The big peril of non-monogamy
Your partner may meet someone whom they like better than you.
"Open" relationships are often tried and seem a good idea at first but in the end a committed monogamous relationship is a better route to long term security in a relationship. The woman below found that out the hard way. She has lost her partner and is suffering badly as a result
For those of you who have been following my last few posts, you know that my relationship with my husband is tenuously holding on by a very thin thread. Four years into our non-monogamous exploration, his new, very serious, relationship with an HSV2+ partner has caused our relationship to implode.
In the nine months since he started dating his new partner, we have had to grapple with the significance of introducing someone with an STI into our sexual lives, in the face of very different views on the associated risks. We’ve also had to negotiate my husband’s request to change our non-monogamy agreement and transition to becoming non-hierarchical. And, on top of that, we’ve been navigating the contrast between his new, highly sexually and emotionally charged relationship and our long-term, relatively less sexually intense relationship involving three kids, a dog, a mortgage, bills and the other realities of married life.
Yeah… it’s been a fucking awful few months….
From my perspective, all of this started nine months ago. Right around the time — actually, to be totally exact, it was exactly at the time — that he met his new partner. Before that fateful point in time, things had been mostly humming along between us. We’d survived the roller-coaster of the first few years of the massive transition from monogamy to having sex and relationships with various new partners. We’d entered a fairly stable phase of our non-monogamy.
I was pretty confident we were kind of normal. Yes, obviously, there were some points of friction and just general blah-ness that comes with a quarter of a decade of living together, but overall I felt good about our relationship. We were talking about the future. We were going out on date nights every couple of weeks. We enjoyed our time together on vacation. And we were getting through the daily hum of family life without too many hiccups. Plus we were kind of rocking non-monogamy, with both of us having stable partners that added rather than depleted from our life.
I totally acknowledge that there were parts of our relationship and life together that weren’t perfect. There were days were we struggled with our different communication styles — I’m rapid-fire and he’s a thinker-before-speaking type of guy. There were periods when we felt a bit less connected, preferring to spend our evenings on our separate mobile devices watching our own shows rather than spending the evening compromising on watching a show together. It wasn’t shits and giggles every single minute.
But I still felt our relationship was good.
Nine months ago, it wasn’t just between us that it was good. Our family unit was strong. With three teenagers in the house, many people assumed our home life was full of teenage hormones, drama and rolling eyes. In reality, our three kids have always been fairly lovely people to be around, even during the throes of adolescence. Unlike many families in which the teenagers disappear into grungy basements to sit in front of screens all day and all night, our teens spend a lot of time with us. In fact, we spent so much time together that we would sing-song to each other “just the fiiiiive of us” as we sat down for our almost-daily family dinner.
Up until recently, I thought we were the lucky ones — lucky to have such a close, connected family. I felt lucky to have a 25+ year relationship with a man that I loved, respected and wanted to grow old with. An us against the world kind of feeling.
And then, there was this fateful day when he met her and suddenly things changed.
The shift was neither subtle nor slow to come about. It happened fast. Practically overnight my husband became distant and irritable around us, spending more and more time out of the house. He stopped coming to bed at the same time as me preferring to stay on the couch until the wee hours of the night texting with his new partner. His evening absences met fewer family dinners and those that he was physically present for, he didn’t contribute to the conversation.
I started to gripe about the situation. I even dared suggest that his new relationship was causing more harm than good and that maybe it was time to end it and get ourselves back on more stable footing. I foolishly thought that if she was out of the picture we could go back to the way things were before. I was wrong.
Instead of considering the role that this new relationship was having on us, my husband was thinking something very different. He finally told me that he’d been unhappy for years. He felt that’s why we were in the situation we were in. Whereas I completely blamed his new relationship and felt that his emotional connection with his new partner was causing havoc on our relationship and the sanctity of our family unit, he thought the havoc had nothing to do with her. I was gob-smacked — and if there was ever a time to use the word gob-smacked this is it — when he told me that the problem was our relationship. He said that he had felt our marriage had been lacking for many years and he was done with being unhappy.
Since that shocker, he has made clear that he is “digging in his heels and pushing back” on what he views as years and years of me not paying enough attention to him. The problems in our relationship, according to him, are so bad and so terrible, that we need to fix them now or he will leave.
I am totally destabilized. I feel complete dissonance between what I experienced and what he says he experienced in our marriage. I thought we were happy. Perfect? No. But happy. He says he wasn’t for years. I did not know and feel blindsided by his newly expressed version of our life together.
I admit, I have struggled to believe him. The timing is problematic. If he’d been unhappy for years why did it only come out when he met his new partner? I can’t help but think he is actively trying to rationalize his decisions about his new partner by convincing himself that he was unhappy with me. Re-writing our history and making me the bad guy may be a lot easier than taking a look at his actions.
He admits she’s been a “catalyst” but even without her, he says it was a matter of time before he was going to leave me. Seriously?
I want to scream at him: What were you doing or going to do to stop this from happening? Why didn’t you fight for us? Why didn’t you tell me before it got this bad?
We are now in a stalemate. I blame him for falling in love with someone and being blind to the impact this has had on his decisions and thought process. He blames me for not believing that there has been a big problem between us for years.
I feel like I have two choices in front of me: Either continue to believe that the problem stems from her or start to reflect on whether there were major cracks in my marriage’s foundation that I didn’t see (or didn’t want to see). Was our non-monogamous exploration an attempt to fill those cracks? Did we open up because our marriage was unhappy? If so, can we fix things before things crumble completely?
I desperately want to go back to believing we are the lucky ones. But I am not sure it will ever be “just the five of us” again.