I am in a relationship that has been ongoing for about 2 years. Both of us have come from previous monogomous marriages. Both of us have different reasons why our marriages didn’t work. Mine was about possessiveness and emotional abuse. His was lack of communication and lonliness. We are both honest and open about feelings. We have tried all kinds of new concepts for both us involving sexual experimentation. Much of it is new to both of us. Recently he has talked to me about polyamory. He says he really is turned on about having multiple partners. He wants to be able to have sexual and nonsexual relationships with other people. I have no problem with the non sexual part, as I feel we all need other relationships to stimulate us and enhance us. I have not developed the ability to be able to share him sexually and I develop strong jealousy in this . I have researched and tried to learn from my jealousy and find out what triggers it and have decided it is my insecurity of lack of worth and inability to be able to please him. Don’t get me wrong, we have a wonderful, stimulating sex life and both have very high sex drives. I just can’t get past him sharing that very intimate part of him. He wants to me to really examine my feelings before I say no. Each time I think of it, I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. I don’t want to own or possess him and most of all I want him to be happy. I don’t seek to change him either. I just don’t know how to wrap my mind around this. I have given him some’rules’ which I want to test, but deep down I know that when he tells me he has made love with other women, I will want to die. I feel like I’m being used. I have told him this also. He says wait and see if the jealousy kicks in when it happens. Our rules are that he must phone me and tell me when he is intending to have a sexual relationship with another person. He must always wear protection. He can never do it at his house. We don’t live together, but we spend the bulk of our time at his place. I have veto power that he must obey. If I say No I can’t handle it, he must respect my wishes. It sounds so one sided, but in reality I know it won’t make much difference in how I feel. We both love each other intensely. What should I do?
If you reread your letter to me, you will hear the cries of a woman who is feeling emotionally battered. You told me, ‘I feel kicked in the stomach. . . used. . . wanting to die. . . ‘ Love to you apparently means being violated. I am alarmed that your instinct for self-preservation doesn’t seem to be operating. On the contrary, you seem to override this natural instinct and instead abandon yourself at every turn. One obvious way that you do this is by trying to talk yourself out of your feelings of revulsion over his proposed infidelity. I see you trying to either mind ‘fornicate’ yourself into believing that you can ‘cure’ yourself of natural feelings of jealousy or beat back your feelings by establishing ‘rules’ for him to follow. No matter how you slice it, you won’t be able to make his cavorting easier for you to swallow. You remind me of a battered child who blames herself, not her parent, for the beatings that she suffers. In a similar way, you don’t blame him for what he is pulling and instead twist yourself into an emotional pretzel in order to bend to his plan, which is clearly damaging you. You seem to find it unthinkable to put your foot down and set limits for yourself. I have the impression that you are to afraid to lose this man, and so you tolerate this intolerable situation in order to keep him. I think you need to step back and focus on understanding how you arrived at this predicament. This relationship surely recreates a childhood pattern. I am sure that someone emotionally abused you when you were young. You, like all abused kids, learned to protect that person (mom? dad?) from your anger. All children think that their angry feelings can kill, and since they need their parents for survival, kids don’t want to risk feeling anger toward their parents. Instead, they swallow the angry feelings, turn the anger back on themselves by telling themselves, ‘it’s my fault that I’m being mistreated, or they try to talk themselves out of their feelings and/ or make excuses for their parents’ behavior. Doesn’t this sound like you? The fact that you aren’t respecting your natural alarm bells and putting your foot down tells me just how battered you were as a kid. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for you to continue trying to talk yourself out of how you feel. You hate what he is proposing and you shouldn’t be trying to turn off how you feel. He wants his cake and to eat it too! That’s not how life works. Life and love involves sacrifice. He wants it all, even if it kills you. You can’t rely on him to take care of your well being. He’s too busy taking care of himself and tending to his needs. In the meantime, no one is looking out for you. Unless you begin to take care of number one, you are going to find yourself slipping right down the drain. You need to join a therapy group right away. The group will help you reclaim yourself and learn how to set proper limits. Your life depends on your following this plan that I outlined for you.