/u/TomorrowsUnsure on /r/relationship_advice writes…
“Long story, my boyfriend is married to his wife of 10+ years and they have been in an unhappy marriage for a long time. Cue about 4 years ago we met online and started off friends and ended up liking each other a lot. We decided to pursue a relationship despite his marriage because we really enjoyed each other emotionally, mentally, sexually and were experiencing unhappy relationships on both our ends.
We have a long distance relationship while he stayed married to his wife. She knows about me. She doesn’t like me for obvious reasons. I don’t hate her, and in fact like her. I like her because for the past 2 yrs or so she has tried to make it work with him and is overall an amazing and very kind person. I feel horrible for intruding in her relationship, but I’m now extremely attached to her husband (my boyfriend) and am unwilling to just walk away.
While he was building it our relationship, he neglected theirs and it finally came to a head just a week or so ago. She pretty much said that she is depressed from his neglect and he needs to either pick her or me.
My boyfriend is a deeply caring person and he still cares a lot about his wife but doesn’t want to lose me either. After seeking advice, he has tried to suggest a polyamorous relationship for us all.
She is completely against it, but said there is a tiny chance she may be willing to try it a long way down the road. I am supportive of it because I really love this man and do not want to lose him. He is the only person I’ve ever clicked with who has made me feel so empowered, so safe and not alone. My family and friends are all closed minded and emotionally driven people while my bf and myself are very logically inclined and more highly educated.
That being said. I’m also scared to try this. I live hours away from my bf and he is mentioning that he wants to try to work things out with his wife while maintaining our relationship. This will eventually involve intimacy which is the most frightening thing to me because it is not something I can easily have with him.
I just need some guidance of some kind. I’m scared. I’ve never done this before but I want to try to figure it out because I love this man and want to be with him somehow.
I don’t need any criticism please. I know this is not a good spot to have gotten in, but I’m here and I want to work it out.”
Dear Tomorrows Unsure,
Before I give you my advice, I want to start by discussing a bit about my column.
When I first started writing this column, I have made a promise to myself to not discredit other’s experiences, to not gatekeep what is and isn’t polyamory, and to be faithful to the realities of the advice seekers. It is my core belief that different people love differently. While other versions of love might not be compatible with my own personal worldview, it does not mean that their respective forms of love are not just as valid as the loves I experience. And thus, I decided not to police what boundaries define polyamorous relationships and whether or not one way of practicing polyamorous relationship was any more or less valid than another.
But I do think it is important to first and foremost define polyamory as a subset of the larger consensual and ethical non-monogamy. Polyamory cannot happen without each people knowingly consenting to and agreeing to having a non-monogamous relationship. I do not believe that your current model of relationship is largely ethical or consensual in how each participant is reacting to and making decisions in your relationships. Your boyfriend’s wife has not consented to having an open relationship. Your boyfriend has not done his emotional labor to make sure everything is above board. And from what you said (“[W]e … were experiencing unhappy relationships on both our ends”) it does not sound very ethical from your side of this relationship either. I strongly urge you to understand and accept that what you and your boyfriend have accomplished is largely unethical.
Instead of continuing to talk about what you’ve done wrong, let’s try to focus a bit more on what you can do right going forward.
The best thing you can do here is to acknowledge that everyone involved here is human, and that each of them are subject to their own sense of agency. That means you, your boyfriend, and his wife all need to be on the same page for this potential polyamorous relationship to work. You’ve outlined that your metamour does not like you. That relationship will need to heal. And the best way it can heal is by giving her space to process and work through this form of polyamory with her husband. This polyamorous relationship will not succeed if your boyfriend’s wife cannot accept and respect his relationship with you.
Your boyfriend also needs to do a lot of emotional work to make sure he can be ethically practicing polyamorous relationships going forward. A lot of that has to do with rebuilding his trust with his wife. But a lot of that also has to do with recognizing his mistakes here, doing a lot of emotional labor to fix his wrongs, and approaching his new relationships with you and his wife in a more mindful way.
Then there is the work you also need to do. You need to understand that while you may be capable of having polyamorous relationships, polyamorous relationships require an extreme form of consent and understanding. It also need to come from a place of trust that you might have in your boyfriend. You might benefit from reading up about polyamorous relationships in your own time and determine if this is a model that really works for you going forward.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!