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Advice – My wife is dating someone who is in a rocky marriage.

My wife has been seeing someone for a couple of months and she really seems to like him. In getting to know each other, he has let it slip that he and his partner are currently working with marriage counselors and therapists to get through a few of their past mistakes. Until recently, he told my wife that they are currently separated but he still wants to talk and go out with her. Everything I’m reading is telling me how difficult it is for everyone in the situation. She is leaving it up to him on deciding to continue. Is it normal to continue dating even with something as bad as a separation? We have always said we stop dating if we aren’t in a good place. I think my fears are her bringing that toxicity into our house. Either through increased anxiety or stress etc. She says if she sees anything like that starting she will end it immediately.

Porter Francis, Reddit.
Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

Dear Porter,

Your feelings of fear and of the unknown are very apparent. It sounds like you sense the potential turbulence in your metamour’s marriage deeply affecting your wife, and subsequently affecting your marriage as well. Those are valid feelings and concerns, and we will spend some time in this post unpacking the true source of those concerns and what you and your wife can do to alleviate those feelings, individually and collectively.

Let’s first distinguish the different relationships. There are three different relationships in your current polycule as you described: the relationship between you and your wife, the relationship between your wife and your metamour, and the relationship between your metamour and his wife. And in those three different relationships, there are two hinges: your wife and your metamour. The distinction between the different relationships and how each of them function in relation with and isolation from each other is a really important concept in polyamory.

In this column, I have repeatedly upheld that the hinge partners are responsible for facilitating theirm multiple relationships. That means that the hinges are responsible for managing any inter-relational conflicts, smoothing transitional inflection points, and upholding the relevant boundaries & agreements. Even the most experienced hinge partners will find it impossible to completely compartmentalize struggles in one relationship from bleeding over in their other relationships. While complete isolation from drama is impossible, a mindful filtration is not only possible, it is also functionally necessary for long-term success in polyamory.

We have to use our own experiences to measure the world at large.

Consider how your own personal worldview colors your assessment of external relationships. It could be that you have had some very dysfunctional relationship with relationship therapy or counseling that has shaped how you are envisioning your metamour’s separation process. But it is not always the case that therapy is a premonition of failure. In a way, going to therapy is a lot like going to a gym. You get to work out any kinks in your form, strengthen your core, and become more durable in the process. Going to therapy or counseling is a good thing for them because they are taking an active measure and interest in improving their relationship together, even if their marriage does not survive.

It is true that most separation / divorce process is going to be difficult. As someone with a partner going through a divorce, I can personally attest to how challenging it will be for both your metamour and your wife. But she is the one who is in that relationship with your metamour, and is the one that will be doing the emotional labor associated with supporting her partner through the separation and divorce. Not you.

On a first date with one of my former partners, my former partner and I talked at length about how the main challenge of polyamory lies in that you are also dating circumstances. You don’t just get to date the person you are interested in. You also have to welcome their existing agreements, their polycule status, and their extended relational worldview. So take that into consideration that when you are actively choosing to date your wife, you also have to take her poly happenstance into consideration… in the same way that she is doing her partner’s.

Instead of allowing your fears to hold you hostage, take this as an opportunity to connect deeper with your partner.

Instead of saying “I don’t think he should be dating while going through a separation process”, say “I am afraid that your relationship with your other partner might bring emotional baggage into our relationship.” And dig deeper and flesh out what that “toxicity” might look like. Have a dialogue about how you and your wife can each develop your own respective coping mechanisms to ensure that your own marriage isn’t too disturbed by the transition that is taking place in her partner’s life.

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 follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

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