Savage Love

Poly Wants

Comments

2
Does The Stranger have interns whose only job is to come up with acronyms which then get assigned to whatever letter they fit best? DICKPICS's letter has nothing whatsoever to do with dick pics.

To DICKPICS: If your attitude towards your secondaries is "I got a girlfriend, had fun until the new relationship energy (NRE) wore off, and ended things," listen to your wife, go back to monogamy or monogamishamy, and stop inflicting your assholishness on unsuspecting women. (I agree with Dan that this is a test. She wants you to WANT to dump the girlfriend, if not right now, definitely once you've moved.)

Applauding Dan's answer to POLY!
3
I think some crucial information is missing from DICKPICS' letter and/or I read the letter differently than Dan. I understood that Ms. DICKPICS encouraged her now-husband to have sex with other women shortly after they met because that turned her on, but that she is/was not having sex with other men.

What aroused her (initially) was waiting at home while he had sex with another woman. Later, it seems that she would watch him play (or join in) at home or at a club.

So I wondered whether the reality of DICKPICS having sex with other women hasn't lived up to her fantasies or whether Ms. DICKPICS is going through a phase that many people whose fantasies involve their partners "cheating" experience, specifically, when their fantasy becomes their partner's fantasy/reality they worry about losing control of their partner's outside sexual contact.

I do agree with Dan. DICKPICS should tell his girlfriend the truth, and allow her to decide whether she wants to place the relationship on hold or terminate it. Then he need to make sure he is engaged with his wife and reassure her about her place and their relationship. Then he needs to see how things play out. If this is just Ms. DICKPICS fearing a loss of control, and not about what turns her on, Ms. DICKPICS will eventually encourage DICKPICS to find a new sex partner / girlfriend. But if this is Ms. DICKPICS coming to the realization that an open relationship (for DICKPICS) is better left a fantasy, then their relationship will remain closed.
4
Since the LW is willing to accommodate his wife's changing preferences and since he prioritizes his relationship with the wife over the gf, I think Dan is right and he needs to get his ass to the wife ASAP. But I disagree about putting the gf on hold. He should tell her (the gf) what has happened and break it off with her. If some time in the future they are in a situation in which they are both available again, maybe it will work out, but right now he shouldn't string her along.

The wife is having a moment of panic/insecurity over the distance and the husband's girlfriends. Previously she kept it to herself because it was probably easier to do when she was home with her husband most nights. Now she gets to sit in a new place by herself and let her mind run thinking about the husband back home with his girlfriend.

Speculating, but it sounds like if the husband breaks it off with the gf and reaffirms his commitment to the wife and then goes to their new home and everything is fine, then probably in the future they can open back up to casual and/or shared encounters. Sounds like the wife is not able to handle the husband having actual relationships with others and since it's not something the husband sees as necessary or important in his life, it shouldn't be hard for him to accommodate that. And yes, as Dan points out, the wife probably wants it both ways- she wants the husband to make this choice on his own rather than b/c she needs it. Again, since the husband doesn't seem to really prioritize being poly, it shouldn't be hard for him to do this for her either way. Either he gives her the white lie (I'd rather if I didn't have a gf b/c I want to focus on you) or - better still- he tells her honestly that even though the wife didn't force him to dump the gf, he did it because he realizes it's probably better for their marriage. I think the honest way is healthier because it might prevent problems moving forward. The wife is obviously trying to be GGG and wants to think of herself as the sort of person who can handle having a husband with a boyfriend, but she isn't. She sounds like the sort of person who can handle her husband having sex with other women when she's somehow involved (choosing them, clubs, hookups). Better to know that about yourself. Also better to get the ground rules straight so there isn't resentment later on should she find herself interested in a boyfriend.

There are all sorts of ways to have an open relationship. It's not uncommon for open marriages to exclude having boyfriends/girlfriends on the side rather than just casual encounters or swingers or short-term flings (like on vacation) or FWBs in a similar situation. So I'm thinking it's not necessary to jump to the conclusion that the wife can't handle the open relationship- it sounds like what she can't handle is the husband having a girlfriend. But yea, for the immediate moment, it's really irrelevant- the husband needs to get to the wife and reassure her. And while it's confusing and not really fair, it doesn't sound malevolent or manipulative- just normal insecurities that pop up in relationships from time to time. Emotions aren't always consistent or rational, etc.
5
@Sublime, those are really good points. That's the missing piece to what I was trying to say, but I think I was projecting too much.
6
DICKPICS: Your wife wants her cake and wants to eat it to: On one hand, she doesn't want to be poly. On the other, she doesn't want to be the Deb who forces you not to be poly. This is an not-uncommon pattern - remember the LW who wrote "I want to be the reason he doesn't want a threesome"?

Ultimately, if your wife is unwilling to accept responsibility for her own feelings, there isn't much you can do to make her. I tend to find those types have an endless well of reasons why they're not responsible for whatever it is.
7
It doesn't take more than a week or two to get a house ready to sell. You slap a coat of paint on everything, clean everything, power wash the carpets, and then you get your ass out of there so it remains showroom tidy as the real estate agent brings people through whenever convenient. Having someone still living in the house, with dirty dishes, clothes, tracking in dirt, requiring appointments to show, etc. does not help sell the house. Why is the guy still there?!?

It might be because ... He has a girlfriend. He has a house. He has none of the relationship management or expectations of his spouse. He has no responsibilities that aren't of his own making. He apparently doesn't have any pressing financial reason to get the place sold.

I'll bet the wife is feeling threatened by things quite apart from the girlfriend. The whole situation, girlfriend or not, shouldn't be happening. Every month, she's having to shoulder two house payments with the accompanying bills. There is no reason why the guy is still lingering in the house ... except for short-sighted, immature ones.
8
I considered whether, in telling her husband not to leave his gf, DICKPICS's wife might not have found someone else with whom she wants to be monogamous.
9
What do I do says Mr Dickpic.. obviously you listen to how your wife feels and stop seeing other women. How hard is that. Her saying she doesn't want you to break up with your gf is a red herring, it's how Mrs Dickpic feels, that is what you need to listen to. It's what all of us need to listen to in our relationships if we want those relationships to continue.
But by all means LW, keep your gf on as you ponder this difficult question.
10
Just wanted to give some support to Mr DICKPICS. I don't see that you've done anything wrong here. That said, to save your marriage, I'd bet dollars to donuts you are going to have to break up with your girlfriend, almost certainly stop being poly, and potentially not even be monogamish any more.

You and your wife used your words on this and that's commendable, its just that all along (or, at least since the first girlfriend) she has been using the exact opposite words than she should have. She wasn't honest with you and she still isn't being honest with you (~ 'this is killing me inside but I don't want you to make any changes' is not being honest). It sounds like she also hasn't been able to be honest with herself through this process.

If you love her and want to continue your marriage, I recommend putting a hard pause on the poly lifestyle, and being supportive and compassionate towards your wife as she learns to be honest with herself and you around sexuality. And it is her fucking responsibility to do so... but you should still have patience and compassion towards her while she struggles to get there.

Also, having all of this going on long distance is likely making it a way worse shitshow than it has to be. Get back to living with your wife ASAP to solve this.
11
I wonder if the more poly-experienced folks here can give us a quick NRE 101.
How common is it in polyhood?
Have you ever encountered it/did it yourself and what did you get out of it?
Is NRE always expected to be a boost to the prime relationship?
What should a poly-friendly person look for to make sure they are not taken advantage of?
12
@7 Gamebird - some people like being in the house when it's being shown so they can answer questions and/or make sure prospective buyers don't have sticky fingers. Or it could be a "for sale by owner" type of thing. My mom did something like the latter when she sold her condo years ago - she found a realtor company that charged a smaller fee but only did the paperwork, and the seller did the rest (setting up and showing the house, finding prospective buyers, etc). It turned out to be a very good deal for her because it was in SoCal right when housing costs skyrocketed and condos were at a premium, so she not only got several times what she paid for it, she didn't have to pay much in escrow and realtor fees.
13
Concur with Dan's and consensus advice to DICKPICS, but disagree with BDF@1 that he's being an asshole. As you put it, he gets a girlfriend, has fun until the NRE wears off, and then ends it. Isn't that the course of every relationship except the lifetime-commitment ones?
14
Speaking up as someone who has made the transition from monogamy to polyamory, these are the parts I hone in on:

>> The NRE wore off, but we still really like each other, and we've discussed being long-distance secondaries once the move is complete.>>

>> Last night, my wife confessed to me that being in an open relationship was making her miserable...I told my wife that I would break up with my girlfriend immediately.>>

Breaking up with your serious girlfriend ("serious" because you still like each other after the NRE is gone) would be a bad idea. (And, no, Fresh @13, the end of NRE is not when all non-lifetime-commitment relationships end.)

Your wife is behaving fine. She tried to manage her feelings on her own and be a good sport. It got hard and so she reported that she was having a hard time.

If you over-react and immediately dump a serious gf because your wife spoke up about her feelings, then you're teaching your wife that she can't speak up about her feelings, or else you'll over-react.

People aren't inanimate objects you pick up and dump casually. What you have with your gf is a real relationship.

Calm down, listen to your wife, and discuss what might make her feel better. She has been struggling alone with her feelings, when there are lots of things you might be able to do to help her have an easier time. You might be able to see each other more often, or go on some sexy vacations so your wife doesn't feel like the boring partner, or maybe a goodnight phone call would help, or more financial support if she's struggling, or a million other things. Sit down and talk. It's entirely possible that dumping the gf wouldn't help the marriage and would just lead to resentment (on her part, that you took this rash step, and/or on your part, when you miss your gf).

I'd go back to the beginning: why did the wife suggest opening the relationship? What was she really looking for? Get the communication about feelings working better; don't walk away immediately from a person with whom you have a good connection.
15
CMDwannabe @11

NRE is common when two people start acknowledging a mutual attraction. The other person seems like a perfect match, a soul mate. Everything they do is funny/brilliant/sexy and it's easy to rationalize away any time they may fuck up. Yes, I've gone through it twice since opening the marriage. I find it dangerous, like being on a serious mind-altering drug 24/7 for weeks or longer. It was exciting, like I imagine cocaine is exciting. But scary that I couldn't make it stop in order to assess the situation calmly and make good decisions.

In one case, I made poor decisions (sexting with someone who wasn't trustworthy). In the other case, the NRE slowly faded and the connection developed into a long-term relationship which is still going strong.

>> Is NRE always expected to be a boost to the prime relationship?>>

Nope. Sometimes a person's libido goes up enormously and their other relationship(s) benefit. Other times a person just gets hyper-focused on the object of their NRE and neglects other people. Having the label NRE is useful for guiding a person to recognize that they are neglecting the other relationships in their life, and work harder at achieving balance.

>> What should a poly-friendly person look for to make sure they are not taken advantage of? >>

I don't understand this question, sorry. Everyone should always be assessing whether they are happy in their relationships, and speaking up if they are unhappy, to see if it's fixable or a serious problem. Do you perceive a particular risk of a "poly-friendly person" getting used by a partner, that other people don't face?
16
EP- thanks for your thoughtful, elaborate answers. As for my question re taken advantage of: we had some discussions here lately about people feeling like they are being approached in order to enhance the other person’s prime relationship, or people who state this as their motive.
My question was on the line of, “What would be the specific signs for this ignition-only intention if and when I’m being approached?” though I guess it is not limited to manipulative polys. (Polies? Police?)
17
No @1 this week? Then Bi should have the honor.
Dan the Man: I second BiDanFan's (@2) kudos on another spot on answer, this time to POLY.
and @2 BiDanFan: Thank you, too, for clarification on NRE (New Relationship Energy).

18
Erica @14, she won't speak up about her feelings if he responds to them? Sounds arse about tit.
And she has been sitting on these feelings since he began his solo adventure, as in, she's not adjusting to the situation and how is ignoring that going to resolve anything.
19
Dickpics' wife actually is sending him a very clear message. Translating from woman-speak, she is telling him not to break up with his girlfriend because the marriage is over. She has moved away, leaving him behind to sell the house. Then she will file for divorce.
20
Hey Grizelda, congrats on your results for your course. Power on thru, where would we be without music. I've moved on from my Bobby Dylan etc fix, weird listening to The T Wilburys and Tom Petty died. Three of them gone. Moved onto young what's his name, the red headed British lad. His first album. Sweet young man love songs and I can do some exercise by dancing. Summer coming up, time to get the bod bathing costume ready. Ha.
21
Perhaps Ellen76, @19, this is what has happened. If Ms Dickpic has been miserable all the way thru and the LW hasn't noticed and she hasn't told him before now, it doesn't bode well for their honest communication and ability to read each other.
22
CMD @11: NRE happens in every new relationship, not just the poly ones. You meet someone new, they're cool and exciting and you want to spend lots of time with them! Don't you? It's no different whether you already have a partner or partners. Non-poly people call the same phenomenon "the honeymoon period." Poly people didn't invent it.

Have I experienced it? Everyone who's ever successfully dated anyone has experienced it. What did I get out of it? Those schoolgirl butterflies, that rush of excitement, the hopeful sense of having found someone one really likes and can see a future of fun times with. (Alongside my/our other partners, in a poly world.)

NRE has nothing to do with the primary relationship. I think you've internalised a misunderstanding that occurred in a previous letter to Dan. NRE, on the other hand, can often pose a threat to the primary relationship. Either the person in the relationship won't shut up about their "new shiny," making the existing partner feel bad, and/or the existing partner's jealousy issues spur them to ask for a halt or restrictions on the new relationship, and/or the rose-coloured glasses with which the new relationship is viewed show up the flaws in the existing relationship, speeding its demise if it was on shaky ground already. However, if the existing relationship is strong and secure, the other partner can experience "compersion," a term for being happy that the partner is happy with their others. And that, in turn, can make the dating partner realise how lucky they are to have someone who doesn't mind their having their cake and eating it -- that's where any "boost" to the primary relationship would come in.

By "making sure they are not taken advantage of," do you mean spotting the signs that their new partner is a DICKPICS who only wants the oxytocin high and will throw you away at the first sign of boredom? I guess there's no more surefire way to identify this when you're poly than when you're serially monogamous. Potentially, being keen to introduce you to the existing partner might indicate they want to keep you around for the long haul (or not; it could just be that the primary partner insists). Advantage takers gonna advantage take; my advice would be to recognise NRE for what it is, not mistake it for "true love," and not get too committed in the first few months, but wait and see if they stick around when the rush wears off and the relationship becomes more routine.
23
Fresh @13: No, it's really not. "I'm bored, I'm moving on" is different to staying with someone for what at the time is the foreseeable future, attempting to work through problems when you experience them, having some highs and some lows, then finally breaking up when problems become unsolvable, which I'd say is the course of most relationships. If someone knows they're only in it for a few months until the hormones wear off, they should be up front that they're only looking to date casually.

Griz @17: Post #1 was a "First!" (Not even the customary "Firdt!"), and appears to have been removed. Awww.

Lava @18: I agree completely with Erica's analysis. It's not "she won't speak up about her feelings if he responds to them," it's "she won't speak up about her feelings if he overreacts." "I have concerns / I'm feeling neglected" means "reassure me," not "dump your other partner." The fact that he was so quick to offer suggests to me that he's not truly poly, as in polyamorous, as in capable of more than one love. His girlfriends are completely disposable. Not great from their perspective. That's why I think DICKPICS should end the relationship, particularly as he has the easy out of moving away and "not wanting to have a long-distance relationship," if he wants to be kind to his secondary for once in his life.

The big missing puzzle piece for me is who Mrs DICKPICS has or hasn't been dating. Has she had other relationships? My take is that she was a happy enough swinger, but perhaps she was unable to find happy secondary relationships or just realised that that wasn't what she wanted.
24
@CMDwannabe
>> What would be the specific signs for this ignition-only intention >>

I guess feeling that your new partner doesn't really listen or care about your feelings? You can spell out your privacy concerns: no sharing your emails / texts / pics /personal stories with anyone else. If your new partner seems reluctant to agree, then they may have a fetish or compulsion to tell their other partner everything.

LavaGirl @18 we don't know she has actually been miserable the whole time. All we know is that "last night " she felt miserable and said it stretched back. Feelings can feel pretty permanent when you're feeling them.

It takes practice to notice the changes and remember that one felt differently not long ago and will probably feel differently again before long. Anyway, that's my guess. She needs something to change, but it may not be the gf who is the root of the wife's unhappiness.
25
@16 CMDWannabe. “What would be the specific signs for this ignition-only intention if and when I’m being approached?"

Part of the motivation for being poly has to be that sex is a good thing; it's good to have happy sex, good to have sex with more than one partner. The partnered poly person who offers sex to someone else is not thinking to manipulate them, but supposes they will have a good time together. They are givers, more than takers. If someone in a relationship proposes sex with me, I think of it as sex in the here-and-new; and if I want it--and very often I do, impulsively--I take it on those terms. I may know them superficially and like them and, if I thought about it, imagine that the friendship will undergo some sort of change as a result of the sex--but it's the sex I'm going for.

Maybe people who fear 'being used' in their sexual relationships--who are apt to have feelings for their sexual partners, and anxieties that these feelings aren't reciprocated--should be wary of having sex with poly people.

***
Apropos DICKPICS, the only circumstances in which I would accept a monogamous marriage are also those in which I would have to close my mind to the thought of having a sex life at all (a severe episode of depression; incapacitation (perhaps because of the first); the physical loss of all sexual function (maybe); the end of life). If DICKPICS is like this, he will have problems in his monogamous marriage down the line.
26
Fan, if yours and Erica's interpretation is correct, and I'm not convinced, then Ms Dickpic is lying to herself. However long this arrangement has been going on, she's been miserable the whole time. Trying to fit herself into a structure she really doesn't want.
27
I'll tackle this one too:
@CMDwannabe
>> What would be the specific signs for this ignition-only intention >>

The person being new to poly would be one potential warning sign. Anyone who's been poly for a while will know that an attempt to revive a flagging relationship by starting a side fling with a third party is far, far likelier to backfire and trigger the end of the existing stale relationship. Again, I think you're mis-defining NRE as "something a person seeks from third parties" rather than "something that happens when Cupid's arrow strikes you." Sure, some are romance addicts who go in search of new-partner thrills; a sign you've met one of those might be that they are not dating you, but an idealised version of someone they want you to be.

Asking to meet their partner, and being told no or hemmed and hawed, could be a sign that they are somehow using you to stoke their libido for their primary partner; or it could more likely be a sign that their partner is not fully down with poly. Either way, it's a bad omen. Not sure how helpful this is, because IME this strategy you describe is not really A Thing. More often a poly person seeks out a new shiny because they intend to break up with their primary, but don't want to be single afterwards.

Lava @26: I disagree that she's been miserable the whole time. We have no way of knowing that. Maybe she has, or maybe she's just miserable now because she's lonely. It's for them to work out.
28
Didn't you read the letter Fan. He says she's been miserable while he's been with his current gf and when he was with the previous one.
29
Lava @28:
Years ago, I grew my hair long. Nearly to my waist. It's too fine though, and I finally admitted it didn't look good that length. I cut it to shoulder length and was so much happier! Then I got it cut even shorter, to a chin length bob. It really didn't suit me, so I grew it back to shoulder length, the length it turns out I'm happiest with.

Why do I share this story? Because that's what Mrs DICKPICS did. She wasn't happy with monogamy, so she suggested bringing third parties into their relationship in the context of sharing them with her husband. That was so great she suggested having a fully open relationship. Only it turns out there's a lot more emotional baggage involved when one's husband has an ongoing secondary relationship than when it's just casual sex with random partners or sex workers ("me texting her a fantasy while I was at work, and that fantasy was waiting for me when I got home" sounds like someone who was paid). Now that she cut her hair to such a short length, she realises she doesn't like it after all, and wants to go back to a middle ground.

Yes, I read the letter, and contrasted
"My wife said she didn't care who I slept with soon after we met" with
"my wife confessed to me that being in an open relationship was making her miserable."
She's miserable with the current girlfriend; she was miserable when he had the previous girlfriend. Or, as Erica says, she currently claims she was miserable during the previous girlfriend; her feelings may in fact have been mixed, but her current misery is causing her to block out any prior positive feelings and focus on the negative ones. She makes no claim to have been miserable when they were swinging.
30
Lava: Regardless, I completely agree with your post @9. DICKPICS says having an open relationship isn't important to him, and the way he treats his so-called girlfriends proves it. Easy solution.
31
Yes, not when they were swinging. Since.
It would seem being open, being poly, needs a lot of communication and this couple has failed at keeping honest with each other.
32
@7 …It doesn't take more than a week or two to get a house ready to sell…
Depends on what has to be done...maybe he’s doing some renovations, kitchen/bathroom updates, etc.
33
I'll never understand how so many think the correct answer is always to dump the girlfriend and say so nonchalantly in a "I don't get why that's so difficult" way.

It's difficult because she's also a person? Who the LW cares about as a person?

I can't imagine my husband suddenly deciding he didn't want to have a polyamorous relationship anymore and me saying to another partner, "Oh well, bye! Don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out!" I'd do my best to discuss things with my husband and try to reassure him, but anyone I date isn't expendable just because I'm married.
34
Harriet_by_the_bulrushes @25
>> Part of the motivation for being poly has to be that sex is a good thing; it's good to have happy sex, good to have sex with more than one partner.>>

For many people, yes. Other people (asexuals, for instance) are looking primarily for romance, or other kinds of intimacy.

>> The partnered poly person who offers sex to someone else is not thinking to manipulate them >>

That's true of many people, but not all. For instance, some partnered women offer sex to another woman, in hopes of luring her into a unicorn-style relationship with the MF couple. And again, some people really are focused on romance or kink, and when they offer sex, it's with the goal of getting romance or kink, rather than just sex.

>> Maybe people who fear 'being used' in their sexual relationships--who are apt to have feelings for their sexual partners, and anxieties that these feelings aren't reciprocated--should be wary of having sex with poly people. >>

Polyamorous people generally do have feelings for their partners. And they are able to deal with other people's anxieties just as well as monogamous folks are. I think the main people who shouldn't have sex with poly folks are the ones who already know they want a monogamous commitment from their partner.
35
So in rereading DICKPICS letter, it seems like what he(?) should do is to tell the gf that right how his wife is having difficulty with him having a girlfriend and that he wants to back up a bit and put things on hold. The hold might be temporary, or permanent. Of course, the girlfriend is free to say that she doesn't want to exist in a state of suspended animation, and that what is "on hold" to him, is "over" for her. That's the risk anyone takes when they tell the person they're dating that they want to temporarily stop the relationship but keep it on ice.

Then DICKPICS and his wife need to have several long talks. It sounds like the wife feels guilty for asking her husband to stop doing a thing (or a seeing a person) she knows he enjoys, and she also feels guilty because it seems pretty clear that she was the one who steered them into this situation. Maybe she's afraid he'll resent her or blame her for any resulting unhappiness. Maybe she doesn't want to admit to him or herself that she isn't as cool with polyamory as she thought she was.

I think a lot of people think they can handle sharing their partners without jealousy and envy until they actually come face-to-face with the reality of their partner's having another partner, not merely an anonymous body to fuck in a sex club or a paid escort (which is how I read that surprise fantasy DICKPICS first came home to that his wife set up). I think there could be a combination of things resulting in the wife's feeling both jealous and envious. If she isn't partnered or hasn't succeeded in finding a boyfriend while her husband seems to have had no difficulty in obtaining two different girlfriends, she may be envious of the ease with which he is getting what he wants and she assumed she could easily get, too. And perhaps she's unexpectedly finding herself jealous of the attention these women get from her husband--certainly the time, in the case of the current girlfriend, but simply the level of emotional involvement on the husband's part.

I think when a lot of people think of having open relationships they think about them being able to have sex with other people, but they might not really want their partner to have sex with other people and they might really not want their partner to have feelings for other people.

And fair enough; you can't know until and unless you try.

There's no shame in deciding that something you thought was for you isn't for you. The wife needs to be honest with her husband, and needs to learn to take his "yes" (I'll stop seeing this other woman if it's making you unhappy) for an answer. DICKPICS (who sounds like the very opposite of a dick in this letter, btw), can examine the depth of his own feelings for both his wife and girlfriend. If he really doesn't want to break up with the girlfriend, then the discussion is going to be more complex and compromises will have to be reached. But there are three people who are in this predicament and it is impossible that all of them will emerge from this experience equally unscathed. That's just reality.
36
nocutename @35
Why do you say the wife should take the husband's "yes" for an answer (aka I'll stop seeing this other woman), rather than the husband taking the wife's "yes" for an answer (aka please continue to see your gf while we work on figuring out what I need to get more comfortable)?

>> It sounds like the wife feels guilty for asking her husband to stop doing a thing (or a seeing a person) she knows he enjoys>>

She didn't ask him to stop. She asked him *not* to stop seeing his gf.

37
Also nocutename @35
>> it is impossible that all of them will emerge from this experience equally unscathed >>

Actually, it's entirely possible for all three people to emerge unscathed. They just have to treat each other decently.
38
EricaP@36:
Okay, here's the part of the letter that is causing the confusion for the readers and DICKPICS and maybe his wife:
"Last night, my wife confessed to me that being in an open relationship was making her miserable. Not just my current girlfriend, whose monopoly over my time during the week could be a legitimate cause for concern, but going back to the previous girlfriend I saw only one night a week. I told my wife that I would break up with my girlfriend immediately. My wife is the most important person in my life, and I don't want to do anything to hurt her. But my wife told me not to break up with my girlfriend. I don't want to string my girlfriend along and tell her everything is fine—but my wife, who doesn't want to be poly anymore, is telling me not to break up with my girlfriend. "

You're right that she didn't ask him to stop seeing his gf and in fact, told him *not* to break up with his girlfriend.
But she also told him that "being in an open relationship was making her miserable," and that she "doesn't want to be poly anymore." So at the moment, he is doing something that she says is making her miserable. He says his wife is the most important person in his life, so if he has it in his power to stop making her miserable, I think he should. He also doesn't seem to object to breaking up with the gf. Being poly was his wife's idea and he says it isn't something he "needed." His biggest concern seems to be stringing his gf along by not letting her know that he will likely break up with her; he doesn't say he would be unhappy giving her up. He broke up with his last gf when the initial shininess wore off and he seems kind of detached when speaking of this one.

His confusion comes from his wife's mixed signals. This is why I think that he should freeze this new relationship, if the gf is willing, and together he and his wife should figure out and be honest about what each of them really wants and how each of them really feels.

I said It sounds like the wife feels guilty for asking her husband to stop doing a thing (or a seeing a person) she knows he enjoys and I should have been clearer: it sounds to me as if the wife wants him to stop doing thing she knows he enjoys doing and then feels guilty about making that request or demand, in part because she urged him into polyamory, and so she says, no, don't break up with your gf.

He can't read minds, and I'm not suggesting he try to read hers. But this is his primary relationship and he can see his wife is unhappy. Shouldn't they both slow things down and back up a bit and sort it all out? It's hard to do that while he's doing the thing that she says makes her miserable.

It's quite possible that she is back-projecting her current unhappiness onto his previous relationship; or she could be being honest. It's possible that being apart is exacerbating the wife's concerns and possible feelings of isolation or emotional and physical estrangement and that the separation is enabling him to see his current gf multiple times a week and that the "monopoly" ("mono-poly" hee hee, btw) his gf has on his attention is really bothering the wife and the situation will calm down all by itself when he and his wife are under the same roof again.
39
@37: I said "equally unscathed;" not "unscathed." Someone's feelings are already hurt.
40
@EricaP: You asked "Why do you say the wife should take the husband's "yes" for an answer (aka I'll stop seeing this other woman), rather than the husband taking the wife's "yes" for an answer (aka please continue to see your gf while we work on figuring out what I need to get more comfortable)?"

Because isn't his wife his primary partner? Shouldn't one prioritize one's primary partner's feelings over convenience or extra fun on the side?

He says, "we've discussed being long-distance secondaries once the move is complete;" not "I don't want to give her up."

41
@40, continued because the computer ate it: And maybe what the wife needs to feel more comfortable is having her own boyfriend, and that's not happening, or feeling somehow more valued by her husband or more desirable by her own standards and in her own eyes than his girlfriends, or maybe what she needs to feel more comfortable is to have a marriage open to causal, random shared extramarital sex (swinging, three-ways, voyeurism, sex in sex clubs with or without others), but not fully polyamorus.
42
@20 LavaGirl: Thanks. I would be totally lost without music and my VW for road trips and meditation. Orchestration 1 and Scoring for Film & Television 101 are what I LIVE for---I feel like a kid in a candy store, turned loose with twenty bucks! I really like my instructors this semester, and it's great to have a better understanding of the subject material than be a total newbie (like I still am with Logic Pro X--but I at least now know some basics. My disappointing bogus online instructor from summer semester was like The Wizard of Oz drifting off in a hot-air balloon by week 12: "I'm sorry--I don't know how it works! Goodbye!" And just like that, and leaving me with a bunch of tech questions left unanswered gave me a C grade after a bunch of Bs and a couple A-'s earned from the previous assignments, and telling me I was doing so well). I hope I can stick with the major improvements for instructors I am blessed with now. It's nice getting consistently good grades and not feeling so much like an idiot.
It's sad about Tom Petty--only 68? He was a kid! I will always think of "American Girl" from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Rest in peace, Tom. Heaven's got another good one. What did Bob Dylan just win--the Peace Prize? Too cool.
Lucky you to be entering summer season again--beach weather! I am wistfully looking at my tankini and one-pieces, hoping summer here won't be long in returning. Although I really do appreciate the four seasons.
@23 BiDanFan: Interesting that @1 got pulled just for being "First"...? I second the Awwwwwww. Then I think you really should have First honors this week, Bi.
43
nocutename @40

>> Shouldn't one prioritize one's primary partner's feelings over convenience or extra fun on the side? >>

Another relationship isn't "extra fun on the side." It's a real relationship with a real person.

Getting into serious relationships with other people should mean not dropping them just because your spouse expresses unhappiness in one emotional conversation. (This all came out, apparently, just the night before the LW wrote to Dan) Instead, you make time to talk, more than once, in-depth, about what each person wants and what the best path forward is.

It's true that I missed the line "my wife, who doesn't want to be poly anymore."

Nevertheless, I stand by my position that the first thing to do is talk about what she wants and what he wants. And figure out why she originally asked to open the marriage. Does she have some needs which aren't being met in the marriage?

We don't hear about any other relationships she may have had, in all this time. Maybe he didn't want to hear about them, and she just had a rough breakup with another boyfriend which is affecting her feelings about polyamory. Maybe she's in love with someone else and wants to be monogamous with that person. There are a ton of possibilities; the point is that ending the relationship with the girlfriend isn't a first step. Talking is the first step.

And I'm not going to dismiss him as not truly interested in his girlfriend just because he over-reacted at the thought that he'd been making his wife unhappy. That's a newbie mistake (jumping to end a relationship rather than discussing what needs to change), but it doesn't mean he is not cut out for polyamory nor that he isn't attached to his girlfriend.
44
It is a cosy set up for the LW. One woman during the week and another one on the weekend. Is the gf staying with him at the home while he gets it ready to sell. The wife suddenly snapping at this time, is understandable. If she's stated she doesn't want to be poly anymore, and tells him not to break up with his gf, then maybe she is planning to leave him as Ellen76 @19 suggested.
45
CMD @11 - I'll give a quick overview of my NRE experience. I've really only gone through it once, when I got involved with a guy who was poly. Being generally monogamish at the time, it was a new thing for me and I didn't know what to expect. What I got was a 'I think I'm falling in love with you' after a few weeks, and elaborate plans to go on vacations together and the like. Basically a lot of 'wheeee new person new sex new fun let's gogogogo'... Kind of fun if a bit overwhelming and I was just kinda swept along in his wake shrugging my shoulders and going 'yeah, okay'. But then after about three months, that all just sort of stopped. There was less effort to spend time with me, and when we were together, it was mostly watching tv while he fiddled with his phone. (Checking out new matches on OkCupid, as it turned out.) So I told him it wasn't working for me anymore and to have a nice life, and that was pretty much it. I'm not sure if that's typical, and I suspect that part of his deal was untreated ADHD or something similar.
46
Everybody is having more....oh never mind.
47
@34. Erica P. I'd think your corrections and clarifications about the poly lifestyle mostly correct. I wasn't writing as a self-described poly person but as a gay man / nonbinary in an open relationship. Some of the people I've been with would call themselves poly-s (typically the bisexual men). The woman offering sex to another woman in the hope of enticing her to be a unicorn is not something I've ever seen among my friends--but this will just be my neck of the woods. I wonder how common it is.
48
Nocute @35: A perfect analysis!

EricaP @43: By DICKPICS's own description, the other girlfriends are, to him, "extra fun on the side." Some poly people have more than one emotionally committed relationship. DICKPICS is clearly not one of them. Hell, he dropped the first girlfriend just because the NRE had worn off, which is a far less compelling reason than "because the woman I've made a lifetime commitment with is unhappy." If he were attached to this woman in any way, wouldn't he have said "she hinted that I dump my girlfriend, but I don't think that's fair"? He expresses zero negativity towards the idea of losing the girlfriend. Typically, I agree with you, a poly person would have some emotional attachment, but I don't see any in this LW's case.
49
Harriet @47: As a bi female, ads placed by "women seeking women" which only mention their husbands in the fine print are very common indeed.
50
@49. BiDanFan. See how naive I am still. This isn't the kind of femininity I identify with. Pandarus, thy name is woman!
51
Regarding the letter from TWO
We went on a trip with friends to a brewery with a great restaurant. It was an amazing place, and I'm sure his wife would enjoy it.
I can't remember whether this was mentioned while this particular letter had already been featured as SLLOTD. But ... TWO is 25, with her partner "roughly" 20 years older. That could mean 45 - or is she too coy to write 50 or older? Depending on her partner's spouse selection pattern, his wife might be around 40 (5 years younger) or up to 50 (5 years older) if he'd been daring when they'd gotten together. The only reason TWO's partner is getting in to all these cool places is because he's with TWO. Otherwise he'd probably stick out on his own like a dude who's trying too hard to escape the inevitability of growing older.

I can just imagine how TWO's "recommendations" are pissing off Mr. TWO's wife, who would probably feel out of place if she were to visit a venue that's geared to a younger crowd. Her husband's relationship with TWO is already making her feel older; she doesn't need any other reminders.

I can't honestly see TWO as Mr. TWO's poly partner. It sounds more like she's his bit of fun on the side though he appears to be the insensitive oaf who repeats everything one woman's said to the other without filtering through his brain first. If his wife appears to be agreeing to it reluctantly (PUD), then a discreet application of DADT (from both TWO and Mr. TWO) toward his wife might be the best advice. He's YOUR lover; she's NOT automatically your newest BFF!
52
NoCute, I love what you've written, and Erika and BDF and Sanguisa have given me a lot of insight, thanks. Like I said earlier, I think this one hits close to home for me because I'm similar to the LW's wife in that I really enjoy selecting women for my husband and I enjoy hearing about women he's hooked up with or watching him flirt, etc. It can be a fun kink and spice things up a bit, but if he were to have a relationship, a regular girlfriend, I would lose my mind. I know this about myself so it's never been a problem, but I can see how someone could get confused about it or not realize until she's already in that situation- it sounds like the wife honestly made a mistake about what she wants and that she realizes it but doesn't want to be unreasonable hence trying to have it both ways- she wants him to break up with the girlfriend but she doesn't want to have to tell him. That's why my advice was that he should dump the side girl, go home, then later after his marriage is secure again, they can talk more honestly about what it is they really want, which my guess won't be strict monogamy but not poly either. In this scenario, I have little concern for the girlfriend, so I appreciate Erica and others who are pointing out that this is a real relationship too. I can't see how there's a solution without anyone getting hurt though, and now I wonder how common this is for thirds in a relationship with a poly person- seems like it's taking a huge emotional risk to get close to someone who has a committed primary partner. I guess I've always thought of being poly as just an extension of being open- you are allowed regular hookups with someone. But naturally it's more complicated and serious than that, and to me that seems like such a risk and such emotional turmoil. So now I feel for the girlfriend and also for the husband (who still must break up with her, I really don't see a way around it) as he's going to have to go through the pain of a breakup while hiding it from his wife and pretending to just be happy. Since he does not express any personal interest in being poly (it sounds more like it's something he's enjoyed but not something he prioritized), I think it shouldn't be a problem long term to find an arrangement that works for them.
53
The LW staying ignorant of how his wife really feels concerns me about this marriage. He says she is the most important person in his life yet she's managed to hide her pain from him. Either she's a very good liar or he's not very observant.
54
LavaGirl @53 Alternatively, she hasn't actually been hurting that much until something shifted recently and now she has all these feels.

It's true that they haven't been living together; a lot of the signals that one's partner is unhappy are harder to see when you have limited time together.

EmmaLiz @52 "seems like it's taking a huge emotional risk to get close to someone who has a committed primary partner"

You're right that it's a huge emotional risk to get close to someone who has a committed primary partner who hasn't been through this before. I'm grateful to my newer partner for being willing to take a chance on me when I couldn't vouch for how Mr. P would feel about it all, over time. Luckily it has worked out well.

Most experienced poly folks just date other experienced poly folks, who know how to handle both NRE and occasional bouts of jealousy, and also have decent time management skills.
55
@54, Erica. Are you discounting her version of her own feelings? She says it's been how she has felt for a long time. And we don't know how when the seperation began, and c'mon, if one is tuned into one's partner, picking up their unhappiness over a weekend would occur. Unless, like I suggested, she's a very good emotional liar.
56
Lava @53: Another take on the "she was miserable when he had the first girlfriend" is that he started dating the girlfriend, she felt threatened by it, but realised that these were feelings she needed to process if she wanted to eat her cake too. (All newly poly people deal with this particular internal conflict; it's part of the adjustment process.) But the problem took care of itself before she felt she had to talk to the husband about it, because the NRE wore off and he just dumped her. With this girlfriend, perhaps Wife thought the same thing would happen: he'd get bored quickly, so she just had to wait out her uncomfortable feelings until she had him to herself again. Instead, they decided to keep dating. Not only that, but he's now seeing more of her than he is of Wife. So her previous strategy of "wait it out" didn't work, and she had to face up to the fact that ongoing side relationships aren't something she can deal with.

EricaP @54 is correct that the more experienced poly people are better emotional risks, because those who find they can't deal with partners having other relationships quickly come to the conclusion they shouldn't be poly after all. But I'd amend EmmaLiz's "seems like it's taking a huge emotional risk to get close to someone who has a committed primary partner" to just "seems like it's taking a huge emotional risk to get close to someone." Right? Anyone you get involved with could bolt, partnered or not partnered.
57
Lava @53: "Either she's a very good liar or he's not very observant."
Bit of both. NRE is an excellent distraction, and no one wants to look like the hypocrite who proposed an open relationship but then felt jealous when their spouse got another partner.
58
By the way, I don't mean that all poly people should treat all secondary partners like expendable trash--and I don't think that DICKPICS should just dump his gf unfeelingly.

I'm not poly, but I'm monogamish; I have some ongoing FWB things with men who are married. I know their wives (and am friendly with them, as well), and there doesn't seem to be any jealousy (and the wives have boyfriends). I consider myself to be their FWB, not a secondary partner, partly because of the level of emotional investment, partly because of the amount of time we spend together (I seem them infrequently--it sometimes is 3 weeks between dates), and partly because of the amount of other, non-sexual couple-y stuff we do together, which is low. I really like, even love, these men, and our relationships have been going on for several years, now, but if any of them told me that they'd have to stop the sexual aspect of our relationship because his wife was having a hard time with it, I'd step back immediately with no hurt or hard feelings. (This is part of what I mean that I don't consider myself to be poly or anyone's "secondary partner"--I assume being poly means a different, higher level of emotional involvement.)

I realize that extramarital boy- or girlfriends have feelings, too. I appreciate that truly poly people feel the same level of love for their different partners (or comparable levels of love).

But I think that EricaP's reaction is one of the reasons that some people are hesitant to open their relationships, especially to make the shift to being truly polyamorus. I think it's very threatening or potentially threatening to many people to hear that despite being called a primary partner, their feelings wouldn't be given primary consideration, should the relationship be opened.

From the letter that DICKPICS wrote, it's hard to tell whether or how much he loves his girlfriend, or whether or how much she loves him. But he seems to pretty obviously prioritize his wife, and she says that she doesn't want to be poly anymore. This shouldn't even warrant a letter to Dan.
59
LavaGirl @55 - I'm saying that the time between the wife mentioning feeling miserable for the first time and the LW writing to Dan was less than 24 hours. That calls for a conversation, not for him leaving his other partner. If, over time, the couple cannot come up with other solutions to address the wife's feelings, and if the wife still reports feeling miserable weeks later, that's a different situation.

nocutename @58

>> I think it's very threatening or potentially threatening to many people to hear that despite being called a primary partner, their feelings wouldn't be given primary consideration, should the relationship be opened. >>

Suppose a married couple was thinking about having a child together, and one of them brought up that if they took this step, they might have to prioritize the child's feelings sometimes, and not always give primary consideration to their spouse. That could lead to feeling threatened, I suppose. People who feel threatened in that situation shouldn't have children.

And people who feel threatened by the idea that their feelings might not be their partner's *only* priority -- people who are upset that their partner might sometimes prioritize a sibling, or a friend, or a work responsibility -- well, I'm not sure that those people are ready for monogamy, let alone anything involving other partners.

In this case, the wife has asked him not to leave his other partner. To me, that seems wise. She seems to see that he will agree to leave his girlfriend, but she knows he will have feelings and perhaps resentment afterwards. What they need, and what she is asking for at the moment, is communication.

The LW will take from Dan (and from these comments if he gets into them) whatever he decides to take. I get to speak from my experience, which is that it's better not to treat people as disposable. And it's better to treat feelings as informational, rather than as facts which must be obeyed immediately.
60
New Relationship Energy (NRE). That's given me something to think about, or at least pause and reflect upon today's dating and mating scene. On Monday (10-16-17) after flute choir rehearsal I will be raising a glass to being 16 years happily divorced and on with my life.
Kudos to all out there who can truly make NRE blossom into full, long-term lovely fruition.
61
@59: The last thing I am suggesting is that anyone treat anyone as if they were disposable.
Your perspective is interesting and valid and I think a lot of your advice is very useful. In this case, though, I don't think it is as applicable, based on the letter. DICKPICS doesn't say he's in love with or that he prioritizes his girlfriend; he does say that his wife "is the most important person in [his] life, and [he doesn't] want to do anything to hurt her." While he may care for his current girlfriend, his only stated issue is that he doesn't want to lead her on and let her think he is fully committed when in fact, he might be breaking up with her soon ("I don't want to string my girlfriend along and tell her everything is fine").

You keep coming back to the fact that his wife said, "no" to his proposed breaking up with the girlfriend, and I outlined a scenario explaining why that might be. I have known my share of people (even been one, myself) who don't want to have to ask for what they want, or who don't want something if they think the idea didn't originate with the person offering. Reasonable or not, as I read it, DICKPICS wife is upset that her husband has an emotional attachment to the women he sees, and what I believe she wants to be assured of her, the wife's, importance to him; she wants him not to want anyone but her, except in a very proscribed, limited, purely sexual way. But if he only stops seeing the girlfriend to make the wife happy, it carries less weight with the wife than if her husband simply doesn't want to be with the girlfriend. In a way, it makes her (the wife) into the heavy--the person standing between her husband and what he truly wants. That negates the gesture, and it makes her feel like a killjoy; it makes her feel guilty, and it doesn't do anything to reassure her that she is all her husband needs and wants. So she says, no." But she says she's "miserable" and that she "doesn't wants to be poly anymore."

She's giving two messages: I don't want you to have this girlfriend or any girlfriend and I don't want to be the buzzkill in your life. The husband has to decide which of those messages is the one she means the most, or which way to respond that will make his wife happy--and make him happy, too. Given what I know of human communication, I make the assumption that the message he should pay more attention to is the one asking him to stop being poly; you are taking her "no," more at face value than I am. Both you and I have been trying our best to analyze the wife's feelings, understand why she is sending mixed messages, and give our advice on how he should respond. Hopefully, DICKPICS understands his wife better than either of us and once he reads the different possible interpretations (assuming he doesn't just stop at Dan's answer and reads the comments), he may not have considered, he will figure out what he wants to do.

I have never suggested that DICKPICS treat his girlfriend as if she were disposable. If you look at my first comment, @35, I said I thought he should put the relationship on hold and I acknowledged that the girlfriend, being an autonomous person with her own needs and desires, may not want to agree to that, and that her leaving him is the risk he takes if he asks her to take a break. I don't see how that's being dismissive of her needs and feelings.

I also said that I think that DICKPICS and his wife have some honest conversations about how they feels and what each of them wants and adjust accordingly.
Given that context, I don't understand what you mean when you say, "it's better to treat feelings as informational, rather than as facts which must be obeyed immediately."
I don't understand how a feeling can be informational and not a fact. The fact is that the wife has said she feels a certain way (miserable). In the course of several long and honest conversations, it may come out that she just feels more vulnerable because the gf is in the same town as her husband, seeing him regularly, while she, the wife, is in a long-distance relationship with him; it may come out that she is jealous that he has a girlfriend and she, the wife, doesn't have a boyfriend, and she wants one, or didn't think that it would be the husband who would so easily be repartnered. It may be that she needs some other reassurance. Or it may be that she really is miserable and has realized that polyamory isn't for her. And DICKPICS himself may have the realization that he cares much more for his girlfriend than he thought he did; that he isn't willing to give her up; that it is very important to him to be polyamorous.

I don't see why he can't say to his girlfriend, "my wife is having a hard time with polyamory right now, and I'm going to need to take a break while she and I figure out how we want our marriage to look, going forward," without being seen to treat his girlfriend as if she's disposable.
62
@56, Fan. True, getting close to anyone is the risk. And I agree nocute @58, what's the point of being a primary, if one's feelings aren't given the primary consideration. Best stop the charade and say each relationship has equal status.
63
Feelings need to be listened to Erica, responded to, not obeyed. We would be robots if we didn't have these pesky parts to us, but we do. The gf will have feelings if the LW breaks up with her. And he will have feelings if his wife leaves him.
64
Look who knows what would be the best thing in an ethical responsible world. We have three people who entered this situation with good and honest intentions which, to me, seems to be the best you can do in reality. Of these three people, one of them right now is not being entirely honest- the LW's wife who is saying the open marriage is killing her but also that she doesn't want to tell the husband to leave the gf. This woman is not being honest with herself or her husband, but assuming we take the letter at face value, her dishonesty is due to distress and not manipulation or malice. Also assuming we take the letter at face value, the husband prioritizes his relationship to the wife, and though he has a real bond with the girlfriend, is not naturally a poly sort of guy- he was not the one that felt the need to open the marriage and his primary concern is the wife. That's why I'm saying that it's obvious he needs to do return to the wife, and later once she is secure and able to reflect honestly on her cognitive dissonance and emotional lies here, discuss it and figure out what she REALLY is comfortable with. As it doesn't sound like a deal breaker (it would be different if this were the typical sort of "I'm poly and want to remain that way but my current partner" b/c that would indicate incompatibility in the first place)- they can probably rebuild their marriage.

The only alternative to this is that he decides that his relationship with the gf is important enough to him that he wants to hold the line and work with his wife to see if she can get used to it. Maybe she can, but there is the risk that she can't. If this were a different scenario, then I could see Erica's advice, but in this case, the guy is not willing to risk his marriage at all- he obviously prioritizes his wife and just needs advice in how to proceed. Maybe it's a normal thing in poly situations to work through these periods of mixed commitment and I can't see that because of my own projections, but that's not how it reads to me. To me, it reads like the wife can't stand the fact that the husband has a gf and should never have been poly in the first place. As for the gf and the breakup, yes that sucks. Shitty all around, like any heart break, but I don't see how this is going to end otherwise- it looks like he must choose. And as for the statement that any relationship has this risk, of course that is true. It's why it's always risky to commit to anyone. But it seems ESPECIALLY risky to commit to someone who already has a pre-existing and deeper and higher prioritized commitment to someone else. It seems like you are setting yourself up to be hurt eventually as an inevitability rather than as a possibility. And maybe the whole point that poly POV people (maybe Erica? I don't mean to misunderstand but I'm out of my element) are trying to get at is that if you think about your relationships in this way in the first place (as NoCuteName and myself and the LW obviously do) then you were misrepresenting yourself as poly in the first place?? I mean, I don't know, but don't most poly people have primary and then secondary relationships? In any case, that's not the point here with the LW who has a wife that appears (based on this letter) to not be suited for polyamory in the first place, though it sounds like she's fine with monogamish relationships.
65
Hmm, that was muddled as my first takes usually are. What I'm trying to ask is, it seems that I'm considering (from the outside) someone who is married to one person but in an open poly arrangement as having a primary commitment to the spouse while having additional relationships with others. What I'm asking is- am I misunderstanding this and actually a poly person will consider each of his/her relationships as being equal and no prioritizing, and this is understood by all parties? In either case, what is the typical response for a longer partner that suddenly changes his/her mind about another later partner? Or is the question stupid in the first place and how?

Because of regardless of what should have happened (and I'm honestly curious) what it appears HAS happened is that this wife isn't poly, never should have been, and the LW, if he wants to be with the wife, is going to have to break up with the gf. I don't see what alternatives there are other than blowing up his marriage or continuing to pretend that the wife is going to be OK with it. This is all true even though the wife is being dishonest about her own feelings here which makes her in the wrong in all objective measures, but forgivable because she appears to be honestly conflicted/distressed, not malicious.
66
Okay, I've been focusing on what I think the LW should tell his wife, which amounts to:
"Let's talk about concrete steps that may help you feel better, with the understanding that if we decide in the end that I need to break up with my girlfriend, I will do that with no hard feelings."

Now I'll say what I think the LW might tell his girlfriend:

"I just learned that my wife is having a lot of issues dealing with polyamory. I need to go to her and talk to her about all this. I will stay in touch with you and let you know more as I learn more about what she really thinks will help."

To me, the immediate steps are not very different from finding out suddenly that your parent is in the hospital in your hometown. You can travel to see your parent and keep your girlfriend informed about what this means for you. If you decide you're going to move back to your hometown to take care of your parent, then that may interfere with the relationship with the girlfriend. You can keep her informed during the process of making your decisions even if you don't grant her any authority in making the decision.

So, yes, he may end up breaking up with his girlfriend. But it will be because he has fully considered the situation and the ramifications of his decisions, not because he's reaching for a dramatic gesture to demonstrate his loyalties.

nocutename @61: "if he only stops seeing the girlfriend to make the wife happy...it doesn't do anything to reassure her that she is all her husband needs and wants."

That ship has sailed already. She already has discovered that her husband enjoys dating this other woman. She also knows that he will end things rather than risk her being miserable. But they can't put the genie back in the bottle and forget that he enjoyed the time he spent with this other woman and the sex he had with her.

nocutename "I don't understand how a feeling can be informational and not a fact."

I may feel like I will die if Mr. P. stays overnight with his other partner. I may literally feel that it will kill me. But it probably won't, in practice. Or I may feel that it will break my heart. And maybe it will. But also: maybe it won't. Merely feeling that it will break my heart is not actually a good way to know if it will break my heart.

Feelings in the moment are not good at predicting how one will feel a month later. So that's what I mean when I say the feeling is informational (it calls for a bunch of serious conversations about how to move forward) but it's not a fact: I don't have to take it literally and assume that my feeling that my heart will break is the same as a guarantee that my heart will break. It's not a guarantee of anything. It's just a good time to talk things out.

EmmaLiz: "what is the typical response for a longer partner that suddenly changes his/her mind about another later partner?"
There's a big difference between these things:
- "I just learned that your partner has been lying about X, Y, and Z, and I thought you'd want to know."
- "My own outside partner just broke up with me and I feel sad and I can't stand to see you go off with your outside partner any more, so you need to dump him/her."
- "Your other partner got in shape and now looks sexier than me; you need to end it."
- "I could handle you having sex, but now that I see you're in love with him/her I'm miserable."

There are no simple answers. But there's a lot of space between "wife always comes first even if she wants me to go to a movie while my girlfriend is in the hospital" versus "my wife and girlfriend are exactly equal and I spend exactly the same amount of time with each of them." People need to find the area between those extremes that works for them.

The main thing that posters here are ignoring is that feelings change over time. And that minor adjustments can often help the situation enormously. If you've found a good connection with another human being, I don't think it makes sense to end it because someone else wakes up one day feeling miserable. You talk things out. You try making some other changes. You talk some more.

There's no guarantee that breaking up with his girlfriend fixes what is really bothering his wife. So why make that Step 1? I say Step 1 is talking. And talking doesn't require immediately breaking up with his girlfriend -- even though, in the long run, he may decide to do just that.
67
Suppose you're a divorced parent with a kid. Your kid is by far your top priority. You start dating someone, and your kid tells you that they hate your new partner.

Does that automatically mean you dump the new partner? Or is it possible to give the situation some time; ask your kid to be a little patient; and see if you can find a way to keep dating this person you like without traumatizing your kid?
68
@67: "Your kid is by far your top priority. You start dating someone, and your kid tells you that they hate your new partner. "
So I'd try to figure out why my kid hated my partner. Did my kid have an example of something she could point to? Does she just seem to reset anyone having any claim on my time and attention? My course of action would be dependent on what I found out.
70
Nocute @58: I am solo poly. I have had some partners whom I consider partners and some whom I consider FWBs. I have different feelings for different people, and of course vice versa. I may feel NRE at higher levels with some, while with others, we'd been friends for years who also found each other attractive and only at a certain point did the time become right to make our friendship sexual. My main partner is someone with whom I did not experience a rush of initial NRE, but grew to love as our relationship continued and strengthened over a six-year-plus period. The point is that a poly person can have different types of relationships with different people, and everyone involved should communicate about their feelings and desires to make sure everyone is on the same page and reduce the chances of people getting hurt.

"But I think that EricaP's reaction is one of the reasons that some people are hesitant to open their relationships, especially to make the shift to being truly polyamorus. I think it's very threatening or potentially threatening to many people to hear that despite being called a primary partner, their feelings wouldn't be given primary consideration, should the relationship be opened." -- Can you please reference the relevant post? I didn't see a claim that having feelings for a secondary means those feelings are given equal weight. In practice, if someone is designated a "primary," that's exactly what "primary" means -- this partner's needs come first.

Not all poly people have primaries. If you don't want to prioritise one partner over the other, you don't need to designate one as your primary. They are all your "partner."

Emma @64: "it seems ESPECIALLY risky to commit to someone who already has a pre-existing and deeper and higher prioritized commitment to someone else."

If what you want is to eventually be the primary partner yourself, then sure. You're setting yourself up to seek something that this person cannot offer. But if what you want is, for instance, what NoCute has with her years-long FWB relationships (which I personally would call secondary partnerships if I was the one in them, but people can choose their own words), or what I have with my partner of 6+ years and my partner of a year and a half, neither of whom would have made it past three months if we were trying to be monogamous, then a poly person is potentially a much better risk than a serial monogamist who will dump you when they meet The One.

Emma @65: The answer is both. The stereotypical poly person is someone who is in a formerly monogamous relationship who opened that relationship to others. When picturing the poly poster person, everyone pictures the coupled individual, no one pictures the others. We are "poly" too, and many of us do not in fact have "primary" partners.

Amos101: Congrats on the magic number!
71
I feel like many of the comments here are asking "How can people invest themselves emotionally in a relationship and ensure that they'll never get hurt?" This is impossible. ANY emotional connection risks heartbreak. Your 100% monogamous partner who never even fantasises about anyone but you could get hit by a bus. Attachment always carries a risk. Honesty about what each of you wants and is prepared to give is a huge help, but how many of us have ever fallen madly in love with a hookup? (Raises hand.) We feel; we hurt; we get over it. That's life.
72
EricaP @67: False equivalency. You can't break up with your kid, no matter how unreasonable their behaviour. Your kid cannot be expected to behave like an adult.
73
Also, I think we'd all agree that a single parent has some level of entitlement to a satisfying love life with partners of their choosing. People in committed relationships don't have that entitlement, they negotiate it with their partners.
74
BiDanFan - The point is not about breaking up with one's kid or one's wife.

The point is (as nocutename said @68) that when faced with a declaration of unhappiness by someone I prioritize, I can focus on communication, patience, and more communication, rather than making a grand gesture of immediately ditching the proximate cause of the unhappiness.
75
If I have a BFF of 30 years and a new friend of 6 months, I can listen to my BFF express disapproval of my new friend and take my BFF's concerns seriously, without immediately ditching my new friend.

That doesn't mean the BFF and the new friend are equal in my heart. It just means that I value connection when I find it and I make my own decisions about who is in my life -- while listening patiently, over time, to the concerns of my loved ones and integrating their concerns into my decision-making process.
76
@69 Amos101: I couldn't agree more, and by the way--congrats on scoring this week's magic number! Hopefully this is a welcome sign that Trumpzilla, Pencezilla ad nauseum will indeed be booted out of public office and held criminally accountable--the sooner the better, for being such a shameful embarrassment to our darkened, once-great nation and the world.
77
@72 BiDanFan: No snark intended in my joining this thread, but....what if you have a much older sibling, a total dingbat in her sixties who stubbornly treats you like her obediently disposable, allegedly clumsy oaf of a "child", while SHE behaves like a controlling, meddlesome, insanely manipulative, exhaustingly quarrelsome, tantrum-throwing 6 year old brat, with a grown daughter and son in their early thirties and a grandson in middle school?
Ahhhh, the blessings of Caller ID and Call Block. I'd love to buy the inventor(s) a drink.
78
@77: Speaking of which, Happy 16 Years of Freedom (to me)! Cheers!
79
Erica, relationships with one's children and one's friends are red herrings. These are not marriages, romantic attachments. Yes, the husband could stay with his gf, wait till the house is sold, he moves to be with his wife, they get to talk thru how to proceed. However, wife may pull the plug in the mean time. She's stated pretty clearly what she doesn't want, and that is polygamy. Seems pretty clear to me, and it should seem so to the husband. Best, if he doesn't want to lose his wife, is to either ask the gf to pause things or end the relationship with her.
80
@71 yes but as one of the people you might be referring to, I think there is a difference between acknowledging the absurd frailty of life and/or the vulnerabilities that we open ourselves up to when we fall in love with someone vs the fact that someone who already has a committed primary partner will most likely to continue to prioritize the relationship with that partner. I get that thinking about it in terms of competition is wrongheaded of me- as Erica describes well people are capable of negotiating several equal but different relationships. But the fact still remains that if you are a secondary partner, you will have to deal with not just the difficulties of one person but of two. Probably it's my own bias, so I get that too- I can't see it because it's not for me and I trust that it is for others. But I think it's false to argue that the risk is the same simply because someone can get hit by a bus at any moment.
81
I'm the girlfriend. Mrs. DICKPICS has never enjoyed being poly; this predates me. She is also the one who set us up (she set him up with the previous gf as well). We checked in with her numerous times as things got more serious and she said she was fine. There were a few bumps that we worked out, things continued to progress, then she dropped the, "I'm not poly" bomb. He indeed broke up with me, but admitted he has had a difficult time with it and still thinks about how this could work. She still maintains that he shouldn't have broken up with me. We are all hurting a lot, but it is over. Maybe that clears up some confusion.
82
@81: I'm sorry, Ex DPics. It sounds like you've been through the wringer. It sounds as if there are 3 very unhappy and confused people here and I hope you all feel better soon.
83
@81. Ms Ex DPics. I'm sorry for what you've been through. Your ex-bf's wife acted in a damagingly contradictory way. You deserve someone who can be clear in what he (she/they) can offer.
84
@80. EmmaLiz. I've never understood the distinction between 'cheating on (not being with) me with another person' and 'not being with me because a partner is doing something else'. Like drinking. Or gambling. Or at work. Or socialising with friends. Or with parents (the last is a big one). Sometimes I'm sure I've even cheated on partners--bailed on what they wanted to do; shirked responsibilities; said no to sex--with nineteenth century novels. (This was before box sets).

I'd be interested if monogamous people could try to explain the difference for them between fidelity in a conventional sense and just having other more absorbing things in one's life than always caring for one's partner.
85
Erica @74: You're right, the point you were making was a valid one if not a direct parallel. The point is that more than one person can have importance in your life. That doesn't mean either that the two are equal or one gets 100% of the priority.

Griz @78: Congratulations!

Emma @80: Then how about arguing that you might fall in love with someone who has controlling parents, or a disabled child, or an ex-spouse with shared custody who's determined to make your partner's life hell, or a job that requires long hours and lots of travel? The point is that all people come with baggage. My point stands that if you are looking to be a primary (or exclusive) partner, don't choose someone who already has a primary partner, but otherwise, everyone risks having to share their partner with other priorities whether they are mono or poly.

Ex DPics @81: Thank you for checking in, and I'm sorry it all went wrong. Poly can be hard; it sounds like you all tried your best. I hope you heal quickly and move on to better things.
86
@64 " I don't know, but don't most poly people have primary and then secondary relationships? "

Nope. I think a lot of people starting out in polyamory do, because it feels safer. Same way a lot of people start out by looking for triad relationships. Not everyone moves away from the primary/secondary structure, but a lot of people do.

I hate the language of primary/secondary 100%. I have no interest in ranking people. I know some that refer to people as "anchor partners" or "satellites" which I think makes more sense. I am married, but I don't subscribe to hierarchy. My husband would be considered my anchor partner (you can have multiple, though)because we share a household and parenting and pets, but that doesn't mean that other partners can't be just as important.

There are lots of different types of styles. Some people are solo poly, others are Relationship anarchists that allow their relationships to evolve however they will (that's the most basic way to explain it).

There is also the difference between prescriptive and descriptive hierarchy. Prescriptive would be me saying that my husband will always be my primary partner because he's my husband, so there. Descriptive would be the fact that, because we share a household and all of those other things, sometimes I have to prioritize him simply because that means prioritizing myself. That doesn't mean I wouldn't prioritize other partners at different times for different reasons.
87
@84
"I'd be interested if monogamous people could try to explain the difference for them between fidelity in a conventional sense and just having other more absorbing things in one's life than always caring for one's partner."

I love this. This is what I tell people all the time. If my partner was actually my primary, he'd see a hell of a lot more of me. I don't even have other partners currently because I don't have time to look for them. My husband and I basically get to talk to each other on the ride into work each day and that's it.

I work full time, go to school, and run a theater's box office. Those things, plus just everyday life, mean that I don't even have much time for sleep. People don't tell me I should drop any of those things to spend more time with him. But if I had a partner that took up even a third as much time as those things, everyone would be quick to tell me how much I was neglecting my husband.
88
Thank you nocutename, Harriet, and BiDanFan. It was actually helpful for me to read this discussion section. Good points have been made, some that were hard to read, but true nonetheless.
89
@86, KateRose, your explanation of anchor/satellite is how I've approached poly. My husband is my anchor, my boyfriend was my satellite, but I considered both their feelings as equally as possible when there were bumps. The relationship with DPICS felt that way from his side as well, but obviously there was a lack of communication between us on that front.
90
Ex DPics,
Thanks for writing in, and I'm sorry you got hurt. Are you able to talk about why his wife suggested opening the relationship, and whether she explored at all on her end? It's certainly unusual for a woman to propose non-monogamy and then not appreciate it. (It's more common for men to regret opening a marriage, when they find out that their wives have an easier time dating.)
91
EricaP @90: "It's certainly unusual for a woman to propose non-monogamy and then not appreciate it."

Oh, I wouldn't assume that at all! I think it's very common for people, of whatever gender, to think about opening a relationship because they want to have sex with / date other people, but then to discover they are far more jealous than they had anticipated when their partner starts having sex with / dating other people. Going down the gender-stereotypes road, men are thought to have an easier time separating love and sex, so it makes sense that a woman might feel her partner's sexual interest in others was a sign that his love for her was at risk, and experience jealousy on that basis. Women are socialised to view other women as competitors for men; a lot might find it difficult to believe the other partner wasn't trying to take "her" man away. Men are also not as used to communicating about relationships as women, and poly requires a LOT of communicating, so it seems reasonable to expect that men would often fail to give their partners as much communication as they require to reassure them when they get a new partner. So yeah, I think it would be pretty common for women to discover that sharing their partners was not all they expected it would be.
92
Ex DPics, I hope that your anchor is able to support you through this. A breakup hurts no matter how many other partners one has, but having the support of others that love us can at least make it more bearable.
93
I'm Mrs. DICKPICS. The three of us have had some communication issues that have made for lots of crossed wires. Being apart from DICKPICS for 9 months (6 months more than the initial 3 months we'd agreed to) has taken a toll on our closeness and communication.

I introduced them because they seemed to both be interested in sex, and I was comfortable with that. They progressed into a relationship which I didn't find out about until an off-handed status update. Again, communication problems.

Recently, I said that I was *bad* at poly, that I didn't feel very poly, and that they shouldn't break up. Since we started our poly journey, I've confronted and dealt with difficult feelings in self-harming ways. I've been in therapy to better deal with internalizing my struggles. It's helping. Which is why I thought we could make it work. So each time someone asked "you sure?" I'd feel strangely about it, but figure I could deal with those issues myself. Turns out I'm not good at it.

DICKPICS cares about her. If this wasn't very clear in the OP, it should be made clear here. They could potentially make it work in the future (I know they're both open to that but struggling with it), but the priority for me right now has to be selling the house and settling into a home again.