong for you to take advantage of your husband, and that is exactly what you did. That's the difference here. You played a dangerous game, and the result isn't good. Learn from this experience, and whatever you do, don't make these mistakes again.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 2:12 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm generally pro-poly (with a LOT of conditions, it's very difficult and requires a commitment to a therapy-level of communication, but it can be brilliant if the personalities are right) and I all full of empathy until this:

On more than one occasion he's stated that his ideal would be for me to leave my husband and solely be with him, but he understands my emotions and commitments and would never insist that I betray them.

You want to convince BOTH partners that they should accept a relationship model that is utterly not what they want? Oh my. Recipe for disaster.

I would have advised that perhaps your husband could accept your close platonic relationship with your friend if you could truly resign yourself to it being limited to that. Except that given your friend's devotion to monogamy, I doubt very much that he is going to be able to commit to other romantic relationships and keep you at this level of friendship.

I'm sorry, I'm usually the last person to say "choose your marriage or your boyfriend," but that's my advice here.
posted by desuetude at 2:18 PM on April 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Speaking from personal experience, as the husband in a similar situation, I want to pretty much agree with what everyone else has said. Bad idea, and even bringing it up will most likely cause the end of your marriage, even if it takes a little bit of time to eventually get to that point.
posted by HSWilson at 2:20 PM on April 23, 2010


For those who say that she entered into the relationship under false pretenses of monogamy, I think we need a clarification from anonymous.

I interpreted the question as indicating that anonymous DID intend to be monogamous when she got married, and has subsequently discovered polyamory.
posted by desuetude at 2:22 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


What you have is a crush and that's not the same as being polyamorous.
posted by DWRoelands at 2:29 PM on April 23, 2010 [24 favorites]


I interpreted the question as indicating that anonymous DID intend to be monogamous when she got married, and has subsequently discovered polyamory.

I think the issue is that a lot of us are reading her "discovery of polyamory" as little more than a thinly veiled justification for her own temptation to have sex with someone who isn't her husband. You can't just start talking about polyamory because you suddenly desire to have sex outside of your marriage. Well, you can, but her husband is almost certainly going to interpret it as "I want to have a romantic and sexual relationship with this man who isn't you, but hey it's a thing! Called polyamory! That's okay!"
posted by Justinian at 2:29 PM on April 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I may be off here but it seems to me you are simply giving a fancy name to what you want. Calling it polyamorous seems a way of saying that you are in need of more than one, two , three or more loves when in fact you simply have a specific guy in mind you want to love, have sex with, be involved with. Unless both parties--that is, hubby and wife--believe in this way of live, accept it and both live this way (your husband too), it is not going to work. In fact, the married couple that wrote the classic, Open Marriage, have long since divorced and they male writer renounced such relationships as fatal to a good marriage. It might work. But how will you feel if to make you happy your husband goes along with it and then goes out a few times a week with 3 or 4 women he gets involved with? ps: sounds like the other guy is willing to go along with it for a beginning but will then suggest a divorce and that you be his new mate.
posted by Postroad at 2:32 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I interpreted the question as indicating that anonymous DID intend to be monogamous when she got married

How is that not a false pretense? You can't make a vow to another person to be faithful and monogamous and then retroactively decide thats not really who you are. Well, you can, but that sorta makes you a liar (if you are breaking that vow without their knowledge).
posted by ejazen at 2:33 PM on April 23, 2010


I don't think you can tell your husband without hurting him.

I want to add this one point without making you feel bad, if possible. In my mind (and in the minds of many in committed relationships), this wouldn't be a matter of genuinely weighing between options, as you've already committed to your monogamous partner. The real question to be asking is, how do I deal with my misplaced feelings for this other person? I am of the school that on some level we are responsible for our feelings, and also where they are directed. Emotional attachments don't always just come upon us. And even if they do at times, there's a level of emotional development towards another that is within our level of control, and we are morally responsible for it.

Some will chime in and say that it's not necessarily inappropriate, at face value, to have feelings for others while you are married, and I tend to agree with that. However, there is a point where you are obsessing with the idea for so long that it just simply seems right, then you might need to be asking how you cut the ties with this other person to whom you have not made vows, rather than to ask how you might work this whole thing out so that unreconcilable variables can all be worked out.

People may disagree with this, and that's okay. But if you know that your husband sees it as en emotional affair, the true question is how to resolve your feelings about the third party, which may mean walking away from him (or limiting contact, or whatever), rather than how to untangle this seemingly impossible emotional triangle.

And because it is impossible, I don't see how you can tell your husband without hurting him and doing damage to your relationship.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:33 PM on April 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Try turning this around for a little bit. I know you say that you would be perfectly fine with either your husband or your almost-lover being with another woman, but in actual fact that situation when faced is often far more difficult in reality than it is in fantasy. Really think about it. Imagine a woman who is prettier than you, younger than you, richer than you and smarter than you. Now think about her meeting your husband and them having dinner together and going on dates and laughing and watching movies together - movies you would have liked to see with him - and him bringing her flowers. Now imagine him in bed with her. How does that feel? Probably not so great. That's pretty much how your husband is going to feel when or if you tell him about this, only worse, much worse.

Polyamory is a dealbreaker for me because I learned the hard way, long ago, that I don't share well. Once I realized that, I also realized that I could therefore not indulge myself in those kinds of behaviors, no matter how sexy the guy, no matter how deep the affection: no matter what. You might have to learn this all the hard way too, I don't know; for your sake, I hope not.

The time to discuss polyamory was four years ago. There is no way he is going to see this as anything but a betrayal. That's just the way it is, so you need to think long and hard before you act on any of this because as it stands and the way you're heading, you might well end up losing both these men. You're definitely going to lose one of them.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:51 PM on April 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


And let me also say that the negativity is not warranted--people who have no experience with polyamory telling you that something will definitely never work--I would suggest that you take the advice with a huge grain of salt.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:51 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


You cannot have both. Polyamory sounds nice (and works great for some people), but you will most likely lose them both by even mentioning it.

You left the boyfriend because you felt he deserved better than you - this means you rate him higher than your husband, who you stayed with.

You are thinking of all possible ways you can get with the boyfriend, including ones that obviously won't work like polyamory. You are not thinking of how to forget the boyfriend and stop your crush and make your marriage work.

I think it is clear who you would rather be with and the right thing to do is get a divorce and try a relationship with the boyfriend.
posted by meepmeow at 2:55 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


i have experience with polygamy - and i know some of the other posters in this thread do as well. telling your monogamous husband that the dude you were in a relationship with before him, and have been carrying on an emotional affair so intense that you had to break off all contact with the other guy, a thing you weren't able to do, and now you want him to reconsider his position on fidelity because the emotional affair isn't fulfilling you anymore and now you really need to start fucking the guy playing second fiddle as well - that's not an easy message to deliver.

personally, i think she should deliver it because i think her husband deserves to know that she's been untruthful about the magnitude of her "friendship" with this other man.
posted by nadawi at 2:57 PM on April 23, 2010 [29 favorites]


^ that a million times
posted by radiosilents at 2:58 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The negativity is not warranted--people who have no experience with polyamory telling you that something will definitely never work

I guess I haven't seen the responses this way - to me it seems like most of the answers have said that lies and deceit will definitely not work, which to me is absolutely true.

There's a vast difference between people who are polyamorous and people who just want to have selfish extramarital sex without consequences. I don't know the intentions of the original poster, but if she's merely trying to justify an affair, I don't expect people here to give her much sympathy.

People who are actually polyamorous have honest, open relationships and there's a generally deep respect for the relationship choices of others. I think some of the poly people I know would be deeply offended to learn that there are people in monogamous relationships who are just using it as an excuse to cheat.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 3:04 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"While my husband knows of this other person's existence, he doesn't know the profoundness of my emotion. Each of them give me something amazing and I can't imagine life without either. If this was revealed, I'm positive that my husband would consider the relationship an emotional affair."

...because it IS an emotional affair. You are indeed having an emotional affair.


"I would like to gently suggest the idea of an open relationship, but I don't know how to start."

I'd suggest you start by talking to a divorce lawyer, because that's where you're headed. I'm not saying that to be mean. You already know your husband isn't open to sharing you with another man, yet you already have another man lined up and the odds that you'll be able to control yourself are probably slim. I say this because you know your husband is against the idea of sharing you, and yet you have pursued another man. There will eventually be an "oops" moment, but it won't really be an accident since you know you want it and keep putting yourself in this situation: "There was a period of two years when we felt it best to stop all contact. As usual, we were again brought together and..."

...and one of two things will happen next:

1: you commit to the man you married.
2: doom.

Ten years from now, you will look back on this moment. Choose wisely.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:07 PM on April 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


Nobody has affairs anymore.
These days, everyone is poly.
...right?

Nope. This is just an affair. Asking the husband to OK it isn't going to work.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:10 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I will give you the benefit of the doubt, OP. I will assume you went into your marriage intending monogamy forever, and that some external circumstance "brought you together" with your old flame like you say, and you didn't go looking to get into a poly relationship after promising monogamy.

I sympathize a little with you only because monogamy is default, and it would have been hard for you to even bring up the idea of a poly relationship with your husband before you were married. Maybe you could have been poly before, with different people. You sound like you mean well, and I'm not reading a desire to justify cheating in your question.

Nevertheless, you're being willfully ignorant about your current situation. These are not the right two people. Not even one of them is the right person, and you promised monogamy to your husband.

I think AskMe is quick to offer DTMFA in situations of deep running personality differences between partners, and I think that's the situation you're in. I am introverted and "naturally" monogamous like your husband- I can't begin to imagine what it would feel like to focus my affection on more than one person at once. I believe poly people (in the abstract) who say it can be done without diminishing either relationship, but I could never be with a poly person, because it would never actually feel that way from my side. I would always feel robbed of some measure of that person's admiration and attention.

I don't think you should dump your husband, at least not yet. I think you need to squash these feelings you have for your old friend. Cut off contact, bury thoughts of him, keep busy and try to discover something new and interesting about your husband that might compensate for the initial loss of love from your friend. Your feelings for your friend are not pure and lovely like you think, certainly not from your husband's perspective, and it's selfish of you to indulge in them. Go to therapy if you need to.

If you were always someone with poly tendencies, I would say it's DTMFA time, but you made a promise and you need to stamp out these feelings and recommit to your husband. This is how everyone, poly or not, successfully handles challenges to their commitment to their relationships.
posted by slow graffiti at 3:16 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I interpreted the question as indicating that anonymous DID intend to be monogamous when she got married

How is that not a false pretense? You can't make a vow to another person to be faithful and monogamous and then retroactively decide thats not really who you are. Well, you can, but that sorta makes you a liar (if you are breaking that vow without their knowledge).

Well it doesn't necessarily make a person a liar. People do change, couples drift apart, once spouse finds religion or loses it or whatever. I mean, I was so ready to pile on that I thought another reply wasn't necessary, but re-reading the original post, I am wondering if perhaps there is mixed emotions and a sense that OP is well to use a term "coming out" as poly. I am to ignorant to really know.

It could very well be that OP wants to have cake and eat it too, but it could also be that OP has begun to realize, that polyandry might be where she is at emotionally and sexually. I don't know, I tend to be very cynical about almost every person's human relations question, and there is no follow-up and there is no way to assess nuance tone of voice that are clues to a person's honesty.

SO let's assume anon, that you *do* really want to have a hot affair with this person who pushes your sensual buttons and are kidding yourself looking for justification. Well you already know what you should do and you already know the advice you have already gotten. Whether or not you actually do it, or end up really hurting your husband is something that Askme can't help you with.

But anon, let's assume you *have* realized this polyamory about yourself and now you find yourself in that shopworn analogy to a person who is gay but is married (or if too hot-button, a conservative fundie who realizes that he is an atheist and his church centered life and marriage is a sham) and can't live the lie anymore, at least without anger and drinking or whatever. Your original question is "how do I broach this?"

I don't know, I do know that it will likely not be pretty and you will possibly rupture your marriage, and then the other man also has told you you are not poly, so you might lose him too. But if I haven't offend lots of peoel with the coming out as gay analogy, if you are sincere and not just hanging the 'poly' label on you conveniently, well perhaps people who were in hetero relationships and had to tell their spouses that they were gay might be the place to start figuring out how to do this.
posted by xetere at 3:20 PM on April 23, 2010


How can I tell my very monogamous husband that I am polyamorous and would like an open relationship?

I think you owe it to your husband to be direct and respectful. Sit him down and share with him the feelings you have for this other person, the steps you took to avoid them, and your inability to overcome them. Express your interest in having a relationship with the other man while continuing to stay in the marriage. Ask him if he thinks this might be possible, or what he thinks you as a couple should do next. Tell him that you love him and want to continue the marriage (if that's the case) but these feelings are a very real part of your life and you want to deal with them together. This is paraphrasing from your description, but I tried to distill the essence of what you're going through. At this point, I think that being anything but completely honest is going to make the situation worse, not better.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 3:24 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry my second paragraph should have been blockquoted and was quoted from Justinian. I not only did not do a proper citation, I didn't even quote or indent.
posted by xetere at 3:24 PM on April 23, 2010


Each of them give me something amazing and I can't imagine life without either

This is your problem. Try to understand that other people make poor foundations for your own well being. If you truly can't imagine your life without either one of them you should use this realization as an opportunity to explore issues you might have with your own self esteem.

What you are really doing is looking externally for some sort of fulfillment that you lack. You really need to be looking internally. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude - gratitude for the husband you love so deeply. For the life you have. For the simple moments. Understand that the idea in your head of the life you think you would experience if you had both lovers in your life is an illusion. Eventual adaptation and dissatisfaction is an inherent trait of human nature. You think having Mr. Friend in your life would complete you. It would only do so temporarily before your longing returns. If you cannot honor the contract you have with you husband, you should leave. You are not mature enough for the tough choice that is marriage.

I need to make clear that I love my husband to my very core. I value him as a person, mate and lover and I do not compare him to my good friend. I do not wish to have one over the other. I also love my good friend very passionately. I love what they both deem as faults and I rejoice in each of their triumphs.

Here you are framing your selfishness with good intentions. Do not conflate the two. You are attempting to hedge your guilt with this sort of doublespeak. Be honest with yourself and understand that what you want is to have your cake and eat it too. You can't do this. Its ok to be polyamorous...but not when a monogamous marriage is involved. You know your actions will hurt people, and you don't need us to tell you that.

If you honestly believe yourself to be polyamorous...then make the call and understand that the key to who you really are will really hurt someone when turned. If you can handle that, then do it for the benefit of your husband. Otherwise I suspect the issue at the heart of the matter is your own insecurity and longing. Work on yourself. The problem lies with you not your husband warming to the idea of you having the life you want at his expense.

So in your particular situation, how do you introduce the idea of a polyamorous relationship? Like this:

"Honey, I'd like a divorce."






posted by jnnla at 3:25 PM on April 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


Poly works just fine for a handful of my married friends. And it works because there are clearly defined boundaries and everybody involved is communicating. You have none of these things going for you. Time to have a talk with your husband.
posted by futureisunwritten at 3:31 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the issue is that a lot of us are reading her "discovery of polyamory" as little more than a thinly veiled justification for her own temptation to have sex with someone who isn't her husband. You can't just start talking about polyamory because you suddenly desire to have sex outside of your marriage.

But if she honestly had never heard of open relationships, and personally does not really feel jealousy or see a need for monogamy, then it seems reasonable to think she really did just not realize you could set up relationships a different way.

The problem is, just because you don't really feel jealousy much, or have a need for exclusivity, you have to understand you're in a minority. For many people it's a cornerstone of the romantic connection. So just because you only recently discovered polyamory, and now you have a name for the way you feel about relationships, that doesn't mean other people will be sympathetic. As has been pointed out, your husband already said the idea of sharing is not cool with him. Believe that claim - it is not ok for most people. you'd be extremely, randomly lucky to be in a monogamous relationship, discover polyamory, and then discover your partner also just didn't know about polyamory but was fine with it. Most people aren't into it, and most that are already know about it and seek it out or have mentioned being okay with it to their SO's at some point.

It's also worth pointing out that a lot people who do try to maintain polyamorous lifestyles have kind of drama-filled lives - not due to jealousy (necessarily), but it means at least doubling relationship issues, and there's more flux as new people come in and out - more emotional roller-coaster... So it isn't just about being ok with multiple partners, but also endorsing the reality of what seeking and activating that openness means.
posted by mdn at 3:49 PM on April 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


2oh1: but it won't really be an accident since you know you want it and keep putting yourself in this situation

Mmm hmm [snap]

Look, if you notice a tendency in yourself to want to drive your car after you've been drinking, and you really don't want to do that, then driving to a bar far from home by yourself and drinking until closing time probably isn't a way to help yourself out there.

Similarly, if you love your husband, and you know he's monogamous and expects you to be also, what are you doing still hanging out with this friend you know you want an intimate relationship with (both emotionally and sexually) ? It's not a matter of refusing yourself what you want every day, its a matter of avoiding that situation until the temptation fades away. If ever.

From the way you've described your husband, I think even just bringing up this suggestion is going to damage your marriage, possibly terminally. Even if he says no and you abide by that, he will not be able to trust any more that you love him and only him, like he expects. Or even him most. It sounds like you'd like the boyfriend to be on equal intimate status with you as your husband. I'd bet this revelation will be something that may be a deal breaker even for you to have thought might be ok.

So, ah, no. I wouldn't tell him unless you need it so bad that that scenario is worth risking for you.
posted by ctmf at 3:51 PM on April 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Polyamorous" is sometimes used to describe people, like a sexual identity. This is valid and good, but I don't think it's useful for you. Instead, I think you should look at it as a way to describe a relationship. And the relationships you're in right now are not, in fact, polyamorous--in no small part because in order to maintain either relationship, you're clearly going to have to also maintain some level of deception. Neither of these men want to be in a relationship where they have to share their mate. They've made that abundantly clear to you. So even if you are truly polyamorous, they're not, and your relationship's not. And it never will be. If you're polyamorous, you need to find other people who are, too, or who are at least comfortable being with a partner who has relationships on the side. Neither of these men are that kind of person.

For what it's worth, you seem to describe your husband in very dispassionate language compared to how you describe your "good friend." I think emotions in relationships can ebb and flow, but it really just sounds like, though you love him, you're not in love with him. That's not fair to him, particularly if you are in love with someone else.

As usual, we were again brought together and our emotions hadn't faltered.

I also think you need to let go of the passive language. If you were truly interested in remaining faithful to your husband, you would cut off ties to this person and keep them cut. I don't think you're interested in that, though.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:54 PM on April 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure if another voice is really necessary at this point, but I really want to highlight this one point: if you have someone else you're already keeping an eye on, the chances of this proposal going well decrease dramatically. Exponentially. Because most people don't take that as "Well, my partner might have a legitimate reason to want this." It simply becomes "You're using this as an excuse to cheat on me."

Even reading this here, with more detail than your husband has ever been aware of, makes that conclusion the most easily reached. On the surface, it reads like a situation where you're in love with two people who want you to themselves, and you want them both. Not like you've discovered you're polyamorous. And in the heat of the moment, in the heat of this looming conversation you're going to have with your husband, amidst the hurt and betrayal that is expected when he learns his partner loves someone else, he's not likely to reason it out in his head the way you do.

The kind thing to do would be to understand these people that you love, and respect their needs. It would be wonderful if you all could be happy, but you've known before you posted this that it simply can't happen. Polyamory is not these guys' nature, and they can't learn to be happy to share their lover. It doesn't happen like that. There's no "Let's test this and see" period when you've already been married for three years.

It's messy, heartbreaking, and confusing - and sometimes the right thing to do means breaking your world apart. Unfortunately there's no other way here, based on what you've written.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 3:55 PM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


It really sucks to be man #2; I've been there. Polyamory only works if the relationship is only open for you to have sex with people who are also in committed relationships, or have no interest in such. Otherwise, what it is, is just an excuse to avoid breaking up with with man #1, and to get to have sex with man #2 too, when you are better off deciding between them.

That's not to say you and man #2 couldn't have an open relationship yourselves. Again, so long as you only have sex with people who aren't interested in anything more, it can work just fine.

In theory you could also have a polygamous relationship, but man #1 and man #2 would both have to be extraordinarily secure, trust each other, be unjealous of each other, and be busy with their own lives for that to work out.

I can't see it working out well in this situation unless you choose between them. Arguably you already did, when you married man #1 three years ago. You do have the right to change your mind, and firstness is not bestness, but from my reading of what you've said you do seem to be inclined to choose your husband. If that's the case, you need to tell him something like this: "Man #2 is really fond of me, and I like him, I have seriously considered leaving you for him, but I'm not going to. However, it's a real shame that he doesn't have someone of his own. You and I need to help him find a girlfriend."

Getting man #2 a girlfriend is a project that your husband (assuming he's not completely oblivious to your friendship with man #2), should be overjoyed to hear about and thoroughly approve of. Best for all concerned, IMO.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:56 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


You thought the boyfriend deserved better before, then you married someone else, but still like the boyfriend and want to be with him, too? Don't you think he could maybe do better than this set-up as well? Your husband certainly could. It's really unfair to him, and you should expect that if you talk to him, it will be an absolutely crushing blow.

It seems fair from your side, because you've been fantasizing about this arrangement and want to rationalize it. I totally get that, and understand how those things happen to people, but I have a feeling if the tables were turned, and your husband admitted to being in love with another woman the entire time you were together, and having an emotional affair with her, and wanting to add her to your relationship, you would be pretty hurt.

A test to see if you're really poly: Say your husband and boyfriend guy accept this arrangement (they won't, but let's pretend), and then your husband decides to break it off with you. Do you think you will end up taking another partner eventually? Do you think that if you had the relationship with both, you would ever have other partners outside of the two?

Honestly, whether you're really interested in a polyamorous lifestyle or not, you already know that your husband will not like the suggestion and if you address it with him, he will almost certainly be crushed (unless he has some lady friend on the side that he dreams of being with, but it sounds like that is doubtful given his stance on monogamy).

It seems better to tell him now, when you've been married a somewhat short time, than let it fester for years longer. If you think you will ever stop having feelings for the friend, then maybe things can work with your husband. Your husband deserves to be the most special to you, though, but it sounds like he isn't, which is really unfortunate for him.
posted by ishotjr at 3:57 PM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think that you are surprised by the realization that you are in love with both of these men, at the same time. It's not how we traditionally think about things -- the idea is usually that we cheat because we have fallen out of love with the first partner, or because things aren't right in that relationship somehow. And that's not the case with you.

So there is this line of logic: it is hurtful when our partner cheats in part because that is evidence that our partner doesn't love us anymore. But in your case, you do still love your husband. So you know it's not as bad as a traditional cheating situation. You know you still love him, and that he should be secure in your love, and you wish he could be convinced of that.

I think you need to recognize that yes, you can love two people at once -- and yes, this is a wondrous thing. Then you need to move on, and realize that wondrous as it is to feel this way, it's not enough. The fact that you love both is not enough to make either of these two men happy. On the contrary, it will make both men unhappy.

And then you need to work on how to get over your crush on your friend. Do that and I think thinks will be fine with your husband. First step: recognize the intense pleasure you get from thinking about how dramatic this all is, how you just can't stop yourself, etc etc. Recognize that this feeds your feelings, and then stop. If viewing your friendship through the lens of the other posters here helps -- that is, if it's helpful to see your friendship as something sleazy -- then think of it that way. Do what works for you. But stop the crush, now.

Feel free to memail me if you like. I've got some experience thinking about these issues.
posted by wyzewoman at 4:03 PM on April 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


OP, seriously, I've been here. Except, unlike the probable outcome of your case, my then-husband (note my wording, very carefully) wasn't interested in sex anyhow, was fairly emotionally distant and occasionally abusive, and didn't care if I slept with my best friend.

(I realize there is not an abuse component to your situation, yes. There was in mine, but there was also clear understanding that we'd try having a poly marriage. That was dumb of me.)

So, you know, I slept with my best friend, because, hey, that counts as poly, right?

It really, really doesn't. It's not poly. At best, it's parallel monogamy; at worst, it's serial monogamy.

The divorce was about $4K, I lost all of my childhood stuffed animals and a bunch of my other possessions, my parents were pissed, and Mr. F and I have been deliriously happy for the last six years.

And so completely monogamous it'd bore you to tears. Gee, big surprise.

If this is the sort of experiment you feel you can survive, no one's gonna stop you, but I'm warning you that it's more complicated than you'd think. You're going to have to think and step very carefully and possibly secure a professional's independent, private opinion on your situation and your coping mechanisms.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:09 PM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I see polyamory as a sexual orientation. So I do believe you likely just discovered this about yourself, no deception or justification intended. But like straight marriages were one partner discovers they're gay after getting married, well your marriage is not likely to last. Marriages were the root sexual orientations aren't the same generally end, unless both parties know the deal going in.

Good luck to you.
posted by aclevername at 4:10 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Was there any physical, emotional or sexual abuse? Did your dad leave during early childhood? Were either of your parents addicts?

If so, you probably should go get some therapy as these issues would very likely influence how you feel today. I would be semi-surprised if you had a normal childhood and still had these desires.


I wouldn't be surprised. I've had these desires before and I had the most normal, stable upbringing imaginable.

OP, I wish there was an easy way out of this but as the other posters have mentioned, you talking to your husband about converting to polyamory will probably (as in, 99% sure) not work. He will not want to share. So my advice is to take some time, as much as you need. If this friend of yours was gone tomorrow, would you still want to tell your husband about what you want? If so, this situation of marriage is not for you.
posted by amicamentis at 5:06 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


If the tables were turned and I found myself in my husband's place (or if my good friend happened to start a new relationship with another woman) I would simply want them both to be happy.

I think you believe that this is true. Let's test it out a little and turn the tables. Let's say an old girlfriend did come back into your husband's life and he told you he wanted to sleep with both of you. Now, you may think you would be very open to that idea. Fine. But have you really considered what that would entail emotionally?

If you accidentally waled in on them or overheard them making love, would you be okay with that? If he wanted to have sex with her more often, or out of the blue asked you to do something new in bed, would you feel insecure?

What about safe sex? Would you want her tested for STD's, etc., before you agreed to add her to the relationship? If so, then would you agree to being tested, too?

What about the possibility of children? Suppose the ex became pregnant. How would that make you feel, that they now share a bond together that you do not have with him? What if your husband wanted her child to carry his name too, would you still be okay? How would you handle custody of this child with her and your husband? What if you DID want children, very badly, but your husband didn't want children, and neither did she. How would you deal with that situation? If you had a child with your husband, would you be okay with the girlfriend taking care of him, too?

Polyamory situations are complicated, and in an honest relationship, you have to be aware of the possible consequences. I think that your husband and your ex are thinking about potential pitfalls, and each of them has said he is NOT okay with the idea.

I'm sorry, because I do think you are honestly torn, but you are being selfish not to respect their feelings. If you do love them both as you say, the humane thing to do is to make a choice, so that only one of them is hurt in the end, and not both.
posted by misha at 5:13 PM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Telling him your thoughts and feelings about this would seriously risk ruining your marriage. Surely you don't think that would actually be worth it, do you?

Yeah. Much better to keep her husband in the dark, believing she loves and cherish him and only him, forsaking all others.

Suck it up. Tell him. You'll break his heart, your marriage will be over and you can try with whats-his-name, still only having half of what you want (well, probably less, because you'll have more guilt and be making more comparisons). At least he'll have a chance to be honestly happy with somebody who can love him rather than unwittingly living a lie.

You need to stop thinking about how this makes you feel and what might happen to you. Right or wrong, you're married, and that means you have to think about the other person. How you'd feel if the 'tables were turned' is completely and totally irrelevant, because he's not you. You're shooting for trying to win him over to your view when you haven't got past first base - telling him that you even have that view in the first place. And the way to do that is to sit down and start talking.

You're not a bad person for feeling this way. You are a bad person if you keep letting him believe his marriage is something it isn't.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:18 PM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm just calling it like I see it.

I think you're a rather intelligent person.
I think you're a rather persuasive person.

I think you are using the above to justify:

fucking your old boyfriend.

You can dress it up however you want, but you have said that you both had a go at it several times and weren't in control enough to stabilize or continue on whatever path you had decided on. Why do you think you're different now? Because you're older?

Reading what you have written, I don't think anything has changed with age...only that you are willing to risk a lot more for this relationship that you couldn't handle many many years ago.

Sounds to me like you're making even worse choices now.

Why don't you think about this...and then determine if you are making good decisions about your life.

Just for the record; I don't think you are.

Good writing, and smart though...but it ends there.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:25 PM on April 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


--You do not have to make a decision right now

it's disrespectful of your relationship with your husband for you and this other guy to talk about having sex with someone else and leaving him

this other guy ideally would have you all to himself, that is okay for him to feel that way and doesn't mean he will necessarily sabotage your relationship. but, that is something to keep an eye on and it will be harder for you and your husband to trust him to respect the relationship

you have to lay it out there for your husband or you really do have to make sure you slow this down with the other guy, every time you get together with him in a way that your husband doesn't know about it makes it harder to make this work in the long run...not saying to stop talking to him completely because that will make you resent your husband and the withdrawal will make it harder for you to make a smart decision, but you should really take your meetings to more public less intimate places and try to keep the topics more light, and frankly, avoid the subjects of romance dating and sex until you are able to get your things straight with your husband

the best way to make poly work for a mono partner is to give them the same sense of security if possible, that means different things for different people, but I think it is harder if you put yourself in the position of possibly leaving him for someone else or leaving him for polyamory. he has to always know that he will be there and he is your first priority. yes it sucks to have to have a "first" priority when you love them both. but he is your husband and that means you have a practical responsibility to him that has nothing to do with your day to day feelings. disposing of him is not an option, he is your family. likewise he has given you the amazing gift of committing himself to you, respect and value that for what it is.

i think actually the best parallel here is not necessarily in polyamory, but in having a child--treat your husband with the same amount of responsibility and consideration that you would a child. he has priority.

the way you've set this up will make it hard for you to take it slow, which makes things a little tougher, but I don't think it necessarily won't work.

i also think that your relationship with your husband will change when you tell him. that is a function of the wedge you have put in between you due to secrecy, not due to the request you are making or the desires you are expressing. the request can be made without damaging your relationship. you have to make it with respect and be absolutely okay with him saying no. or at least willing to fake like you're okay with it and respect his decision. be lighthearted about it, be relaxed, willing to educate him, let him have angry feelings without you getting angry, basically you have to be as perfect as possible because you are asking so much of him.

also, make sure you're keeping up your end of the household chores and your responsibilities at home. it's kinda a big deal.


hope that helps. don't have a lot of time to spend on organizing my thoughts and the punctuation is going by the wayside. that is another thing that poly takes out of you--time

and I can't emphasize enough that every time you do something with this guy and are dishonest with your husband it makes it harder for you to be with this guy in the long run because it builds a higher and higher wall for your husband to get over in order to trust both of you--think about it and if you really want a relationship with this guy, make the right choice and cool things down in favor of a longer term strategy.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:49 PM on April 23, 2010


also, the difference between "poly" and selfishly having an affair is only--honesty and consent. Nothing else. so people labeling this "not poly" are somewhat correct, but when you do get honesty and consent, voila, it will be poly, and how it started or your motivations have nothing to do with it.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:50 PM on April 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oh and please grab "opening up", it has a lot of info for you and your husband. Mono/poly can work. There is no 99% chance of it not. We don't know that as we are not psychics nor is there scientific research out there.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:52 PM on April 23, 2010


Also just because he didn't like the idea of sharing in one jokey conversation where he didn't know what it meant to you does not mean he has already made up his mind.

Also, some people are NOT okay with it in the abstract, but in the concrete when they know the people involved they are okay with it. I have been in this situation. Or they take a little time then get used to it as they see their relationship isn't changing, or is, in fact, getting better. Or they are not OK with casual sex, but they are OK with ongoing relationships. Or vice versa.

There are a lot of counter-intuitive things that people will and won't accept so don't just assume that because he doesn't want one thing, he will or won't want another. Or that his feelings are set in stone.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:04 PM on April 23, 2010


If you do it, I imagine we will be reading this AskMe post:

Help me save my marriage.

I don't know where to begin. I have been married and completely faithful to the love of my life for three years. We've known each other for over eleven years and have been extremely close since the beginning. I love her so much.

She tells me she loves me very dearly, eternally, and that she knows this will never change. She doesn't want to leave me 'nor does she want a divorce.

But she does have what she calls a "very deep, strong romantic and sexual feelings for a good friend." Someone from her past. She tells me that she has been intimate with him, and I don't know what to do.

I can't eat. I can't sleep. I can't stop imagining her with him. I can't even imagine living another day with this pain, but I do not feel like i have any options.

She tells me that she loves me to the very core, but MeFites, this only makes it worse. How can you say you love someone to the core, and at the same time cut them to the core?

She says that if I were in her shoes, she would want me to be happy above all else, and she wouldn't mind an "open relationship." Yet, this only makes it worse, like she is trying to give me permission to leave her.

Help me MeFites. I am so lost, so broken right now. I thought I was a good person, a good husband, a good lover, and a good friend, but the woman who is the center of my life loves someone else, and everything is collapsing around me. God, what do I do?

Is it over?

Sorry for the long post. I am just hurting so much, and I don't know what to do.
posted by 4ster at 6:14 PM on April 23, 2010 [16 favorites]


IFDS,SN9 keeps saying things like "you never know!" and "well, gosh, it could certainly be okay! worked for me!"... and while that's all well and good, i think she's probably not read the multiple instances of "my husband has no interest in sharing me" and "my boyfriend also has no interest in sharing me" or at the very least not read them and comprehended the words.

by all means, feel free to ignore every other voice in this thread and in your life so that you can listen only to the one lone dissenter who thinks you're on the cusp of some great adventure. she's right about the fact that none of us can truly know the outcome until we have tried.

by the same logic, step in front of buses because you just never know when they might spontaneously turn into popcorn instead of killing you dead.

she further argues that this is, in fact, polyamory. it is not. you can't be the only polyamorous person in a three-headed relationship. it's everyone or it's something else entirely. further, everyone has to consent to a polyamorous relationship and you have ample and clear evidence that NEITHER of the other two people involved will consent. you said yourself "I don't want sex with multiple partners, I simply want to enjoy, return and cultivate the pure love I feel for both of these men with honesty". NOT polyamory. you just want these two specific men, which is significantly different than feeling like love should be shared and wanting to build a larger relationship-set with multiple partners.

further evidence that you don't actually believe in the tenets of polyamory is in the fact that your husband's avenues for similar exploration are not really a concern of yours. you don't seem to care one way or another, though that seems exceptionally flip and i think those mefites who have asked you to think on that scenario are right to do so. you seem to want a cuckold (or more technically a wittol), possibly two, but decieving yourself with the thought that "this is polyamory" does a disservice to everyone who is actually in a poly relationship.

which, by the way, is on top of the PRIMARY disservice, which is to a) your husband and b) your boyfriend.

by all means ignore that and forge on ahead! you might change their minds. they might suddenly realize that having the ability to fuck you and then have you leave for a while afterwards is perfect and suits them both just fine. you might find that your husband finally comes clean about the affair he's been having behind your back for years now. hell, you might even discover that he's secretly gay and has been crushing on your boyfriend this whole time! you could both share him instead!

but honestly, and plainly, and with all due respect : chances are you're going to hurt everyone involved because you want everything and seem disinclined to consider anyone but yourself. and if that's the course of action you're committing to, why not just let one or both of them go and just get yourself satisfied?

one of the biggest red flags in this whole situation with regards to your mindset is what you said up top : "I do not wish to have one over the other". you also don't seem to wish to take either of their feelings into consideration, which leave you kind of between a rock and a hard place wherein you do not want what you have, and you do not wish to compromise.

i wish you the best of luck. i truly think you should tell your husband all of this, and i fully expect that he would not be able to trust you moving forward. this seems right and just.
posted by radiosilents at 6:28 PM on April 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Would you still be "polyamorous" if it meant that you couldn't have either of these men?
posted by paperzach at 6:37 PM on April 23, 2010 [17 favorites]


You are going to have to choose between them.

I advise staying with the husband you already have and ditching your "friend." Frankly, your friend sounds like a scumbag: "On more than one occasion he's stated that his ideal would be for me to leave my husband and solely be with him..."

Good people don't try to break up happy marriages.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:46 PM on April 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


I think the poster's question has been answered nearly unanimously.

But I really hate the judging going on--it is possible to discover your true nature after making a conflicting committment, without being "deceitful" or a "liar" Jesus, people, I suppose you all have perfect relationships in which you are paragons of unchanging virtue?

People change. And no matter how much you think you understand about someone's relationship, the outside is a totally different place than the inside.

Personally, if I loved my husband but also felt that I had to choose between him and an essential and newly-discovered part of myself, I'd be in hell. If that is really her situation, then she is.

And even if she is just in denial about the fact that she loves another man more...that's pretty much hell, too, for everyone.
posted by emjaybee at 6:51 PM on April 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Just a heads up for you if you decide to broach the subject. When I suggested opening up my marriage in a general sort of way (with no body at all in mind!) my husband kicked me out. I am now happily divorced and living true to myself. But be prepared for the worst if you decide to go ahead and push this.
posted by stubborn at 7:01 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, "polyamorous" doesn't mean "I'm married but now I want to fuck my friend". This lifestyle choice didn't appear until you decided you wanted to have an affair. But "polyamorous" sounds like a good way to justify it to your husband, right?

Look, I'm being serious; just get a divorce. You're going to cheat on him. Save everyone the time.
posted by spaltavian at 7:06 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, one thing that strikes me about this sort of arrangement is that even if the bus magically turned to popcorn, to use radiosilents evocative phrase, you'd be left in a situation where you're the poly free agent with two mono people bound to you. The power differential in that sort of situation is sickening, like, in that case you have every single shred of autonomy and both of the boys are stuck hoping you'll not abandon them for the other one — and, yes, you may know you'll never do that, but even so the power would be entirely in your hands. I sorta hold that the only way that someone would let themselves stick with you in that sort of situation is if they had absolutely, positively no self-esteem whatsoever. Well, or if you were the most completely special-est person in the world, but you're not.

Basically, what you're proposing is an act of violence against people you claim to love. Don't do that.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:09 PM on April 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


^ i agree 100% with that as well, and it was said better than i could have said it.
posted by radiosilents at 7:24 PM on April 23, 2010


radiosilents: "she further argues that this is, in fact, polyamory. it is not. you can't be the only polyamorous person in a three-headed relationship. it's everyone or it's something else entirely. further, everyone has to consent to a polyamorous relationship and you have ample and clear evidence that NEITHER of the other two people involved will consent.

--It's not polyamory right now because it lacks consent and honesty. You can, indeed, be one person who is with two other people who are not with anyone else and be polyamorous. It is sometimes called a V. There are challenges associated with it, but it is not "not polyamory"

you said yourself "I don't want sex with multiple partners, I simply want to enjoy, return and cultivate the pure love I feel for both of these men with honesty". NOT polyamory. you just want these two specific men, which is significantly different than feeling like love should be shared and wanting to build a larger relationship-set with multiple partners. "

--You don't have to want more than two people to be practicing polyamory. Nor do your partners have to want other partners.

further evidence that you don't actually believe in the tenets of polyamory is in the fact that your husband's avenues for similar exploration are not really a concern of yours. you don't seem to care one way or another, though that seems exceptionally flip and i think those mefites who have asked you to think on that scenario are right to do so.

--Someone can be neutral about their partner having other partners. It doesn't make them flip or "not polyamorous".

you seem to want a cuckold (or more technically a wittol), possibly two, but decieving yourself with the thought that "this is polyamory" does a disservice to everyone who is actually in a poly relationship. "

--Not really. I am in a polyamorous relationship and I am not offended by this post. It doesn't do me a disservice. It doesn't affect me at all. It is certainly not ideal and sounds hard for everyone involved, but that has nothing to do with me.

You Can't Tip a Buick: "Yeah, one thing that strikes me about this sort of arrangement is that even if the bus magically turned to popcorn, to use radiosilents evocative phrase, you'd be left in a situation where you're the poly free agent with two mono people bound to you. The power differential in that sort of situation is sickening, like, in that case you have every single shred of autonomy and both of the boys are stuck hoping you'll not abandon them for the other one — and, yes, you may know you'll never do that, but even so the power would be entirely in your hands. I sorta hold that the only way that someone would let themselves stick with you in that sort of situation is if they had absolutely, positively no self-esteem whatsoever. Well, or if you were the most completely special-est person in the world, but you're not.

--Uh, not really. They could actually just be okay with it, while still being normal(ish) people with decent self-esteem. Again, two people who are both dating only one person is a relatively common situation and does not necessarily have to involve a "sickening" power differential. There is no need for anyone to be abandoned, nor does it have to be a constant fear.

Basically, what you're proposing is an act of violence against people you claim to love. Don't do that."

--No, a consensual polyamorous relationship is not an act of violence.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:40 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


but IFDS,SN9 they're not okay with it. you're the only one besides the OP holding out hope that two people who have verbalized their feelings on the issue might have a complete about-face just because she explains it to them in such a charming way that makes them disregard their so-well-ingrained-as-to-be-knee-jerk reactions.

further, "You can, indeed, be one person who is with two other people who are not with anyone else and be polyamorous"... yes, you can be the lone polyamorous person involved with multiple people, but you are not in a polyamorous relationship at that point. you're just cool with loving multiple people who wish you would stop.

i'm not trying to make this complicated; it's a shared relationship when everyone is on board. until it's there, it's just a polyamorous person trying to make due with two other people who aren't.

and again, "They could actually just be okay with it, while still being normal(ish) people with decent self-esteem". yes, were they two completely different men, they might find themselves agreeable... but how exactly is that relevant? you're just willfully ignoring the fact that their opinions are known. they ARE NOT OKAY WITH IT. you're suggesting she roll those dice in the face of incredibly odds against. why, exactly?

at this point, i think you'd be best served by examining your own reasons for encouraging the OP.
posted by radiosilents at 7:53 PM on April 23, 2010 [13 favorites]


also, i remain unconvinced that the OP is interested in polyamory in any way, shape, or form as she has made abundantly clear that all she wants is to be able to love her husband and her boyfriend both, as much as she would like, without interference from either. no one else, on any side of the equation. she gets both of them, on her own terms, and they both agree to give it to her and get nothing in return just so that she'll deign to keep "loving" them.

that's not -amory, just poly-.
posted by radiosilents at 7:57 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


ifds,sn9: "Consent" is a really, really complex concept. People are not self-determining free agents floating alone in the universe, we're stuck in networks of influence and power, and quite frequently people say "yes" to something they don't want because for whatever reason they're not prepared to accept what they'll lose by saying "no."

The OP is thinking about asking these men to change their sexual orientation for her. If they agree to it1, it's because she has much, much more power in the relationship than they do and she's flexing her muscles big-time (maybe the guys think that they can't find anyone who won't ask them to change their sexual orientations? maybe she's magic? Who knows...). It's a crappy thing to do to people. I think she should split with both of them and find someone(s) poly to be with.

[1]: And they won't, because it doesn't sound like they're all that willing to change themselves that way. I am deliberately not using the phrase "compromise themselves" here, though I'm thinking it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:01 PM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Marriage vows wouldn't include "forsaking all others" (or similar phrasing) if other people were not a source of temptation to stray from the marriage. This is why sickness and "for poorer" are also included; part of marriage is facing challenges to your relationship, not challenges that affect each of you individually, challenges that are a threat to your relationship itself. You seem to say that being tempted to cheat on your husband with your friend is somehow a special case, some innate part of your identity. It's not. It's your experience of a natural, typical, human part of marriage: being attracted to and feeling a connection with another person who is not your spouse.

I say this because you already know how your husband and friend feel, yet you want to pursue a new arrangement with them that is contrary to their stated preferences. Polyamory as identity is a red herring here. You're not saying, I'm poly because of my beliefs about healthy relationships so I need to leave my husband and friend behind and find people who share my relationship expectations. You're saying, I have feelings for both of these men, so I must be poly.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:02 PM on April 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


"No, a consensual polyamorous relationship is not an act of violence"

a consensual polyamorous relationship is not what was being discussed when that comment was made. you're speaking in the abstract & hypothetical with three hypothetical people, while YCTAB was talking about the OP & the actual people involved here, and two of those three people are both clearly against it.
posted by radiosilents at 8:03 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're going to cheat on him.

Most people consider it cheating to make goo-goo eyes at someone while they tell you they want you to leave your spouse and run away with them.

Very much including your husband in that, OP. You're not trying to open up your marriage; you're trying to refashion an already existing affair into a "poly" relationship.
posted by palliser at 8:24 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


radiosilents, from what I can gather from the question she has not actually asked her husband. He made one comment a while ago in a different situation, without knowing her specific feelings about it. If she wants to attempt to renegotiate the boundaries of her relationship, then she should probably ask her husband, as well as disclose the current state of her relationship with her friend. She says her friend is "monogamous in thought" but to me that doesn't necessarily rule out him discussing and agreeing to a non-monogamous relationship. It seems to be worth a shot. That's something the OP will have to use her judgment about. If he truly does not consent to a non-monogamous relationship I trust that he is adult and competent enough to make that clear to her. The same goes for her husband. I trust that he is able to survive her asking him, and tell her no if it's not what he wants. They're all adults. Yes, it could suck for everyone when she brings it up.

I guess she could just break up with the friend and never tell her husband about the emotional affair. Or dump him preemptively. Or, she could treat him like her best friend of a decade and tell him about the situation, honestly and openly, so that he knows what's going on in her head and can make his own decision.

They do not have to be two different people to agree to it or be okay with it. They can negotiate, get comfortable with it, change their minds. It's hard to know until the OP is actually honest with them and gets the ball rolling. The implication that were they to change their minds it would indicate some sort of horrendous deficit in self-esteem is unwarranted.

You can identify people as polyamorous or not polyamorous based on your own definitions, but a polyamorous V (sometimes also called a triad) is relatively common and, as long as it is consensual and honest, is in no way inherently unethical, abusive, or violent.

you're suggesting she roll those dice in the face of incredibly odds against. why, exactly?

I think that she should be honest with her husband about what she wants. I think that hiding something like this from him will add a lot of distance to their relationship, not to mention that it's dishonest. It's up to her, of course. Maybe it's best that she not do it. We can't really say. But it is inaccurate to tell her that it will necessarily fail.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:27 PM on April 23, 2010


I have nothing to offer on the poly or not that hasn't been said. My only thought here is you seem to have trouble accepting happiness. You were with the boyfriend, and weren't happy for a variety of reasons- and you ended the relationship. Then you got married and decided to try to make a go of it by cutting off contact with your ex, but then you let contact begin again, and now you've got this situation- where you are considering ending the relationship. Additionally, you said you felt like your ex deserves someone better and now you've got your husband in a situation (without his knowledge) where you feel like he might deserve better- or at least honesty. And yet, it seems that this will play out- no matter who you choose- in a way that sets you up to again be able to say to either your husband and/or boyfriend, "I think you deserve more than me."

Someone who was comfortable being happy and not waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under her would not be creating situations that prompt break-ups. This seems like a pattern of creating impossible situations because you don't feel like are worthy of/capable of being happy- and so you make yourself unworthy and put people in a situation where they won't be able to continue to be in a relationship with you as is. And then you leave them before they leave you.

So ask yourself what it will take for you to accept happiness that is already there, or at least allow happiness to exist in a relationship. Right now, you're not setting up either relationship to allow happiness to exist for you or your partner, and it's questionable whether if outside of these two men, you wouldn't just find yourself in another situation where you are creating a premature end with a lot of impossible barriers. Basically, you're setting yourself and your partners up for failure- repeatedly. Why is this?
posted by questionsandanchors at 8:32 PM on April 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Please don't tell your husband this:

I do not wish to have one over the other.

If he's even vaguely traditional, and your post suggests that he is, he married you because he feels the exact opposite. It's bad phrasing, and will hurt him (perhaps only slightly) more.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 9:37 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It sounds like your relationship with your husband isn't very fiery and isn't giving you something you need. Trying to get more with him might be better and happier. You could read "I love you but I'm not in love with you" for some ideas on expressing what you want and being understood.
posted by sninctown at 9:44 PM on April 23, 2010


I'm having a really hard time squaring the concept, as much as you push it, that someone who says, "Well shit, I don't want to lose her, so I guess I'll go along with this" ("Perhaps they would much rather be in a non-monogamous relationship than be dumped"), can be flush with self-esteem.

It depends on how strongly monogamous he is. Some people consider themselves monogamous purely because they've never considered other options. Some people consider themselves monogamous because they'd prefer to be mono and have never had any reason to try poly, but they'd be happy with poly in certain circumstances. Some people consider themselves mono because they know that sexual and romantic exclusivity are fundamental to their happiness, and they'd be miserable without.

It takes low self-esteem to compromise a core belief and live with something that makes you fundamentally unhappy. It does not take low self-esteem to push yourself beyond your comfort zone in an effort to try and make both you and your partner happy.

You are assuming that the husband fundamentally wants to be mono, and that therefore any attempt of the husband's to accommodate her would make him miserable and indicate low self-esteem on his part. IFDS,SN9 is saying, "Yeah, maybe that's true, but you never know so it's worth a shot, and better than keeping your desires a secret." I tend to agree with you that it is very, very likely not to work out. But I agree with IFDS,SN9 that until she asks, she won't know for sure, and furthermore keeping these desires quiet and secret is a betrayal in itself.
posted by shaun uh at 10:14 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Whoa, lots of pile on here and judge-y comments. I won't add to them.

You're married and you love your husband. Yet here's this other guy that you have feelings for. Practically everyone is harping on you that you made a promise, you're already in an emotional affair, etc. etc. But I suggest that you explore your feelings and thoughts about this person and your relationship with him: I ended the dating relationship with this person as I felt they deserved better. I didn't feel I could fulfill them due to my own perceived flaws and insecurities. So what's really going on here? What changed between the time you broke up with him, feeling he deserved better, to now (aside from you getting married to your wonderful husband)? I get that you love him, and I do believe that it's possible to love more than one person at once, but I wonder if you're trying to make up for something that you couldn't do way back when: i.e. having that relationship with him, and actually feel worthy of being with him.

As usual, we were again brought together
As someone else noted, you're using a passive tone here. Maybe circumstances did bring you together (e.g. bumping into each other at the grocery store, totally random), but you chose, this time, to stay in contact with him. You have to ask yourself why you did that and be really honest with yourself, e.g. knowing the history that you have with him, were you looking to pursue something, even if those thoughts were subconscious? At one point, you decided to stop contact. I think you need to revisit why, and the events and discussions that led up to that. And how were those two years for you? Did you miss him, think about him? How did that affect your relationship to your husband?

You say you want to enjoy, return and cultivate the love you feel for both. The way you put it it makes you sound like you want to walk off into the sunset with your two partners and have each of them be happy with you and for you that you have two partners, and for neither of them to have serious issues with it. It sounds like you have a lot of work ahead of you, to figure out your own feelings, whether or not to tell your husband about your feelings for the other guy, and how to deal with the changes in your relationship that will inevitably happen if you do. IMO, I think you have to be honest with your husband about what you're feeling, even if you never have a romantic relationship with the other guy. Bring your husband into this and work through it together; I don't think it's healthy to not keep telling him about this.

On more than one occasion he's stated that his ideal would be for me to leave my husband and solely be with him
So I don't understand why he's not breaking it off with you. (Oh wait - maybe he's holding out hope that you WILL leave your husband for him.) Just by this alone, you can't have an open, poly relationship with both. He does not want poly. He wants you to leave your husband and be with him. That is the only way you will have a relationship with him. Listen very clearly and pay attention to his! You will not be able to negotiate poly with him even if your husband was ok with it! You want poly moreso to stay with your husband and be with this guy at the same time rather than because it's an actual orientation, similar to what meg_murray said, but he wants monogamy.

So it does look like you will have to choose one or the other. But it's more than that. If you choose your husband, you'll then have to choose whether or not to tell him about your feelings for the other guy. Again, I suggest that you own up to those feelings, take responsibility for working together with your husband on your marriage, and you will have to close the door on the other guy. I know you don't want to. But life entails making hard choices and following through with actions we don't like. If you choose the other guy, then you have to tell your husband and get a divorce.

If you really have a poly orientation (which I kind of doubt right now), then you cannot explore this with the other guy (if you were to divorce and be with him) because he's stated clearly and unequivocally that he wants monogamy. You say your husband is very monogamous, so you can't explore poly while in a relationship with him either. So given that, do you think you really are poly, now that it's clear that you couldn't explore it with either? i.e. is this more about being true to yourself and your poly-ness, or having a relationship with two men?
posted by foxjacket at 10:31 PM on April 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Your husband is never going to go for it. Don't stay married if you want to change the rules and disrespect the whole monogamy thing. This is a "core value" --you have shifted yours. Do him a favor and let him go. Good luck with new man.
posted by naplesyellow at 11:29 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


To me, honorable people don't get in deep with married people, relate an ideal that the married person leaves their spouse. And as they say in Texas, if they'll do it with you, they'll do it to you.

But to address the question, and I can live with a view that this is not being honest, how do you have this conversation with your husband? You don't. Cease contact with the other guy.

Life will go on with your lovely husband and at some point--maybe when you hear someone relating the misery of divorce, having a grim spouse, being single and not meeting anyone worth a damn--you'll think, "How ever did I get my silly little head so far up my arse?"
posted by ambient2 at 12:01 AM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


if indeed a sexual component of this other relationship is not necessary, why not explore it, with your husband and the other guy, in terms of this being a close friendship? maybe the question to ask yourself is whether you could imagine having the same emotional connection to a woman friend in which sex is not involved.

but you need to be honest with yourself about whether sex is an important aspect of this second relationship for you.

polyamory might be an easy-sounding label to throw on it, but when you consider all the complexities of a two-way relationship, think about whether you want those complexities multiplied. a relationship between two people is a two-way relationship. a relationship between three people is a six-way relationship, and as you are describing it, it would be a six-way relationship in which the connections to you are the dominant aspect; it makes you the center of attention but also the center of responsibility.

but also, consider the extent to which the value of a relationship between two people is found, in part, in the sacrifices they are wiling to make for each other. again, it is hard enough for any of us to find that with one other person; to expect the dynamic to work within the constellation of a three-way relationship, such that all the priorities are in sync to everyone's benefit and happiness, is not realistic. not to mention that true polyamory would allow each participant to form other relationships; what would happen, for instance, if the same two men formed the same bond with another woman simultaneously--each person (rather magically) having two partners of equal priority.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 2:59 AM on April 24, 2010


Even if your husband is open to the idea of polyamory, which seems unlikely, it's even more unlikely that you'll get your happily-ever-after with both him and your friend in a timely fashion. The decision to open up the relationship will just be the beginning. After the initial conversation, it might take months for your husband to get to a point where he's genuinely okay with the idea of "sharing" you with another person. Would your friend be willing to wait that long? Have you thought about how you're going to divide your time between the two partners? I assume you intend to keep living with your husband. How does that jive with your friend's relationship needs? Since he'd prefer to be monogamous, he's probably picturing a future in which you're his domestic partner. Is he okay with knowing that might never happen? It will take a long time for the three of you to grapple with these sorts of questions, especially since two of the parties involved have never even thought about trying this kind of relationship before.

My friend Rachel is in a relationship similar to your best-case scenario: her married friend Phil fell in love with her, and both she and Phil's wife Joanie decided that they'd rather try a "V" relationship than lose him altogether. But Rachel and Joanie are both still thinking like monogamous people. Because that's essentially what they are. It's been about two years, and every day, they both still hope that Phil will come to his senses and cast the other aside. And since they see that as a possibility, they both live in constant fear that Phil will eventually "pick" the other. From where I stand, it seems like a pretty unhappy situation. Especially since Rachel wants children and can't picture having them with anyone but Phil, who will probably never live with her. It's possible that there wouldn't be this much insecurity present in your relationship, but you're not off to a good start with regards to communicating.

My point is this: you might get both of the men in your life to agree to it. But there's no way for you to change their entire outlook on What Romantic Relationships Should Be. That has probably been ingrained in each of them from a very early age. If they really want to, they can work on changing their expectations and values, but it will take a long time and they might have to make some pretty major sacrifices in the meantime.
posted by arianell at 3:12 AM on April 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


I don't think polyamory will work in your scenario. Just have an affair with your good friend.
posted by Lleyam at 3:34 AM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


If we assume that you are polyamorous and this is a new discovery and you believe that this discovery, this new knowledge is something you're having trouble living with then you and your husband should go to couples therapy together coming in with the question, "how do we learn to live with this?" There are discoveries like this that couples do work through, but quite honestly most fail. I'm thinking here about people who are transgender and want to get gender reassignment surgery - I've known three who were in relationships and tried and failed to make it work out. I think this is what you face.

The key, I think, to making this work out is open communication. If you don't have that to start, then make that your goal with your husband first. Work on making sure that you have a totally above-board, full disclosure relationship. If you don't feel like you can tell him anything, then you can't. Get there first. Then worry about the polyamory.
posted by plinth at 4:00 AM on April 24, 2010


[few comments removed - do not turn this into your own poly argument, answers must be directed towards the OP's issue or take them to email or MeTa]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:20 AM on April 24, 2010


I vote with Lleyam. Honesty is not always your only option. Because you desire conflicting things which cannot be reconciled, you will have to face the situation eventually, but I wouldn't hurry to get to that point.
posted by ovvl at 1:33 PM on April 24, 2010


1. As someone who tried an open relationship with someone who did not, on his own, want one, I agree with YCTAB above that the issue of consent is complex. What that means is that navigating this transition requires all parties to have extremely strong self-awareness and communication skills. In the absence of that, you should seek support from an outside mediator to help ensure all parties' interests are being heard and respected. You will want to reduce the likelihood of ending up with "grit my teeth and bear it" suffering instead of truly consensual and willing agreement.

2. Before doing that, I would do the work foxjacket describes. When I had similar feelings, it was because the primary relationship was not really working for me, and if that's the case, you will save a lot of time by either breaking up or getting to work. Also consider the complications (living arrangements, e.g.) several have mentioned, to ensure that this is truly what you want, in non-ideal real reality, and not a stand-in for something else in yourself that is harder to face or address, nor an unmanageable amount of negotiation, work, and responsibilty for you.

3. I would closely watch and consider how both men manage stress, insecurity, hurt, and jealousy. Any transition here will be flammable, and you'll never negotiate a future if they storm out and stop taking your calls. You should not begin without accepting any risks of this sort that exist. This is different than the question of "would they ultimately accept polyamory?" It relates to how they will handle the surprise of being asked to. Think about each one's likely reactions separately, then think about those going on simultaneously (e.g., one person withdrawing and another yelling), to consider whether and how to proceed.

4. Finally, I'd step away from any "this is what I feel, I have to tell everyone / try to make this happen" absolutism. Yes, it is what you feel, and that's real and important. But why and what does it mean? And how do you responsibly handle it? You do want to be honest, both so they have the info and so you feel known for who you really are, and you do want treat your partners as adults, not make decisions on your partners' behalf out of some assumption that they can't handle it. BUT you ALSO want to proceed as thoughtfully and considerately as possible, knowing that you care about both men and don't want to cause then more pain than absolutely necessary, and knowing that your self-image will likely be impacted by how maturely and thoughtfully you handle your responsibilty and how you come to understand any actions you take that cause pain to others. This is a tricky balance, and I'd navigate it as thoughtfully as possible and avoid latching onto any all-or-nothing principles. Think and act carefully.

Chronologically: talk to friends/advisors/therapists about #2 (do I want this really or is it a mirage?) and #4 (how can I proceed in a manner I consider honorable given the realities?), then consider #3 (what is likely to happen? should I still proceed and if so, how?), then get help for both couples in addressing #3 (how do we deal with the anger, hurt, and jealousy here?) and #4 (what arrangement is sustainable moving ahead?). This whole thing is going to require as much emotional and psychological awareness and consideration as you can muster, and developing it or dealing with unplanned impacts will be very time-consuming. The more you do that up front, the better. What you are considering is a very immense project, and even if you decide not to proceed, you really need to do #2 to end the affair. I'd recommend you get to work because what you describe won't go away on its own even with a moderate amount of willpower; it will take super-human willpower or moderate willpower and a lot of work and external support. Best wishes.
posted by salvia at 1:41 PM on April 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Whoops, the second #4 should be # 1.
posted by salvia at 1:58 PM on April 24, 2010


On the one hand it seems to me that you're very in tune with your inner feelings, both emotional, and physical. You're simply responding to the stimuli provided by both your husband and your friend. But here's the thing...you're married. Which means(unless discussed prior to marriage) you're in a one person, yes, monogamous relationship. Any attempt at changing that would more then likely ruin or at the very least have serious negative effects on your marriage. It's so very unlikely that your husband would ever agree or be cool with you having any relations beyond friendship with another man. That's the thing about marriage...we make a promise to share ourselves with one person for the rest of our lives. Yes, married people can be attracted to someone else, they may even fantasize about someone else...but being fair, and being a good wife or husband is about making sure you never actually follow through with those fantasies and turn them into reality. At the end of the day, you may decide you want to pursue this, or that you even have stronger feelings for this friend then your husband and you will end up leaving your husband. Or you may decide to stop seeing this friend because you wish to stay faithful to your husband. If you do decide to pursue this friend.....be honest with your husband. He has a right to know, and he has every right to end things if you cheat on him. And like it or not...it would be cheating. I wish you all the best and hope for your husband's sake you come to your senses and step away from anything more then friendship with this "friend".
posted by ljs30 at 5:26 PM on April 30, 2010


I wholeheartedly agree that you should tell your husband. But, don't expect him to understand you right away. He won't. He'll feel hurt. But, you have no other option really. I mean, if you feel this strongly about your desires (and the other man), then you are constantly sacrificing your happiness out of fear of what "might happen" if you were to be honest with your husband. "Honest with your husband" is a big deal. Take the long-term approach: if you can't be honest with your husband now (and it's only been 3 years of marriage), what will you be hiding/feeling 10 years from now? What about 30 years from now? If you really want a long-term loving relationship with your husband, you have to trust that he will process everything with your best intentions at heart. He may not be able to do this right away, but give him the room to be upset, pissed off, etc. Just keep telling him and reassuring him that you really love him and that you REALLY don't want to break up with him. He may take your initial conversation as a "prologue to breaking up". He may think you are masking another message and that the "I still want to be with you" part is just a nice thing to say to soften the blow. He may not truly believe (at first) that you really do believe you can have multiple lovers.

I recently experienced this with my girlfriend. Fortunately I had not "cheated" or had any emotional "cheating" with anyone else to cloud the emotions. But I did feel very drawn to flirting with girls on a business trip, and this made me feel guilty or somehow as if I had betrayed my GF, just because I flirted (no contact). So I read up on several books about polyamory. And after about a month of researching it, I asked her to read one of the books also. I told her that I didn't necessarily want to engage in that right now, but that she should know that I do have sexual urges for people other than her sometimes (OH! the horror!!) and that if her and I were to be longtime lovers (we've been together for 4 years) then it's about time we start really knowing the core of each other. Nothing to hide. Yes, I crave other women sometimes. It's true. That's me. Have I done anything about it? No. But, let's not shame that feeling. Let's not label that as a bad thing, because it's me and it's true. And it's no way to live to be constantly at odds with your wiring/biology. It's as if you'd be being forced to deny who you are. But again, I hadn't done anything WRONG yet, so it was easier to just have lots of open discussions about this stuff. And even then... she was really hurt. "Am I not pretty enough?", "Do you still love me?" "So you want to break up?", these types of questions came over-and-over again and I had to continually re-affirm how much I had no intention of doing anything in the short-term. I am merely setting the stage and the conversation for being open about who I am and my internal desires. Some day this may rear it's head. Let's figure it out together, not apart. Or, if it's just too wacked out of a model, then maybe it will be apart... but let's walk this road slowly, methodically, and together.

good luck!
posted by sharingideas at 7:39 AM on May 4, 2010


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