Even the best laid out roads can lead to surprised; Hubby and I realized this early on in our adventures in polyamory.  Things we thought would be a struggle turned out to be smooth sailing, while things we never imagined would be a problem threatened our integrity as a couple.  This is where it became integral that we remain flexible as individuals while staying steadfast as a partnership.  This was the true test.

In our haste to involve Hubby’s girlfriend, who I am going to call Emmy, we ceased to do anything without her.  Every movie night, every road trip, and every celebration we had involved her.  We started to lose our identity as “us” in many ways, and it was as if we were no longer allowed to do anything without her.  I hate to admit it, but even sex started to wane and fade away.  It was as if our triad had taken over the marriage.  This led to fights, tension, and resentment on both sides.  Much worse, it led to animosity and jealousy on my behalf.  I felt as if my company was no longer good enough, like I was no longer good enough. 

The result of this was a need to exhort my position as Wife.  It sparked one day when Emmy turned to me in the car and announced that she was “not comfortable being anybody’s second”, and I had to remind her that she willingly joined a married couple.  In hindsight I see that I did get a little catty.  Remember this, dear readers, there is a thin line between owning your position and lording it over your partner’s other partners.  Kissing your husband is acceptable.  Body checking his partner to kiss him is not. 

Another overzealous oversight was the boundaries we had set in our early conversations with Emmy about how our triad would function.  In these kinds of situations it is easy to assume everyone is on the same level and ready to move forward, perhaps beyond set parameters.  Hubby, being the hinge that joined the two women, took the reigns and ran with them a little too voraciously than either of us was prepared to handle. 

To help a little further I have compiled a list of a few other things to avoid once you have found an active third to your relationship.

  • “Ooh Shiny Syndrom”- As with any new relationship there will be that “new love” feel.  This is a good thing, but try not to let it give you an excuse to ignore the original partner.  This only leads to hurt feelings and resentment.  There is also the tendency to not see anything negative with the new partner, which leads to unfair comparisons.  You may have lived with your original partner for some time, so you know his bad habits.  The new addition can be selective about the habits she shows you, at least in the beginning.  Think of John Cusack’s proposal scene in “Say Anything”.  

 

  • The “G” Word- Gossip.  Avoid running to your new confidante to gossip, complain, or cry to your new partner about the original partner.  Hubby and I were both guilty of this in the beginning.  I needed a woman’s perspective and he felt the need to tell her every growing pain I was feeling with our relationship.  As a result her initial impression of me was not very good.  I still feel the after-effects of it, and it has affected our ability to open with each other.  Any time we fight on the phone he calls her to vent, but I am left with my own feelings and emotions to process.  I have done my share of venting to Emmy, and afterwards I feel slightly childish, and it puts Emmy in an awkward position.  Our arguments should remain just that, ours. 

 

  • “Pussyfooting”- This one may not be as obvious.  You may even think you are helping a situation by making one of the members of your happy little family feel better.  In reality, when they find out that you are only doing or not doing things “out of respect for (their) emotions” they feel foolish, suspicious, and paranoid.  For a while Hubby would not tell Emmy he loved her in front of me.  When I found out they had been exchanging those feelings for some time I confronted him about it, and that was the answer.  Respect for my emotions.  It made me wonder what other things could be explained away so easily on my behalf, and it caused a dent in my trust.  In  his opinion it was no big deal, but it changed the way I viewed their relationship for a long time.

 

  • Disappointment- Do you remember what it was like to be single?  Do you remember what first dated were like?  Do you remember the disappointment when things just did not work out?  Why do you think this will be any different?  Polyamorists are neither more enlightened nor more compatible with each other than any other person looking for a relationship.  Hubby and I have had plenty of flops, believe me.  At times it was daunting, especially with such a specialized dating pool, but we kept trying.  Even if this relationship does not work out int he long run, we know it has been a positive experience above all the flops.

This has all helped us hone another skill.  Conflict resolution.  I tend to get defensive when I feel hurt or rejected, and I tend to feel hurt and rejected when someone starts chosing other people or activities over time with me.  Did we have genuine issues to resolve?  Of course we did, but me getting defensive and crying and Hubby getting frustrated and shutting down because I could not see things his way was never going to fix those issues.  Over the past few months we have worked extremely diligently to improve our conflict resolution process, and it has done our marriage a world of good. 

We are just now finding the balance and compromise needed for this arrangement to function.  Each of us has had to make sacrifices.  I have given up time with Hubby.  Emmy has given up a little of her independence and has taken up a little responsibility to help our household run smoothly.   Hubby has accepted that some of the things I have asked for from him are not unreasonable, and he has taken the initiative to be a better partner to me and to Emmy.  I believe we all have, and will continue to, change  for the better if we can keep that balance and spirit of compromise alive.

The biggest piece of advice I can give is to not let polyamory ruin your marriage.  There is nothing worth risking a strong relationship that can not be worked out and used as a learning experience. 

Now go…love someone.

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