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Advice – My polyamorous wife is uncomfortable with me dating others.

We started opening our relationship in June as an “exploratory” thing we were doing. At that time it seemed like she was just “looking for fun” and she got to have her fun with a handful of people. I started to talk with a close friend and found out this friend is also polyamorous and wanted to explore with me.

My wife has been intensely jealous of this new development between me and my friend. She does not feel comfortable with it but also totes around “fair is fair. I’ve done way worse”. I hate to admit it and I never say it out loud but I feel like she is right in that sense. She has slept with 5 guys in the span of a month and then suddenly me having my first experience is too much for her. To give you some context, my wife has been my only sexual partner my whole life.

At this same time my wife started a friendship with my friend’s roommate. She came out to me a couple days ago that she is actually polyamorous and isn’t looking for casual flings, something I’ve been asking since the start. Basically telling me she has feelings for this roommate.

I’ve been feeling a lot worse knowing it’s not just a casual fling for her while she simultaneously does not want me to pursue anyone. It feels very hypocritical.

/u/ImOkButIsThatOk, /r/polyamory
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dear I’m Okay But Is That Okay,

Let’s slow down.

This situation is deceptively complex. So let’s first start by discussing everything that happened with your wife since opening up in June.

In a very short amount of time, she has found five different casual connections. We often find change and progress through our intimate connections. Sometimes, the shortest flings often bring about the biggest changes in us. It could be possible that your wife has found significant growth and development over the past month that allowed her to better fully flesh out the type of relationships she wants to have. That means a personal growth for herself as well as a deviation from the original vision of non-monogamous arrangement with you.

The timing of her declaration appears coincidental and circumstantial. But let’s assume for a moment that her acknowledgement of her polyamorous identity comes completely independent from the recent developments in your own non-monogamous journey. If we give her the benefit of the doubt that her growth is the result of the past month’s experience, then there are some really big questions she needs to ask herself before she can actually claim the polyamorous identity.

  • What does it mean for her to be polyamorous?
  • Hierarchical vs non-hierarchical?
  • What type of interactions is she willing to facilitate between her multiple partners?
    • Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
    • Parallel Polyamory
    • Kitchen Table Polyamory
  • What does this mean for your rules and agreements from a month ago?
  • What does her ideal version of polyamorous arrangement look like?
  • What does this mean for our future?

I’ve written in the past about polyamory as an identity. And in that column from two weeks ago I wrote, “[P]olyamory as an identity is too often used as a blanket excuse for unethical and selfish relationship habits.” In short, it could be possible that your wife is utilizing her declaration of polyamorous identity as a way to neglect or disregard the emotional labor associated with polyamory. We’ll go into more detail what that means in the next section.

Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

Now let’s talk about what is happening with you. Just like the discussion about your wife’s development, we’ll talk about your current predicament as completely independent from your wife.

It sounds like you found someone you connected with in your close friend. I’m not sure if your close friend has had much experience with non-monogamy prior to connecting with you, nor your friend’s current balance of relationships. But considering that your wife has been your only sexual partner, there is going to be a lot that you’ll need to unlearn, re-learn, and newly learn in regards to developing a romantic/sexual connection with your close friend.

Hear your friend when they say that they are polyamorous. If they have already had a lot of experience with non-monogamy/polyamory, then this is a great time for you to ask them what their experience has been like, what they expect from their relationships, and what preexisting agreements they have with their current partners. If they are coming into polyamory just as fresh as you and your wife are, then they too should be asking the same questions that your wife should be asking herself. I strongly urge you to take a look at the newbie tag on my column. This post in particular has a lot of resources that can benefit everyone.

In polyamory, you don’t just date your partner; you also date the situation. Your friend has to be introspective about the relationship situation their partner – you – are in, just like you have to be cognizant about their situation as well.

This is a good time for you to reassess what you personally expect from both your current and future relationships. One of the ways I have a dialogue with myself is by writing down my feelings in a journal. It helps me distance myself from my own perspective in order to have a dialogue with myself about myself. Another way is through therapy. Through our therapists, we can better hear and engage with our own voices in a more productive, clinical way.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Now let’s bring everything together.

I am going to assume that your wife connected with the roommate of the same close friend that you are interested in pursuing a connection with. I’m not sure if her decision to connect with this particular individual was one of choice to limit COVID exposure, of sheer luck that she happened to connect well with your interest’s roommate, or perhaps something more questionable. Either way, intermixing their current living situation with your exploration with open relationship appears ripe for disaster, with almost no safety nets.

I have a feeling that her reticence and reservation regarding your decision to pursue others is heavily and deeply rooted in a sense of insecurity and jealousy, which is common for a lot of polyfolks. It is something that I – an experienced poly person – struggle with on occasion as well. It is also common for a lot of poly newbies that jealousy and insecurity often gets weaponized to influence their partners’ actions, which might be happening with your wife. It could be that in better circumstances that she has enough resources to manage her feelings of insecurity and jealousy. But because she’s trying to juggle her multiple connections, at the same time trying to figure out what polyamory means to her, her emotional capital is tapped out.

Similar could apply to you as well. You spent so much time accepting and being okay with your wife’s other connections over the past month that you are losing sight of the type of connections you want to make. And now that you found a potential connection through your close friend, your wife’s proclamation of poly identity is rocking the boat so heavily that you can’t tell what’s up from down.

In a way, it is like trying to tango on roller skates while the dance floor is also an escalator and also your eyebrows are on fire.

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

You and your wife should seriously consider slowing things down and only adding one variable at a time. I understand that both you and your wife are tempted to match each other pace-for-pace, and I think this is a mistake. If your wife wants to explore polyamorous relationships instead of more ephemeral casual connections, then this is a great time for her to stop dating for a month and read/listen to materials for polyfolks. If she is really intent on and serious about pursuing a polyamorous connection with this specific individual, this person will still be there when your wife is actually ready to date polyamorously. And in this time, they too can take some time to think about the type of polyamory they want to be a part of. Reading and listening material should give your wife some good ideas on how to manage her insecurity and jealousy in a more productive and meaningful way.

While your wife and her potential connection is researching into polyamory, it is time for you to explore the type of connection you want to make by being in it. Like your wife has discovered, you’ll learn a lot when you start dating others. Only through experience, you’ll get a better idea of how you can connect with yourself, your wife, and others at a deeper level. It’ll also give you a different perspective on what you think that your wife gets out of non-monogamy as well. You might find that your preference could be very different from your wife. But you won’t really know until you’re out dating on your own. This is all going to fold into your wife’s research material as she’ll have real life examples to apply her learning to. And just like you’ll have to explore your own relationships in order for you to discover what you want, she’ll have to explore her own jealousy management skills in order for her to discover what works for her.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Last thing I’ll comment on is in the necessity of consent regarding ethical non-monogamy.

You don’t need to make yourself vulnerable to degrees of emotional, relational, or sexual risk that you yourself don’t find acceptable through your partner. What I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to be okay with your wife’s behavior. She has been displaying some very selfish behaviors with reckless disregard for COVID happenstance, your relational landscape, or the type of connections she wants to pursue. And you don’t have to accept this type of behavior from your partner. If your personal boundary is such that you will not be in a romantic relationship with a person who seeks romantic relationships with others, that is a perfectly valid boundary for you to have and a perfectly valid boundary for your wife to adhere to for the sake of your marriage and your kids.

Dating you should be a privilege she gets to enjoy, not a guarantee she gets to settle on.

Jase from Multiamory once said dating multiple people doesn’t make you polyamorous. What makes you polyamorous is in learning to accept and celebrate your partners’ other relationships. The much more difficult part of polyamory is in committing to and doing the emotional labor that comes with jealousy and insecurity. I hate to act the part of a gatekeeper to polyamory. But if your wife cannot (or refuse to) mindfully manage her jealousy and insecurity that comes with polyamory, she does not get to claim to be polyamorous in the same way that enjoying cocktails doesn’t make that person a bartender.

Good luck!

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 teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

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