When Jeannie and I took the plunge to open our marriage, we were pretty well versed in the risks. This is why we discussed this topic for about four years before finally taking action. I’ve also said since opening up that “getting through the challenges will only make us closer” many, many times. Generally, I’ve been right. Jeannie and I both still feel this way, too.
But what happens when the challenges mount and begin to break down your core trust and security? What happens when your struggles aren’t clear, and things continue to build up before you can make corrections? And what happens if you find yourself doubting, not just being open, but the core relationship with your spouse? Even letting the word divorce sneak into the conversation?
Whether COVID related or not, this is what has happened and it has resulted in us questioning everything. Read on for the story…
This is going to be a long post, so buckle up. I haven’t posted since August and Jeannie since June. There’s a lot to unpack.
While everything involving The Summer Of Sexiness has led to this moment, the true turning point was when I revealed my love for Justina about a year ago. Among other things, this led to a discussion about the definition of love. In many ways, we’re still having that discussion today. The difference today is that we have a sex-positive couples counselor and we’re working hard to assure we have a shared vocabulary for these discussions. One obstacle we’ve had has been vocabulary – using terms like “love” as if we were on precisely the same page.
SPOILER: We were not on the same page
This has left us in a really tough place. Our marriage has been threatened by our inability to best process what has happened. Since we’re committed to one another, and our marriage, we’ve had to sever ties with all other partners so we can focus on each other and our relationship first. We may not succeed in saving ourselves, but we can only be sure if we remove distractions and focus everything on us right now.
As we contemplated what was necessary to save our marriage, we thought that we might have to break up with our respective partners, but we hoped that it would be a last resort. We each had upcoming dates scheduled and agreed to proceed accordingly and then check in. Unfortunately, while Jeannie had a nice date with Alex, in the days after her date, but before mine with Justina, it became clear to Jeannie that she just couldn’t go on with the status quo and that drastic measures were needed if we wanted to avoid divorce.
The few days between Jeannie’s date with Alex and my date with Justina were some of the toughest for me to date. I felt as though Jeannie had robbed me of my agency to handle any breakup with Justina on my terms. I felt as though her jealousy was now dictating my actions. I was pretty angry about this, but, honestly, feeling more of a general sadness at the overall state of affairs. I knew better than these feelings, but I was struggling to get through them.I knew Jeannie was acting in good faith and that we were both simply working with the situation and emotions we had in those moments. Logically, I understood and respected her position. But emotions are not logic.
I knew I couldn’t go on my date with Justina without telling her this would be our last date for the foreseeable future and that there was no expectation I’d be able to see her again. She and I always put our friendship first, and I knew we both genuinely valued each other, but I wasn’t sure we could have a comfortable friendship while Jeannie and I were in turmoil.
Justina and I were to be spending an overnight and the next day at her place, so when I arrived I settled in and tried to relax. I was pretty sure that Justina could feel my tension and nerves, so I didn’t wait too long to dive deep into the rabbit hole of what was happening with Jeannie and me. And what it meant for Justina. In short, I said that I needed to remove all distractions so I could assure that I could save my marriage. Or at least be sure that if Jeannie and I decided to separate, that I did everything I could before we reached that conclusion.
I needed to remove all distractions so I could assure that I could save my marriage
Justina did a good job managing emotions and guiding our discussion over the course of the entire 30-ish hours we were together. While I was upset that I was somewhat forced to have this discussion earlier than I planned, I kinda knew it was going to happen at this time because Justina would know that something was up. In true Justina fashion, and with my consent, she took me through a guided emotions exercise that helped get all the feels, and all the logic, out in the open.
I’m not going to share the details of the exercises and discussion here – it is the most intimate and vulnerable time I’ve had with anyone other than Jeannie and it is something I cherish dearly. I will say that there were a lot of tears, a lot of hugs, and a lot of compassion. There was also a lot of talking through “logic brain” versus “emotional mind” which is so important when processing lots of emotions.
Our time together was very intimate and important. I say important because I think we needed the time together to get a complete understanding of the situation and to start thinking of what a friendship might look like. Justina reassured me that our friendship is most important and while neither of us could identify what that would look like at the moment, knowing that we both wanted that meant the world to me. Justina has been such a terrific friend and such a positive influence on me. I believe I’ve been the same for her. We shouldn’t have to give that up.
I knew what I was getting into. I understood the risks.
Justina said many times that “she knew what she was getting into” with regard to my being married and thus having an inherently hierarchical relationship structure. “I knew and accepted the risks” was something she said a few times. I appreciate that so much, but it doesn’t soften the blow for her nor does it alleviate my guilt at hurting her. She described herself as “collateral damage” several times; and while she definitely didn’t say this to be hurtful, it hurt. A lot. But it’s also accurate and maybe that’s part of why it hurts so damn much.
We ultimately binge watched Looking for Alaska which was somehow the perfect activity to share over the 10-hours of viewing time. It’s a great show, and in our emotional state, we cried a lot. I think watching a story about perfectly imperfect humans (thanks, John Green!) helped us to be a little more comfortable in our own imperfections. And how those imperfections impact others, whether we like it or not.
Despite a highly intimate time together, we did not have sex, and I’m ultimately glad we didn’t. Do not get me wrong, I definitely desire to have sex with Justina. I desired it then and I desire it now. But sex is secondary to friendship and, if we had sex during our breakup time, it would have likely tarnished things. We did do a rope scene, and it was intense, with more tears, and strong emotions. It was very cathartic and the perfect ending to our time together as we knew it until then.
I may be MIA for a few days.
After my departure, she texted that she needed some time to process and might be MIA for a few days. I supported this, but did a terrible job respecting her silence, ultimately sending her an email on the second day and eventually messaging her a few days later to ask for a catch-up call. She agreed, and that call, while also a necessary step, was rough. She was clear that she needed a lot of space right now to process all this before we could seek a meaningful friendship. An important point she made was that she needed to process the current anger and sadness to assure that it didn’t turn into resentment. I truly love her for that, but it’s really flippin’ hard to be silent and apart from her currently. Yet it’s also entirely necessary for all parties involved if we intend to grow from this.
It has been about two weeks since we spoke and this has been hard for so many reasons. I’m going through Justina withdrawal and I’ve woken up nearly every day with my first thought being Justina. Part of me wants the pain to dissipate. Part of me is afraid that, if it does, our relationship is over. I do believe, logically, that we’ll have a meaningful friendship in the future. But emotionally I feel as though every day that she is silent she is getting more comfortable not having me in her life. This makes me think she would rather not risk more pain and therefore doesn’t want me in her life in any way. I know better, but my emotions are strong and take me down some dark paths.
Most important with regard to Jeannie is that we’ve made an agreement to step away from other partners, focus on our individual needs, and our needs as a couple. We’re already making notable progress. Every day we’re having deep discussions and talking through lots of difficult topics. And every day there’s been some progress. Even after a pretty nasty argument last week, we connected and learned and grew with what was shared. Some pain is inevitable, but what we do with each painful experience is what is truly important. I honor and respect the pain she is feeling and that she has been truly articulating what she can – which can trigger strong emotions for me, but also means that she’s helping me to locate her so we can both be on the same page.
Because Jeannie has uncovered a few demons that she’s addressing, a lot of our conversations have changed. She’s been more open to hearing things she couldn’t hear before. She’s doing the foundational work to strengthen herself and rebuild her confidence in our love and connection. I can hear her more openly and honestly. By going deeper within herself in search of a strong foundation, our conversations have gotten even more honest. And very raw. That’s been challenging for sure.
Jeannie has a lot of work she needs to do as an individual, and I’m here to support that. We also are doing a lot of couples work. But the latter won’t have a meaningful impact if she isn’t secure and confident in herself, and in her needs. This is not to blame, or shame, it just is. The hardest part for me in all this is knowing that I cannot directly influence her personal journey. I can, however, provide a loving and supportive space to keep her safe as she does all of this. I can also, of course, just be a loving partner to affirm the work she is doing.
I have so many conflicting feelings right now.
- I need to be wholly supportive of Jeannie and her journey.
- I need to contribute in a positive and meaningful way to strengthen our marriage.
- I want to learn and integrate all of what has happened into my life and lifestyle.
- I desire a meaningful relationship with Justina, whatever that relationship can and should be in the future.
- I desire to have a healthy path toward opening up to other partners again.
- I need to assure my needs are being met, while still providing for the needs of others.
- I need to fulfill my wants and desires without these taking away from my marriage.
- Despite all the progress Jeannie and I are making, I still have some anger over how we got here.
Let me elaborate on that last one. There were some cyclical patterns that I tracked over the last year resulting in the latest changes. Jeannie would get jealous or triggered, we’d be very emotional, we’d work through it, we’d sort of reset, and we’d continue on our way. The majority of these jealousies and triggers were regarding other partners. But I always felt that this was simply the obvious place to focus energy at the time and that Jeannie’s challenging feelings were connected to something much deeper. For example, in 2019, she was just as jealous that I was spending too much time at raves or on cycling adventures as with other partners.
What I began to realize in 2020 was that I wasn’t balancing my time commitments to Jeannie with all my other activities. Justina was just the most obvious target because not only was there a commitment of time and energy, but I love her and that wasn’t exactly in our plan. In the last few weeks, Jeannie has begun to admit some of this to herself and to me which has been very helpful. We don’t yet have a plan for the After Times, but I know I must be more mindful about which raves, which cycling events, and which other activities I commit to if they are taking time away from her/us. She is also committing to taking on more hobbies and activities so that we might have some balance. (Understanding that “balance” is always elusive.)
I am not angry, but I do have anger.
There is an underlying negative emotion to all this that I’m processing – a low level of anger. I’m not angry at Jeannie right now, but I still have anger about all of this that needs to be overcome. The difference, as I told her, is that being angry is active and current. If I were angry at her right now, we’d need to address that first and foremost because I wouldn’t be holding a safe space for her, for us. Yet having anger simply means things have happened that I haven’t fully gotten over yet, even though I’m mostly OK with it and can, therefore, hold a safe space.
And as I write this I wonder if anger is the best word for all this. It was anger a week or so ago. Now I think it’s more disappointment. This is better because it feels as though the negative emotions are softening and we’re making progress. That said, I’m disappointed that we went through this cycle so many times without figuring this out sooner. (This is as much on me as Jeannie.) I’m disappointed that I had to separate from Justina to “get to the bottom of this.” (Although I recognize and accept the ultimate necessity of this.) I’m disappointed that we continue to talk about polyamory as if that’s the only problem. (It’s not, it’s just the easy target. And Jeannie doesn’t believe it is, this is just how my emotions interpret this. We’re both getting better about this one.) And I’m disappointed, as stated earlier, that the decision to separate from Justina was decided for me rather than me handling this on my terms.
I also have frustrations and disappointments, but I know I’m on the right path.
Oh, and I’m also frustrated that Jeannie is already down the path of “when we open up again.” I definitely want this, but we’re not ready for that right now. I need to feel confident that if and when that time comes, we won’t just rubberband back to a place like this again. I’m not asking for absolute assurances, but I do need to feel secure in a decision like this. It’s quite premature today. Despite my desires.
I will absolutely get through these disappointments and frustrations, no matter what the outcome. But right now, these are some of the emotions that are preventing me from being fully engaged in the needs of Jeannie and Viktor first. Jeannie has been super supportive of my need to feel all these things and I feel I’ve been supportive of her as well. It’s just hard to see the forest for the trees at this moment.
There isn’t really a conclusion right now, but since this is a long post, I wanted to sum up a few things.
- Jeannie and I are doing the work. Every day. It’s hard, and emotional, but productive and fruitful.
- I feel as though the point above will ultimately be rewarding and liberating, too.
- I’m some level of depressed right now. I’ve been unemployed for most of the pandemic and a lot of my identity feels challenged. This underlies, and sometimes sabotages, everything else.
- I miss Justina. A lot. There’s no getting around this.
- I’m hopeful that Justina and I will have a meaningful relationship in the future. But the dark shadow in me tells me all the stories of doubt.
- While Jeannie is focused on her personal development, I have a lot to work through on my own as well. So far I don’t feel I’ve given this the attention it needs. I’m working on it.
Now that I’m finally saying all of this publicly I’ll probably post more often. It’s been hard getting to the point where Jeannie and I feel comfortable sharing all this here, but it’s time. And it’s needed. And it’s helpful.
Here’s to our continued growth. Wherever it takes us.