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Our open marriage has become a disaster

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Question - (31 August 2010) 6 Answers - (Newest, 2 September 2010)
A female United States age 30-35, *udytrudy writes:

This is complicated; you've been warned!

My husband and I have always idealized, even before we were together, a committed relationship that does not involve monogamy. While I always thought it sounded great, I had doubts about how many people were truly capable of living up to it. I've been in monogamous relationships before and did not find it difficult to remain faithful. I keep my word no matter what the circumstances are.

We've been together for 6 years. About 4 and half years ago, he moved from my city to where we both now live. We were apart for 8 months and had a "don't ask don't tell" policy for those 8 months. We weathered it and when I moved to be with him, he asked if we would continue as we had been while long distance. I said no as I felt we needed to establish intimacy in my new surroundings. It being his original hometown, he already had friends and I didn't want any weirdness coming from his old friends if we were in any way not viewed as a serious couple. I understand that many people struggle to respect less than conventional relationships. We remained monogamous for 4 years and it has been really great. I brought the open relationship subject back to the table because I felt we were at a place where we could explore this.

He was happy about it. I pointed out a woman who was on the outskirts of our social circle that I thought was familiar to this relationship style. I thought it would be nice for him to have his first experience in this to be someone he was somewhat familiar with and who was not likely to be confused about our arrangement.

We have friends who know about this. We have friends that don't. The friends we don't tell are the ones we know who have dealt with infidelity and are still sore about it or are very traditional and rigid. We also don't just tell every one about it because - well why does everyone NEED to know?

Our rules to start out were:

no one long term and/or steady (see someone steady- keep it short lived; see someone long term- only see them very occasionally)

no spending the night

no forcing the people we see on our friends

no drugs

safe sex only

we each have veto power on who we see for whatever reason

no out of town trips to see someone and no vacations with outside partners.

no exes

no one is lied to about our situation

no one who is in a relationship and sneaking around

The problems that have arose is that the first person he went out with, he continued to see. He had a few dates with others and slept with one. but he ended up only seeing the first person after that for going on three month now. On two occasions, he said he was not going to see her while he was out and he ended up seeing her anyway. All this while pushing for her and I to become close friends. I gave it a go and even collaborated on some business deals with her. I don't have a problem with her. Our problems are due to his actions not matching his words and that she is a big drinker. We don't drink much so he has trouble following through with what he says will happen when he drinks around her.

While dealing with all this, I heard from a mutual friend that my husband was over at his house bragging about how he is "living the dream" to all our friend's roomates. These are not good friends of ours but they do know us both. I was told that they all spoke negatively about the relationship style my husband and I have and he went further saying "I don't care who my wife effs, I got a the big d and I know she will come home to it".

I am hurt by all this. I was hurt that he continued to see one person the whole time, can't tell me he won't see her and follow through, and now further hurt by how trashy he spoke of our relationship to people who didn't need to know about it. I didn't think we started this because our relationship needed improving; I thought we were "living the dream' before we were in an open relationship.

I have spoke to him about all this and he acknowledges that he has really screwed up. He still wanted to see the person he has been seeing even though I wanted him to stop and even though the two of them have made people uncomfortable with their drunken public behavior.

But I'm left with this feeling that the respect I thought we had for each other is one sided. I would never have been bragging on to folks about how great it is that I sleep with others. Nor would I be so trashy as to say it the way he did. I am unsettled at the idea that he doesn't care who I see so long as he gets to do what he wants.

We had a big fight after he once again said he was not going to see the girl he has been seeing and ended up back over st her place. I had to go pick him up from her place because he was so wasted and puking in her back yard. It got ugly. He moped around the next day calling himself a screw up doomed to fail at everything. We talked about it and he spent that time reassuring me how important I am to him. He explained that he likes seeing her only because he doesn't have to go through the speech on how I know what he is up to, he doesn't have to put much time or effort into seeing her. I wanted him to stop seeing her, but took a couple of days to think on the points he made. As soon as I said I'd think on it, he brightened up and we got on better. After a couple of days, I still wanted him to not see her anymore. I wrote him a letter explaining all the reasons why I was still not okay with it and also about what I found out he had been saying about our relationship to others. When he read it, he went right back to being upset and moping. I can't even try to comfort him, be affectionate, or try to lighten the subject without making him feel worse.

We are currently on hold with the open relationship thing. Obviously. I am now wondering if we were ever as compatible as I thought. I'm wondering if he has always been respectful to my face but brag tracking behind my back. I am also sore that I lived up to all our agreements and now I'm also shut down on it.

View related questions: drugs, drunk, infidelity, long distance

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A female reader, judytrudy United States +, writes (2 September 2010):

judytrudy is verified as being by the original poster of the question

I would like to thank the less judgmental of the responders for their replies. I think I brought this to a less than capable site for this kind of problem. Perhaps I should have sought one were folks were at bit more exposed to this lifestyle enough to speak about it with knowledge. Most folks only ever hear of this lifestyle when it is the negative aspect of things. Just like monogamous relationships; no one heads for an advice site because they are happy and things are going well.

I have spoken to the woman he was seeing and she doesn't want to see him anymore even if I were to be okay with it. She didn't like that she was left out of the know on the nights he said he would not see her. To be very specific, she is quite angry with him for his actions too. She would prefer someone who doesn't have to be checked on to be certain they are acting with consent of their primary partner. A semi serious relationship between them was never what was going on. Some of us get angry when we drink. Some of us just pass out. And some of us blackout. It has become obvious that my husband is the latter of these.

Beyond that: I did not include anything about who I have seen or what I've done because I've done nothing outside of our rules and no one, not my husband or they, have taken issue with my actions.

To monogamy. In our history, monogamy is a new concept by comparison. It was created not with love or pair bonding, but with contracts and concern for paternity and inheritance. Through the discovery of paternity and aided by religion, it has become "normal" to us. But for all the so called normal folks supposedly practicing it, a 50 percent divorce rate is the result. Notice here as well, this stumbling block I'm experiencing is enough for many to head for a lawyer and divide a house over. I on the other hand am not going to toss 6 years of work down the tubes for the actions of 48 hours. I was never under the impression that I married a perfect person nor that he would never be capable of causing me pain.

I DO know people who have lived for many many years, happily in an open marriage. It is not as uncommon as most believe. It is kept quiet due to its lack of acceptance. The proof of that was aptly demonstrated right here in this exchange.

Thanks so much for your time. Things here on my end, two days after posting and one week past the events discussed are being ironed out and getting back to normal for us. We are talking a step back from our activities and associations to attend to our primary relationship and I feel much better about our chances of success.

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A female reader, Philosophyzer United States +, writes (1 September 2010):

Philosophyzer agony auntThis is no time for "should have, could have, would have", patronizing lectures, or "Hey, I told you so!". Though I don't agree with these alternative style relationships, I see why some people find them appealing. Maybe your decision to enter into an open relationship wasn't right, as others are suggesting, but you tried your best to set it up to be successful. You made boundaries, you tried to build and uphold trust, and you tried to create and foster a sense of respect. Frankly, you did everything I would try to do. The problem in this situation is not you. The problem is your ungrateful, emotionally immature husband.

I believe wholeheartedly that your husband has a semi-serious relationship with this woman and that he is emotionally cheating on you. No, they are not planning to be monogamous. No, they aren't running away to elope. However, he and her have developed a friendship by now. They love to hang out together and keep doing so behind your back. The alcohol might be what's talking when he is acting sloppy with her at the club, but the sober version of your husband is deceiving you and keeps returning to her. He has disobeyed you and your boundaries time and time again. He will only continue to do so. He obviously lacks respect for you, your relationship, and the trust and love you have invested in him. He doesn't leave you because part of him cares for you and still "loves" you as his wife. However, another part of your husband enjoys having his fun girlfriend on the side, who can show him a good time with little to no effort on his part. Your husband has had a taste of what is typically forbidden fruit and now he wants the best of both worlds.

Instead of feeling fortunate to have a wife with such a progressive idea on human sexuality, he just looks at is as a fun ego boost. He tells his friends of his conquest and of his lucky lifestyle. Though, he isn't being thankful for you and the relationship and trust you two share, while only telling his closest of friends. He is bragging to whoever will listen, making rude comments about how you will always come back to him because of his "big d". This is not a respectful husband, enjoying the special relationship he has with his wife. This is an egocentric dog, enjoying the thought of making his unhappy married friends jealous.

As if to add more insult to injury, your husband is even trying to guilt you into allowing his relationship with this other woman to continue! He is moping around the house still after you have used your veto power, a rule you formed in the very beginning. If he won't follow the rules that he agreed to, he deserves nothing. No pity, no sympathy, and ABSOLUTELY NO MORE SLACK.

He will continue to see her, whether you forbid it or not. He will continue to lie to you, no matter how much reassurance he offers you. He is not emotionally mature enough to be fit for an honest sexually open relationship. He will continue to betray you.

My advice is to get out. I know this is so much easier said than done, but, sweetie, you tried to do right by him and he only does wrong by you. Your relationship is unfair and one-sided, being dominated by his desires and pursuits of pleasure. This is no fair to you and you have EVERY right to feel angry, upset, cheated, and disrespected. So few are fit to commit to such relationships. You seem like a woman who can handle it, but he cannot. Unfortunately, the waters have become to muddled and unclear. It is time for you to cut your ties and return yourself to shore. Leave him. He doesn't deserve you or your love.

I wish you the absolute best. I hope you find a solution to your problem and that your life does right by you. I wish you happiness and so much strength. Respect yourself and never let someone take advantage of your love and kindness. Best of luck.

-Philosophyzer

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (31 August 2010):

Sex is a bonding experience. He bonded with the other woman...you may think that nature and instinct does not allow for monogamy, but this is false. Its only natural that in time people pear off - they find love, companionship and bond with one person. Its a human need to love and bond. It sounds like he found her a more compatible partner.

Next time think before you decide to be so progressive. A happier alternative would have been threesomes where both of you were involved, otherwise the risks are too high.

It does not sound like he has respect for you. It doesn't sound like other people have respect for your situation either. He may be calling it 'the dream', but how many men really want the love of their life to sleep with another man. Its a fantasy life. Good luck to you.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (31 August 2010):

Seriously leave him he screwed up and it doesn't seem u were into the open relationshop at all as u didn't get with anyone special

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A male reader, Jmtmj Australia +, writes (31 August 2010):

Jmtmj agony auntMessy, messy, messy... Don't feel too bad though... I'm yet to hear of any couple who's been able to happily live this lifestyle in the long term without it getting as tangled as last years christmas tree lights.

Don't let him emotionally blackmail you. He's being deliberately mopey and chucking a stroppy like a child so that you'll give in and he'll get what he wants.

Don't give in to this behavior aye...

Best of luck and I hope your situation improves :)

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A female reader, natasia United Kingdom +, writes (31 August 2010):

natasia agony auntI'm sorry this has backfired so badly. I know the obvious thing to say is that it is kind of your (plural) own fault for going into something that is clearly so fraught with possibilities for things going wrong, but I guess you went into it honestly trusting your partner and thinking all would be well. At best, I think that was naive, and am truly sorry for you that it has turned out like this.

And now what to do? The other woman is clearly a dreadful influence on him, and it doesn't sound as if she had much respect for you or your relationship. He, I believe, does have a lot of respect for you, but is foolish in some ways. You haven't said much about how many men you have slept with in the open relationship, but I think you need to come to terms with the obvious truth that monogamy is actually a better and more stable and safer state to be in. And no, you're right - you can't actually trust him now not to be sneaking around, as he is so used to doing it. I'm afraid I think that by allowing other sexual partners, a barrier has been crossed that it will be v hard to come back over. Well, certainly for him.

Part of me thinks you should move on. Another part thinks you need maybe to do something that will make him stay monogamous - that might of course be the threat of leaving him. Either way, I'm sorry, because it all seems difficult, and of course everything was ok before you suggested the open relationship again (why did you do that??? : (

You've had a pretty hard lesson here - I hope maybe you can just tell him that either you go back to total monogamy forever, or you leave him, and that he will honestly choose the former.

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