Polyamory/Keeping NRE from destroying my marriage
QUESTION: Been married 21 years, always felt something was missing. Not that I wasn't happy with my wife, or didn't love her, just something was off. I make friends very easily and tend to fall in love. After stumbling across More Than Two, I had a name for what was missing. I feel like I'd be very happy living polyamorously. My wife, however, is very monogamous. We've been in therapy, and while she's not thrilled with the prospect and she's afraid I'm going to find some cute young thing and dump her, she's agreed to go ahead. This woman has been by my side, loving and supporting me, through so many challenges that would destroy most marriages, but I'm afraid this may be the one that does it, especially if I screw things up. It seems NRE is the biggest stumbling block to newly opened marriages. Do you have any tips on handling it and minimizing it's negative effects on my wife?
ANSWER: Hi Rick,
It seems that you know the vocabulary and have been researching the issue in a responsible way. The fact that you have been talking to your wife and being hones, and even that you had therapy to help, all that are signs that you are going in the right direction. I recommend you watch the videos about "monogamist" relationships, mostly by Dan Savage, you can find all that on YouTube. You should also watch together the videos by Esther Perel about relationships.
I suggest you keep reinforcing to your wife that she has veto power and that you are very grateful for the trust and attitude, and at every turn keep demonstrating to her that you love her. NRE is a problem mostly because the person getting into the new relationship forgets to keep giving that message back, sending those signals of appreciation and love back to terra firma.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Actually, we agreed on no veto, as described by Franklin Veaux in More Than Two. She has said she'd leave before she'd make me break someone else's heart and mine. She doesn't seem to realize that losing her would also break my heart.
I tried to start Date Night with her, but she thinks I'm only doing it to make her feel better about poly so I can have other women. Which is ironic because I'm doing it to make her feel more loved and secure, which in a way is kind of the same thing.
Is there any way to limit or handle NRE, keep it from spilling all over our marriage, so she doesn't feel like she's being replaced?
ANSWER: If things are not very well set yet (and now you suggest they aren't) there is no problem in going back to the drawing board and redesigning it a little bit. In a certain way time is on your side. Celebrate your freedom with your wife, keep treating her better, keep showing your appreciation. And think about the "no veto" thing a little more because you are not the only person that can meet other people in a real poly relationship and perhaps veto power is something you would like to have yourself...
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: As soon as we started discussing opening our marriage, I assured her that she was free to seek other relationships, too. That was not a great thing for someone who identifies as deeply monogamous. I felt I was being open and fair, she felt I was saying I didn't care what she did as long as I got to have other relationships. We're starting to realize we don't always think and speak the same language.
As for veto, we've both read More Than Two and The Game Changer by Franklin Veaux and are a little scared (especially her) of the destructive power of veto. I'm not exactly sure when and how it can be used that won't be painful for the two involved in the vetoed relationship.
She's particularly worried about the physical/sexual aspect of any outside relationships. Being monogamous, that's a very hard thing for her to give up, sexual exclusivity. Around that issue, she wants complete DADT. There is a woman I'm interested in who is open with her husband, and my wife has met both of them. I've tried to get her to talk about her impression of them, but she just says they seem nice and changes the topic. I was hoping she'd see how in love and devoted they are to each other and know this woman isn't a threat to our marriage. I know in her mind she's mentally comparing herself to this other woman and feeling bad. I've tried to keep my excitement and feelings about this other woman quiet, but I know my wife senses it. There is a possibility of a first date with her coming after the holidays. I don't want to rush into it, but at the same time I'm getting frustrated.
The more you write the more I think something is wrong here... It started as an apparently good situation just needing fine-tuning. Now it is looking like an accident waiting to happen. Perhaps you want to cool it down a bit and review this entire thing. Or perhaps you want to suggest to your wife that she should be here asking questions as well...