One of the hardest things I have found in opening up my marriage to polyamory is establishing where the boundaries are. This is the first of a two-part post discussing mine and my husband's boundaries. We negotiated them together, but even with negotiations there are complications. Here are two examples from this year.
A man, let’s
call him Morgan, and I have been emotionally attached to each other for twelve
years. The connection was too strong for us to manage. He was in a monogamous
marriage and both of us refused to denigrate ourselves and each other by
embarking on an affair. He nevertheless described our relationship as
“emotional adultery.” As a result we stopped speaking for over a decade. We
recently became reacquainted (accidentally).
None of the spark has left. If anything, it is stronger. We chat, we
Skype, we have gotten to know each other again. After a few months he (perhaps
ironically) discovered his wife was having an affair. They got divorced. I finally
tell him I am poly. He comes to visit.
A woman, let’s
call her Minna, and I get to know each other at a work conference. We are both
poly, both sexually adventurous, both happily married to monogamous, vanilla
men. We admit we would like to get down and dirty. Physically we have the time,
location, and desire to play together.
So, what could
and what did I do in these situations?
My husband did
not care about Morgan. For him, the emotional connection was not a problem. My
physical connection with Morgan was not great, but we had a deep bond. Because
I did not physically desire him, my husband thought it was fine for us to meet
and hug and spend all night together chatting. This is hard for me to understand.
For me, this relationship is more significant than a physically intimate one.
was a problem, or at least she could have been. I do not have permission to be
physically intimate without explicit agreement from my husband. I did not have
the means to seek permission on the allotted time. This meant that Minna and I
could not do anything other than hang out. We have kept in touch, and maybe if
we meet again we will get to play, but we didn’t do anything when we had the
time and opportunity.
For my husband, a physical connection is harder to accept
than an emotional one. He himself has emotional bonds (with one person he has
been deeply emotionally connected for 20 years). He understands that people
can love many at the same time in many ways. His own experiences of sexuality, however,
have been very difficult. It is only in the last few months (we have been
together ten years) that he has learnt the difference between “fucking” and “making
love.” His own attitudes to sex result in him experiencing anxiety when I am physically
intimate with somebody else. This is why we have to negotiate each stage with
each new partner. But, this is complicated: “what counts as physical intimacy?”
I explore this in the next part of this post.