I can see how it looks that way. And I’ve honestly searched myself and tried to figure out if that is, in fact, true. His ex would say yes, that’s exactly what I did. She would say “I told you so.”
But of course, that isn’t actually what happened. What happened is that I fell in love with a man who is polyamorous, and we tried to build a poly family. When his wife kicked me out of their family, I was so completely broken that almost two years later I still cry when I think about it. And this situation terrified me out of ever wanting to be in a situation like that again.
Meanwhile, Papa Bear feels that things only imploded because he and The Wifey were never really compatible to begin with. And as long as he chooses women he’s compatible with in the future (the defining characteristic of women he goes for now is “chill”), there should never again be a situation where feelings are hurt, ultimatums are thrown down, rights are violated and everyone gets their hearts broken.
But I need to make sure that I am not violating HIS rights. That I am now not throwing ultimatums down. This is a weird example, but it reminds me of this episode of Big Love (I puffy pink heart that show). Bill’s First Wife tells him that she agreed to polygamy because it was important to him, but that he has already added two new wives and she will never accept a fourth. Bill wants to be open to the possibility of as many wives as he happens to fall in love with and thinks would be a good fit for their family, but Barb says “Fuck no. I have two sister-wives, and there will be NO MORE.”
What is the difference between stating your own boundaries, and violating another person’s freedom? For me, I feel like Barb, even though Papa Bear isn’t in any other serious relationships right now. It’s weird because I do this crazy thing where I project into the future, and it causes me all kinds of misery (more on that at another time.)
I know, know, know that it is impossible to see my future, but I can’t help trying to picture it. And polyamory is instability–at least if your loop remains open (ie, you are continually willing to bring in new partners). So I want to be extra clear when I say, that when I told Papa Bear that if he and I were to ever build a future based on us I’d need him to stop adding in other women, I meant I cannot live a life that is constantly at risk of being capsized by another polyamory related disaster.
That when I get to the good years–the years where I am no longer beaten down and exhausted by all of my daily responsibilities, the years when I can do what I want–that my life and the people I share it with need to be stable. If he has another girlfriend and we all love each other then great. If not, I would strongly prefer that he stop the merry-go-round and be happy with what he has.
Before this most recent relationship crisis, I was gone from the blog for a pretty long time. A lot of shit happened and I’m not sure I want to talk about the bad and the ugly, but here’s a bit of an update:
Boss Man: Boss Man is no longer my Boss Man. He’s no longer my boss because I finally found a new job (!!!) and he’s no longer my man because I kind of ended everything. Leaving my job was long overdue and I found something with much more room for advancement, better benefits, and steady pay increases. Professionally, I’m much happier. Personally, not seeing Boss Man every day has really helped me. For awhile we continued to talk daily, and saw each other occasionally (sometimes we fooled around, sometimes we didn’t) but then something happened. He started to have problems with his girlfriend, Tinder Girl, and suddenly it was like I was his therapist. I wanted to be there for him and I was, pretty much 24/7. In the middle of the night. All day. When I was hanging out with my family, or on a date with Papa Bear, he was texting me. I started to tell him when I was busy but he just kept texting, over and over and over, asking for advice on him and Tinder Girl, talking about how miserable he was, sending sad song lyrics, talking about wishing he and I could be together.
It got to be too much. I finally broke when my mom was visiting. It was beyond stressful having my uber-religious, mentally ill mother in my home, judging me day and night, but he continued to hammer away at me with his own problems.
I found out my husband doesn’t just have a low sex-drive, but actually doesn’t like sex (something I don’t think we can ever really work through), and he continued to spam me with messages.
I felt like things with Papa Bear were falling apart, and as I was dealing with it, he continued to text me.
Finally, I just told him I was too stressed out to help him with his relationship problems at the moment. I tried to be nice, but honestly I was kind of angry. He had never been there for me the way that I was there for him those weeks and months, and I know he never would be, because (as he readily admits) he is selfish.
He continued to text, and I just started to ignore him, and eventually he stopped altogether. Its been maybe a week or two since I’ve heard from him, and I’m not sad. I think not seeing him every day allowed me the space I need to get over our ill-advised, mess of a relationship, finally.
We moved! Yay! I bitched many, many times on here about hating my crappy apartment, and finally this spring we found a town house to move into. My kids have their own bedrooms, we have a yard, I have a basement, my own laundry room, a little garden. I could not be happier about that 🙂 When The Husband and I had just about given up on ever finding anywhere affordable, in the right part of town, Papa Bear just kept at it. He sent me links to rentals and even made phone calls and took me on viewing appointments. He was awesome, and I am so grateful for him. He helped us find our house.
Next, barring any other urgent happenings, I’ll talk about sex. I know you’ve all been wondering!
The hardest thing about trying to figure out your shit, is that it comes in waves. You can spend a ton of time thinking through one issue, and land somewhere you think makes sense, only to realize later that you need to give it a second look.
Things with Papa Bear and I have been going better. We aren’t being interrupted during our time together, and if someone requests an interruption, they are told no. Yet something about it has still felt “off.” We have been trying out a new schedule where we only see each other once a week, for a solid block of time on Saturday or else a sleepover from Friday evening to late-morning Saturday, and while this has been better than what we had before, it isn’t perfect.
I realized some things about myself that I shared with Papa Bear, and he also had realizations that he shared with me. My realization came first. It was triggered by something so petty I’m embarrassed to even mention it. Every Sunday Papa Bear is incommunicado from breakfast until dinner. This is the time that The Wifey had decided should be “their” time. Generally they go to the same heritage park and spend a few hours there, and then they come home and hang out together and maybe have company later in the day. They also post pictures of them kissing every Sunday, pretty much without fail.
Now I’ll admit I’m biased, because I hate gratuitous Facebook bragging. I think its weird and self-absorbed at best, and insensitive and crass at worst. I do not do it. I don’t know if their posting pictures of their from-scratch breakfast and of themselves kissing on the ferris wheel in all their smug couply-ness constitutes bragging. Maybe it doesn’t, but I think it might.
So anyway, having to see this week after week for months on end has just kind of grated on me. It’s not just the couple bragging, obviously. It’s me seeing my boyfriend and his wife during a time that I am banned from. As a rule. I know its petty, but it has started to bother me to the point that every time I see it I immediately hide it from my feed so that it’s not there staring me in the face every week. Call me petty, immature, insecure, whatever–I do what I need to.
I Googled “feeling left out” and “polyamory” and I didn’t find a lot for “Secondaries”. Everything was about the jealousy that a “Primary” partner feels, and nothing much addressed the feelings of the non-primary partner. This bothered me too, and I kept thinking back to all the times we’ve talked about me being “secondary,” and my issues with it. Something clicked, and in frustration I Googled, “I am not a secondary.” Jackpot.
Every time I hear the term secondary used, especially in regards to myself and my relationships, I inwardly recoil. I read a few articles about why some people, even if they are the second, non-live in partner, refuse to consider themselves secondaries. I identified with them strongly.
Being secondary implies that at all times, in all things, someone’s needs come after those of another person. That just isn’t okay, and its not a healthy way to have a relationship. If one of your lovers can never be a priority, then why are you with them? It might be fine for people who are just casually dating, but that isn’t the case for Papa Bear and I, and it isn’t okay for me.
The other issue is that it means you are defining one relationship in terms of another relationship. That, again, isn’t okay with me. Each relationship needs to be able to be what it is. My relationships are separate–my love for my husband doesn’t define how much I can love my boyfriend, and vice versa. No one is primary to me. Each relationship is its own thing, with its own needs, and has to be treated as such.
When I realized this, I told Papa Bear that I am not okay with hierarchical poly. I am not okay with the way he relates to me having to be first filtered through and compared with how he relates to The Wifey. I am not a secondary. I am not a relationship status or position, I am a person.
Now, to be fair, aside from the rules (which mostly center around ensuring that Papa Bear is with the Wifey at certain times on certain days for certain activties, each week), I do not feel like a secondary. Not really. If I need to be with Papa Bear, he will do his best to be there for me. He has taken an emergency day from work when I was having a personal crisis. He has picked me up from work when I have late meetings so I don’t have to walk in the dark, even if I am going home instead of out with him. He has paid for medication and medical procedures. He loves me, and I know that in his heart, I am not a secondary.
However. When issues come up where The Wifey and I are in conflict, I feel like the labels of secondary and primary give her the upper hand. I feel that she believes that since she was there first, she has a say in any and all changes that are made to their relationship due to my relationship with Papa Bear. And while that might make sense from her perspective, I believe that polyamory is all about freedom. Not the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want to, regardless of who it hurts. But the freedom to define, and re-define, all of your relationships and how you conduct yourselves in those relationships.
It is a chance to escape mono-normativity, and it requires getting rid of mono-normativity. If a person truly believes that they need to run everything they do with their girlfriend or boyfriend by their spouse, then that person should not be poly. If someone truly believes that they should be able to control the relationship their spouse has with their boyfriend or girlfriend, then that person should not be poly. It is one thing to express what you need from a relationship. It is another to have those needs impact the rights of the person you are with, to be free.
When we were having this talk, Papa Bear said that sometimes, when he and The Wifey are out on Sunday morning, she says that she’s a little upset because she knows that he would rather be with me. And that sometimes, he is thinking that he would rather be with me. Because The Wifey is absolutely free to express her needs and desires in a relationship. She is free to set boundaries around herself. But she doesn’t have the right to tell another fully-functioning, adult human being how he has to spend every Sunday morning for the rest of his life until the day he dies. She is only free to decide how she wants to spend her Sunday mornings.
It is Papa Bear who linked the idea of me being secondary–which he says is something he does not consider me to be–with the rules. He does not view me as his secondary, but because of The Wifey’s difficulties in thinking differently about marriage, that is the role I have been pushed into. There is no other way for me to be, and no other space for me to occupy, if she feels that she must always come first.
Meanwhile, Papa Bear has been thinking about his needs and boundaries. As someone who has never put himself first, in his marriage or in his life, this is honestly the first time that he has given his own boundaries any thought. And he said he realized that a major boundary for him, is having his time scheduled.
This surprised me, because when I broached the subject with him in the past, he became very defensive. And for awhile, he tried to get me to agree to have a schedule–he said it would be easier. I declined, because I need more freedom in my own life and more spontaneity in my relationships than that. But recently, when it seemed like we were on the verge of collapse, I conceded that a schedule might be the only way to ensure that our time is not interrupted, because the Wifey would know ahead of time that this is “our” time. It worked, to an extent. But in our recent discussion, Papa Bear told me that it is not working for him. At all.
He feels trapped. He feels resentful. He does not want to feel like he has no choice in what he does on a Sunday morning. He wants to take his wife to breakfast on Saturday before she works, because he wants to, not because he has to. He wants to be able to decide to hang out with me on a Sunday before 5 PM, if that’s what he feels like that day. He says he feels like he is just putting in time when it comes to “their” time–and who can blame him? How does he even know he wants to spend Sunday mornings or date night or Saturday breakfast with his wife, if he has no other option?
I thought he was just exploring the idea, but it turns out he is pretty serious about it. He says he cannot continue this way. I, of course, support him. I hate the schedules and I hate the rules–they are disingenuous and inorganic and controlling. He says he is done with them, and I want to believe him.
While we talked about it, he held me for a long time. We were doing our weirdo thing where we park in the middle of nowhere and snuggle in the back seat. We saw a rainbow. We saw a deer. I don’t believe in omens, but if I did…
Oh, and then we had crazy hot sex in the backseat!
Tonight is his date night with his wife. He says he is going to tell her that he does not want his life scheduled for him anymore. I was worried about it. I was terribly anxious that it was going to cause a huge fight. I was afraid that she was just going to say “No,” and things would just stay the same. And that’s still possible I suppose.
Today, though, she sent him a link to an article about Polyamory Without Rules. The article explains that rules are just a way of getting your needs met by controlling another person, and that the best way to get your needs met isn’t to tell your partner what to do, but instead what you need to feel and experience. Maybe this all came together at the right time. Maybe she is starting to realize that her way isn’t working. One can hope.