/u/DemonicGirlcock on /r/polyamory writes…
“My wife [35F] and I [34F] have been together 16 years. I’ve always been curious about polyamory but never experienced it, but my wife is strongly against it. I confessed to her about 2 months ago how I feel, and she told me about how she had tried polyamory in high school. It didn’t work out and she only wants monogamy (she wouldn’t go into any details).
She said she wasn’t cool with experimenting or letting me experiment, and even said that if I felt polyamory was something I needed that she would want to get divorced. She said it so matter of fact, it hurt so much. I can’t imagine my life without her, but I’m feeling more and more like I can’t picture a happy future with only her.
We’ve talked about going to couples counseling, but she’s so busy with work and I’m too scared to set up a session. I’m terrified of the possibility that it would solidify my desire for non-monogamy and lead to us splitting up.
There’s other complications in our relationship, but all things we’ve faced together and support each other despite the strain and stress.
I don’t even know where to go with this post anymore. I’m just hurting and I’m scared, and I had to tell somebody.”
I am really sorry to hear that you are going through a difficult time. It is never a comfortable conversation to discuss opening up a relationship. And while you have approached this in a very compassionate way, it does not sound like it went well for either of you.
I often see long term couples who want to try opening up for the first time only to be met with strong initial resistance. After all, it goes against the initial monogamous commitment and the exclusivity agreement. Your wife clearly has a lot of baggage from her previous experience (that you might not even have known about beforehand). And she is not open to any variations of ethical non-monogamy here, either on her side or yours.
So now it is time for you to sit back, regroup, and process what you have laid out in front of you.
First things first. Respect your wife’s baggage. The onus of change is on the trauma-holder to seek therapy and process their past pains with or without the help of a therapist/counselor. Her boundary on upholding her existing agreements with you is sound and fair.
Now, consider attending some therapy of your own. I sense some ambivalence between how you feel about the importance of your exploration of non-monogamy and your marriage to your wife. It is not something you, your wife, or even your therapist can answer for you decisively. That onus of decision is yours and yours only. Is that exploration part truly acceptable as a price of admission to be with your wife?
I also want to touch on this comment below.
“I’m terrified of the possibility that it would solidify my desire for non-monogamy and lead to us splitting up.”
Your desires and beliefs are of yours and yours only. A good therapist/counselor is not going to tell you that your interest in non-monogamy is right or wrong. A good therapist/counselor is not going to tell you that you need to split up with your wife.
What a good therapist/counselor might help you do is help you develop the tools necessary for you to make a decision one way or another. If the end result of your counseling is that you realize how important your desire for non-monogamy was, then the breaking point wasn’t therapy for helping you accept that; it was the inherent incompatibility that you and your wife didn’t have to address for the past sixteen years together.
I will leave this column off by saying that sixteen years is a long time. And both you and your wife have grown to be different people than when you first got together at 18 and 19. And while her old, bad experiences of polyamory might not have gone well, it is not something that she had an opportunity to really explore with you, someone who she deeply trusts and respects. If I didn’t try bananas after my first bad experience when I was eight, I might not have ever experienced the glory that is banana bread.
So keep an open mind and hope for the best.
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