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“I Fell in Love with a Man who Isn’t My Husband”

From the forums:

Broken heart

My husband and I have discussed opening up our relationship since early on in our dating days, but didn’t begin experimenting until the past few months. We met in college, and have been together for almost six years. The beginning of our relationship was a struggle — he cheated on me right at the beginning before we became official and I dealt with trust issues for a long time, but as a result I also started to see how sex and love could possibly be two different things. I often felt that I tried harder and loved him more, but we had a good relationship overall and my gripes came mostly from his reluctance to open up enough to me and the fact that he was a poor money manager (we moved in together after only a few months), not because of any mistreatment or glaring abuses.

We did hard battle later because he wanted to wait to get married and I was ready to start our life together. We come from traditional families that did not like us cohabiting and would not have approved of children before marriage. Finally, we got married last year, but after having argued so bitterly over it, the shine was kind of gone and on our wedding day I felt almost…emotionally mute.

Over the past year though, we’ve grown closer and he’s really opened up and been more considerate of me in many ways. He expresses a lot of affection, and he says marriage has made him feel safer, showing how much he loves me because he had feared needing me too much before. For my part, I felt very content and was the closest I had ever been with him. Since things were going so well, we decided to revisit the idea of adding to our sexual relationship (which has always been great) with others. We had a great time with another couple and decided to take the next step by trying to develop outside relationships of our own, with the caveat that we should not become emotionally involved beyond a sort of friends-with-benefits understanding.

Three months ago, I met someone. He was gorgeous, older and worked in my field (but not at my job) and for the first time, I had someone to ask questions to and bounce ideas off of who really empathized with my position — our work is emotionally very tough and draining, sometimes even demoralizing, and my husband has a lot of trouble understanding this aspect of my life and how deeply it affects me. But this man brought out a side of me that I thought I had outgrown. He was kind and reflective and very sensitive and open, and I found myself so excited to see him and so happy and at peace when we finally spent time together that I was becoming distracted at home by the thought of him. My husband said I was acting out of character and became increasingly jealous and combative, which, in retrospect, is completely understandable. After a short time, my “FWB” told me that he was falling in love with me, and although I knew it was against the rules, I realized that I felt the same for him. I had tried to talk myself out of it, but selfishly, I felt too understood, appreciated and involved to do what was right and end it.

Unfortunately, my husband decided to snoop through my messages, and after reading about the trajectory of our relationship, became infuriated and demanded that I end things with my FWB. I was devastated, even though I knew it would have to end eventually (my husband and I always had an understanding that we’d be returning to a more traditional marriage when it came time to have kids). The “breakup,” if you can call it that, was very tearful and extremely difficult. Although there was never any possibility of our having a real relationship (due to his own situation), I cannot seem to get myself out of the rut I’ve been in since I said goodbye to him. It’s not the wish that things were different so we could be together that is dragging me down — it’s the cold fear that I won’t be able to revive my marriage now that I know it is possible to feel this way about someone else.

I don’t want to be near my husband right now. He says he’s forgiven me, but I feel as if all the air has gone out of our relationship. I miss this other man so much that I feel like crying every time my husband tries to kiss me. I guess I am looking for someone to tell me that I am going to get over this pretty soon and start to see my husband as a partner and not as a shadow of this other man. — In Love with Another

First, whatever you do: DON’T HAVE CHILDREN YET!! I say that upfront and in all caps because you mention kids twice in your letter and you have a history of pushing life events — like marriage — before you’re ready. And you are not ready for a baby. A baby will not save your marriage and it will not be the secret ingredient to make you happy. I cannot stress that enough.

I also cannot stress enough how important it is that you get yourself to therapy. Yes, couples therapy is absolutely important, but in your case, individual therapy is probably even more important. You have a pattern of making really bad decisions that needs to be addressed by a professional. That you moved in so quickly with someone with whom you had serious trust issue, and that you married someone you weren’t happy to marry — after what sounds like years of pressuring him to marry you — and that you believed you could make a rule to not develop feelings for someone and then were shocked to discover you could actually love someone else besides your husband, all indicate some not entirely realistic or healthy views on love and marriage and relationships.

Of COURSE you can develop deep feelings for someone other than your partner (and of COURSE you can fall in love despite “rules” not to!). Everyone is capable of falling in love with multiple people — even at the same time. It’s especially easy to believe you’re falling in love when your entire relationship is cocooned in intimacy and all the real-life, day-to-day stuff a true couple has to deal with is shielded from your couple bubble. In short: your husband and your FWB are not on equal playing fields, and it’s unfair to compare them or compare your feelings for them.

Your feelings for both men are related though. After feeling “emotionally mute” for so long and like your husband didn’t understand you or empathize with you, despite finally opening up a little more, it’s easy to understand why the sparkle of an affair would be so alluring. But the sparkle is merely a distraction from the mess of your marriage and the rest of your life. And if you now put all your energy focusing on the distraction, rather than your marriage, your life is only going to get messier.

So let the distraction go. Get yourself to therapy. Stop sleeping with other people. Don’t get pregnant. And make some decisions about whether your marriage is worth fighting for now that you know that, yes, it is actually possible to love other people. Because while it’s possible to love other people, love is different than commitment. Certainly, a two-month affair is different than a marriage. Marriage is about acknowledging life’s many, many distractions — temptations, obligations, shifting feelings, a longing for something more or something different — and working through them (together) and putting every effort into overcoming the distractions, while balancing your own personal needs. If that balance can’t be met, or if you just don’t feel like making the effort, perhaps it’s time to MOA. But you need to understand that EVERY relationship involves distractions and compromises and, just because you experienced two months of couple bubble bliss with your FWB, doesn’t mean that guy is your soul-mate.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

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{ 60 comments… add one }

  • avatar ktfran December 5, 2013, 9:25 am

    Oh my gosh. LOVE Wendy’s advice to this LW. I read her letter in the forum and was trying to figure out what to say.

    One note – you should never have to convince someone to marry you. He or she should want to marry you. I think it’s very telling that this LW felt numb on her wedding day.

    One question – trust issues from indiscretions are brought up a lot in letters. But, can it really be considered cheating if you’re in the early stages of dating and you’re still figuring out if you want to exclusively date that person? Idk. I can understand being upset about it. Anyway, curious what others think.

    • GatorGirl GatorGirl December 5, 2013, 9:28 am

      Obviously each relationship would have their own “rules” but I personally would not consider a hook up before becoming official as “cheating” per say. Until there is that conversation of exclusivity (which in my experience has been hand in hand with the “official” conversation) then how could it be cheating?

      And yeah, it’s never a good idea to convince someone to marry you. Yikes.

    • LadyinPurpleNotRed LadyinPurpleNotRed December 5, 2013, 9:31 am

      I was wondering that too! It’s not cheating.

    • Fabelle Fabelle December 5, 2013, 9:36 am

      Oh yeah, I didn’t notice the wording on that— if it was ~before~ they became official, then yeah, I’d say it’s not cheating. I understand having trust issues related to an incident like that, depending on the context of their “pre-dating” stages, but I wouldn’t dub it “cheating”, exactly.

      I think it’s irrelevant what she’s calling it, though. She developed trust issues as a result, came to terms with it by deciding sex & love can be separated (which I agree with, but I feel like it’s better to come to that conclusion under different circumstances), & then stayed with this man & married him despite having reservations (& perhaps she doesn’t characterize it as “reservations”, but from the outside, that’s what it is).

    • avatar bethany December 5, 2013, 9:37 am

      I don’t think it can be considered cheating until both people have confirmed that they are exclusive. Sure I’d be annoyed if I found out my husband was dating other people when we first started dating, but we weren’t exclusive until a few weeks into it, so he was free to do whatever he wanted.

      • avatar ktfran December 5, 2013, 9:43 am

        See, that’s kind of what I think too. So, I guess I don’t get how there are trust issues in these kind of situations. But that’s just me.

        Then again, I can 100% see my younger self thinking differently than who I am now.

        • katie katie December 5, 2013, 10:04 am

          yea, i think this is probably another indication of the immaturity about love and relationships that wendy talked about.

          i also was caught off guard with that- how can you cheat on someone you arent in a relationship with?

      • avatar kerrycontrary December 5, 2013, 10:11 am

        I agree with you, but I would still FEEL like I was cheated on even if technically I wasn’t. If that makes sense. Cause when you’re dating someone and you really like them and then you find out they slept with someone else, it would suck, you know? And then you might doubt how genuine of a person they are because they tell you how much they like you and it seems like they really like you, but if they liked you so much they wouldn’t be hooking up with other guys/girls. If that makes sense. This is why if I was dating right now I’d be anti- “we’re sexually exclusive but I don’t want to be girlfriend/boyfriend”. No, I’ve only gotten burned in that scenario.

        • avatar kerrycontrary December 5, 2013, 10:12 am

          Also I may be projecting a bit….haha.

    • avatar tbrucemom December 5, 2013, 1:51 pm

      I thougth the same thing. I don’t see how it’s cheating if you’re not exclusive.

  • avatar Lucy December 5, 2013, 9:34 am

    So, to summarize… you married a guy whom you had to practically frogmarch to the altar. He’s of questionable marriage material, as he is a poor money manager, and he showed himself to be untrustworthy right at the beginning of your relationship, but you’re so desperate to have kids, and to conform to your families’ expectations, that you browbeat him into it anyway. Then when your relationship briefly stabilized, you decided to potentially destabilize it by bringing outside people into it. (For unexplained reasons, kids no longer seem to be on the menu in the near future, even though they’re your stated reason for badgering this unwilling, unready man into marrying you.) And you seem so, so surprised that the shit has hit the fan.

    LW, you need to give this poor man WHO DIDN’T WANT TO BE MARRIED AT ALL a divorce, stay away from all men for a while, and grow the hell up. Stop doing things for all the wrong reasons. Get some counseling.

    • LadyinPurpleNotRed LadyinPurpleNotRed December 5, 2013, 9:35 am

      They weren’t official. How was he untrustworthy at the beginning?

      • avatar artsygirl December 5, 2013, 9:39 am

        There were likely two different levels of expectation at the beginning of the relationship. The LW still refers to his behavior as ‘cheating’ so in my mind she sees it as such even though they were not official. I.e. she believed that were monogamous and exclusive while he did not.

        • LadyinPurpleNotRed LadyinPurpleNotRed December 5, 2013, 9:40 am

          Well, unless they had a conversation that explicitly said that, then it’s her mistake. Still not cheating.

        • katie katie December 5, 2013, 10:16 am

          but isnt that just more evidence of her lack of maturity, communication skills, ect surrounding relationships?

          i dont mean to invalidate her feelings, but she is living with a really… odd? maybe? immature..? way of dealing with relationships. shouldnt that be talked about and explained to her, so she can grow and change for the better? so she can learn to communicate about her feelings and advocate for herself and her needs?

          to me this is one of those just because you feel something doesnt make it right situations.

      • avatar Lucy December 5, 2013, 9:40 am

        For whatever reason, the LW relates his actions as cheating, so that’s how I’m treating them. In general I don’t find it useful or interesting when commenters refuse to take the word of the LW as to the course of events. It leads to the conversation devolving into random speculation with little to no grounding in reality.

        Besides, it’s not like there’s not PLENTY to work with here without wandering off into “we were on a break!” land.

        • LadyinPurpleNotRed LadyinPurpleNotRed December 5, 2013, 10:18 am

          I am taking her word. They weren’t official. If they weren’t official, how could he cheat?

  • avatar bethany December 5, 2013, 9:34 am

    Wow. Wendy, you are so much smarter than me. Seriously.

    That was amazing advice, and I think Wendy’s description of marriage was wonderful. Marriage really isn’t the fantasy “Happily ever after” that some people/Disney Movies try to make it out to be.

  • avatar artsygirl December 5, 2013, 9:37 am

    The only couples who should pursue open relationships are ones that have great communication skills, a solid foundation, respect, and trust. I think the LW’s relationship is missing most if not all of these things.

    • theattack theattack December 5, 2013, 9:55 am

      For real. If you’re opening up the relationship because you feel trapped and want to see other people, you probably need to break up and ONLY see other people instead.

      • avatar zombeyonce December 6, 2013, 12:19 pm

        Thank you for this. My husband and I have been non-monogamous for our entire 4-year relationship with excellent results. I’m convinced that the most significant reason it works so well for us is because we both feel that we could close our relationship at any time and be completely happy just with each other.

        Seeing other people has nothing to do with how we feel about each other or fulfilling a need because our primary relationship is lacking. If it was about that, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable in an open relationship.

    • TaraMonster TaraMonster December 5, 2013, 12:10 pm

      Thirded.. I am close to a couple who are a bit younger than I am. One half of that couple asked my advice on opening her relationship when it was incredibly unstable. She was inexperienced and had only been with her boyfriend. Understandable since they’d dated since HS.

      I told her that opening her relationship up when they already had so many problems was relationship suicide and that while wanting to experience other people was normal, that she was trying to have her cake and eat it too. They broke up and she went out and dated around. They got back together after a while, but IMO, they shouldn’t have. We’ll see how it plays out… point is, open relationships are for stable emotionally healthy couples with their shit together. It’s not something that should be attempted lightly.

    • avatar SasLinna December 5, 2013, 1:07 pm

      I tend to think that opening up a relationship or doing poly is safest for really experienced couples: People who’ve experienced a few relationships, who know themselves and each other well, and who are able to judge their emotions well. I’m not saying younger and less experienced couples should never try it, but the probability of drama is certainly higher for them. Basically, if a couple in their twenties can’t be happy with monogamy for a few years at least, I tend to be skeptical that they’ll last (but probably there are some people who have a truly polyamorous personality and who can make it work from a young age).

  • avatar SasLinna December 5, 2013, 9:40 am

    WWS, especially about not having a baby now! The only thing I’d add is that while it’s true that your husband and the FWB don’t have an equal playing field and that affairs can seem a lot shinier than marriages, you also shouldn’t fall into the trap of believing that all longterm relationships are dull or devoid of real feeling and passion. That’s not the case either. It actually seems to me like this LW has worked too much on the relationship with her husband and has forced it to become more serious than it should have, so she’s probably buying into the myth that ‘relationships require a lot of hard work’. Which they do, but not this type of suffering-inducing work.

    • LadyinPurpleNotRed LadyinPurpleNotRed December 5, 2013, 9:43 am

      Knocked it out of the park again!

  • Fabelle Fabelle December 5, 2013, 9:44 am

    My advice, as it was briefly explained n the forum, is to talk to your husband? He wanted an open relationship too, & I think you two need to analyze *together* why you thought that’d be a good thing for your marriage. Why did he become jealous, if he had been game before? Was he able to pursue his own outside relationships? Was the jealousy not so much possessiveness of you, but envy that you attained something he wanted also (if he hasn’t been able to purse other relationships on his own)?

    Not saying any of these suggestions are the likely truth—just saying you should expand the scope of improving your marriage; don’t make it all about your “mistakes” & his forgiveness. You’re in this together, so talk about things in order to figure out what’s lacking in your relationship. Get to the root of the problem, & figure out if it’s workable, or if it’s better to MOA.

  • avatar lets_be_honest December 5, 2013, 9:46 am

    So you finally started to feel stable, like this was a good relationship (after seeming to really struggle for a long time) and that was when it made sense to add other people? I guess I don’t get this logic.

    GREAT advice by Wendy.

    • avatar lets_be_honest December 5, 2013, 9:51 am

      btw, I’ve had like half a dozen dreams about carrying on an affair this week. What’s up with that?!

      • Fabelle Fabelle December 5, 2013, 10:01 am

        YO ME TOO. And it’s been with ~really~ inappropriate people??

      • avatar bethany December 5, 2013, 10:01 am

        I blame it on the holidays?

      • avatar Morgan December 5, 2013, 1:05 pm

        Weird, me too…

        I think it was because the bf was out of town for the past week, and I both missed him and was annoyed with him over some stuff. And all the guys in the dreams were college flings, so it’s easy for my brain (hey there, parallel with the LW!) to kind of romanticize what those “relationships” were like, but hey, that hottie who played rugby never had to pay rent or do the dishes, you know?

      • avatar something random December 5, 2013, 1:12 pm

        I had two horrible nightmare about being raped. My anxiety majorly flares up this time of year so I think that might be it? I’m not the best at interpreting dreams but it does seem like the time of year where people want to get things that don’t think they should or can afford.

  • avatar lemongrass December 5, 2013, 10:01 am

    Honestly, this is insulting to marriage. Not the open part, but feeling “emotionally mute” on your wedding day? Why the hell would you go through with it? Do those words mean nothing to you, and if so why would it be so important to get married then? If you are old enough to get married then you are old enough to understand the gravity of what those vows mean and to get married when you aren’t completely emotionally invested in your partner is a lie to him, yourself and marriage.

    You need to figure out what you want. Do you want be with your husband and only your husband for the rest of your life? Be fair to him, if you don’t want to continue your marriage then you are leading him on and that is wrong. If you do want to be with him then it will be a lot of work dissecting the past and why the dynamics of your relationship have lead to where you are now as well as figuring out why you have made the choices that you have.

    • theattack theattack December 5, 2013, 10:03 am

      Yes yes yes! Especially your first paragraph.

  • katie katie December 5, 2013, 10:08 am

    i dont think this issue has anything to do with other people and the open or not open-ness of your marriage, or marriage in general. the other guy is just a symptom of the much, much larger problem… your marriage sucks. it just does. you married under really bad circumstances, had a shitty relationship before that, and you dont even have a solid foundation of anything that makes up a good relationship (trust, communication, respect, maturity, autonomy, ect)…

    i dont know what you need to do. listen to wendy for starters. but you are going to have to do a complete re-boot on this, i think, whether with or without your husband. you need a total do over.

  • avatar something random December 5, 2013, 10:23 am

    Awesome advice, Wendy. I’ve nothing to add.

  • avatar thatgirl December 5, 2013, 10:56 am

    LW, it doesn’t sound like you were really ready for marriage. Therapy all the way. Figure out what you need to fulfill yourself first.

  • avatar cdobbs December 5, 2013, 10:57 am

    this letter made me sad…..it seems like more and more the chance of meeting someone and staying in a committed relationship between two people just isn’t realistic….can you love two people at once? wouldn’t you love one more than the other? i don’t know….i’ve always entered into relationships with the intent of it being two people….once someone else entered the picture i would end it (this is just my opinion)….i don’t think i would be capable of being in an open relationship….i think if it came to that point i would just move on…..but i don’t know what is worse serial monogamy in relationships that end….or finding someone to spend the rest of your life with, but knowing that you will have to share them with someone else…..wow, i’m sad :(

    • Stonegypsy Stonegypsy December 5, 2013, 11:51 am

      Opening yourself up to love more than one person isn’t for everyone, but for me personally, I feel like I’m able to love each individual more completely because I feel less limited. Some folks aren’t comfortable with that, which is understandable, but I couldn’t imagine not sharing myself with all of the people I love, and denying feelings for other people in an attempt to conform to someone else’s definition of commitment sounds a little bit like a prison.
      I married my husband because I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life with anyone else, and we make a freaking amazing team. But I loved my other partner, too (before we broke up) and I feel like that addition just made my life with my husband better.
      Like I said, not for everyone, but neither is your definition of commitment

      • Stonegypsy Stonegypsy December 5, 2013, 11:53 am

        That being said, I don’t think the LWs relationship was nearly stable or happy enough to have opened it up. I’d say it was a recipe for disaster, but I think it probably was even without the opening of the marriage.

    • avatar something random December 5, 2013, 12:41 pm

      Life is work. Balance is work. Relationships are work. I absolutely believe two people can find each other and commit their lives to each other (I believe I have). I think the strongest chances of success come from finding someone who’s deepest desires and core values are compatible with your own. But everybody has desires that ebb and flow. No relationship is immutable and every single one requires a willingness to adapt and compromise. I think it is unrealistic to think of relationships as fixed states or a concluded “success”. I think they can feel that way when you have find a good balance but at some point that balance will be tested. Commitment, communication, and creativity will be required to get back in balance. And for a lot of people that will require too much work for the payoff. This does not mean the relationship wasn’t a success only that it reached a point where it no longer worked. But I think many people who at their core want the same the thing and are willing to move every stone to live out their vision have a good chance of finding deep fulfillment and yielding much fruit in a life-long commitment. This letter writer did not seem to have adequate trust or a good balance coming into her marriage.

  • avatar today628 December 5, 2013, 1:10 pm

    I appreciate the advice from Wendy and all of you. My original post in the forum explained that I actually do want to fix things with my husband, because despite all of the conclusions and judgements that I’m reading here, we did have a good relationship for the majority of the time we’ve been together. Neither I nor anyone who knows us would consider my life or my marriage a mess–we are both professionals, emotionally stable and generally happy people with similar goals. Like everyone else, we experience problems and road blocks, and as we met in college when we were still basically kids (I was only 20) and were in grad school for the first three years, they were often due to immaturity and lack of money.

    The cheating at the beginning of our relationship was in fact cheating–he presented himself to me as a single guy when he was still involved (sexually) with an ex, and although we hadn’t said we were “officially” boyfriend and girlfriend (not labeling it was his idea, because he didn’t want anyone to find out what he was doing), we’d agreed to be exclusive and were already together for a few months (during which he was lying to me about where he was and what he was doing) when I found out about the other girl. I broke up with him for a few months and eventually we got back together, and I get that people think it’s overreacting to call that cheating when it was so early on, but he did lie and it caused me to feel a lot of anxiety about learning to trust him again. Looking back, I realize that it was silly to get so worked up when we were still so young and it was so early in the relationship, but that was how I felt at the time.

    Over the course of the first year, we really fixed things but then we had to deal with the money issues because he grew up poor and had no idea how to save and budget–moving in together was a financial decision at first rather than an emotional one, because we had both already enrolled in school and couldn’t afford to live alone. Once we adjusted, the next few years after that we really great, despite the fact that I felt shut out at times because he tends to withdraw when he feels stressed or upset, which happened a lot as he was in med school. I wanted to marry him for genuine reasons, and he always said that he wanted to marry me and have a life together. It was just the timing that we disagreed about–we’d graduated and gotten jobs and he mainly wanted to wait because he wanted to spend the money we’d pay for a wedding and honeymoon on cars and vacations and electronics for two or three more years because he’d never had money to spend on himself before, and I felt that he was minimizing my desires for the future so that he could maintain his financial independence. In the end, I told him that he needed to choose one or the other because I wasn’t willing to wait and end up like all these women who are wringing their hands and waiting for their boyfriends to propose ten years later. I never questioned whether he actually wanted to marry me or spend his life with me, I just felt that if I left it up to him, he’d propose whenever he got around to it and I wanted a more immediate commitment, both because of our families and because I actually hold similar values myself. I agree now that it would have been better to wait, because then I probably wouldn’t have felt disappointed when it finally happened. I believe in our marriage and in marriage in general, which is why I’m not quitting just because I feel weird right now.

    Opening our relationship was a mutual decision, and although my husband pursued his own stuff outside of our marriage, he never became emotionally involved. I was not surprised by the fact that I could love more than one person, but by the depth of my feelings for this other person and the fear that I might not feel that way about my husband. I always knew there was a strong possibility of developing feelings, but I thought I’d be able to create distance or end the agreement if it began to go in that direction, as was the agreement with my husband–we both obviously really overestimated my ability to do that. I also mentioned in my original post that I have no intention of continuing to experiment with this lifestyle and that my main focus is on reviving my marriage, but we never had any immediate plans for kids–we just know we want to have them in the next few years, so that’s not on the table right now regardless of this issue. I’m already looking into counseling options, and I’m really grateful for all the encouragement to stop idealizing this other guy, because I know that’s what I need to do.

  • avatar Morgan December 5, 2013, 1:36 pm

    “The cheating at the beginning of our relationship was in fact cheating–he presented himself to me as a single guy when he was still involved (sexually) with an ex, and although we hadn’t said we were “officially” boyfriend and girlfriend (not labeling it was his idea, because he didn’t want anyone to find out what he was doing), we’d agreed to be exclusive and were already together for a few months (during which he was lying to me about where he was and what he was doing) when I found out about the other girl. ”

    I want to comment on this, not to call you out or dispute your account or anything, but because I found it interesting and it kind of got me thinking. If you had agreed to exclusivity sexually, and he was still sleeping with her, then yes, that’s absolutely cheating. So in that respect I take no beef with your calling it cheating, and that clears up some of the conversation above.

    It’s the other part I found interesting. You said “The cheating at the beginning of our relationship was in fact cheating–he presented himself to me as a single guy when he was still involved (sexually) with an ex, ” That was very odd to me. If they were no longer in a relationship, then he was in fact, single. Lots of single people have sex. Lots of newly single people continue to have sex with their exes because breakups are hard and messy. So to me, if a guy told me he was single, that would mean he wasn’t in a relationship. Not that he didn’t have a fwb, not that he didn’t have a one night stand last weekend, whatever. And those things are still fair game until sexual exclusivity is established. Anyway, there wasn’t really a point to that, I just though “he was single but they were having sex” was an interesting way of looking at things, and maybe goes hand in hand with your naivety about relationships in general at that time in your life.

    • avatar lets_be_honest December 5, 2013, 1:40 pm

      Eh, if a guy told me he was single, I would assume SINGLE, not “I’m still processing my recent breakup via sleeping with my ex all the time.”

      • avatar Morgan December 5, 2013, 2:47 pm

        Oh, emotionally unavailable for a healthy relationship, absolutely. But I’d still call it single.

        • avatar lets_be_honest December 5, 2013, 2:48 pm

          I guess technically you’re right, I just totally would be pissed off or whatever if someone said they were single but they were still in the middle of a breakup/still sleeping with their recent ex. I guess its not cheating, but its not exactly single either?

    • avatar today628 December 5, 2013, 2:29 pm

      I don’t know–I think that’s pretty clear cut. Maybe he could have gotten away with it right at the beginning because as you said, there’s no expectation of his not having had sex recently or even up until the “what are we?” conversation, but he carried on talking to her, seeing her and lying to me about what he was doing until almost four months in, long after we had discussed being exclusive (in every sense). We just hadn’t come out and said to everyone “We’re boyfriend and girlfriend,” and considered it more to be dating exclusively–but I think the expectation that the other person isn’t leaving a date to go and sleep with an ex is pretty much explicit even at that early point. He expressed a lot of remorse to me and all involved (her family, my family, our mutual friends) afterwards and has been very transparent with me ever since–I’ve never suspected him of anything since those early days and I feel secure that he has and will continue to stick to our definition of fidelity, even though I’m the one who broke it this time.

      • avatar Morgan December 5, 2013, 2:43 pm

        I’m confused. I said “If you had agreed to exclusivity sexually, and he was still sleeping with her, then yes, that’s absolutely cheating. So in that respect I take no beef with your calling it cheating, and that clears up some of the conversation above.” So I agree, it was cheating. The saying he wasn’t single when they met because he was having casual sex was what I took issue with.

      • avatar Morgan December 5, 2013, 2:43 pm

        I’m confused. I said “If you had agreed to exclusivity sexually, and he was still sleeping with her, then yes, that’s absolutely cheating. So in that respect I take no beef with your calling it cheating, and that clears up some of the conversation above.” So I agree, it was cheating. The saying he wasn’t single when you met because he was having casual sex was what I took issue with.

    • katie katie December 5, 2013, 2:42 pm

      yea, i mean, single does not mean celibate. marital/relationship status and sexual status are two completely different things.

  • avatar tbrucemom December 5, 2013, 1:58 pm

    I will never understand how someone can be married and be in a open relationship. I get it if you’re not married, but isn’t being married the definition of only being with each other? Also if they had a good sexual relationship and were as close as they ever had been why the need to add other people? I think those they want to open up their relationship are missing something and need to figure out what that is and not get others involved in the drama. If you can’t make it work then MOA and then be with other people. I guess I’m just an old fart….

    • avatar SasLinna December 5, 2013, 2:05 pm

      There is such a thing as open marriage and even some old farts do it…

    • katie katie December 5, 2013, 2:40 pm

      eh, legal marriage is a legal contract connecting two people. it really has nothing to do with love, or only being with one person, bla bla bla. we attach those emotions to it, sure. if you are religious, you attach other attributes, ect. but at its root, thats all it is. two people can be married and have no love for one another and have full time, full blown relationships with other people. people get married for inheritance and for green cards and stuff.. the two things arent necessarily connected, even though thats the picture of marriage most of us have in our heads

    • avatar zombeyonce December 6, 2013, 12:28 pm

      I am in an open marriage and there’s nothing missing my from relationship with my husband. Not to pick on monogamous relationships, but I feel like we communicate better than people in closed marriages if only for the reason that we have to to ensure we’re doing well. There’s constant checking in to make sure all is well and that everyone is happy with the situation.

      To have an open relationship that works, you have to communicate often and deeply about your feelings for each other and other people. Being incredibly honest about how something makes you feel (it can feel like therapy sometimes but it’s necessary) saves all the drama you mention.

      My relationships with people outside of my marriage have nothing to do with my marriage; I’m not non-monogamous just to “get others involved in the drama”.

  • kare kare December 5, 2013, 2:00 pm

    I see this whole thing as “you can’t have your cake and eat it too just because the grass is greener on the other side”.

    Also, pleasing family members or saving money is never the reason to live together, marry, or make any major relationship changes.

  • Jess Jess December 5, 2013, 2:27 pm

    I know that open relationships work for some people and I get the reasons why its appealing and that there are ground rules. I’ve read every DW article and comment related to it and always study them closely with the hope of understanding.

    But, for me, this story is an illustration of why it would never work for someone like me. Putting the poor marriage history aside (which, I know, makes it a different kettle of fish), the idea of being able to sleep with others and not develop feelings is just ludicrous for a heart that works like mine. Although there is that rare exception, in general, I don’t want to sleep with someone if there isn’t some kind of emotional connection. That, and I just don’t have a strong enough sex drive to want more options in my life!

    • avatar SasLinna December 5, 2013, 2:46 pm

      Hmm, I think for people who are in open relationships, the way to manage them often isn’t to put limits on feelings per se, but to structure relationships a certain way. For example, the rule might be to only meet a secondary partner so-and-so often, or to be ready to end a secondary relationship if it starts to negatively affect the primary relationship. Obviously this doesn’t mean that no one will ever leave their primary partner for a secondary one, but I do think you can sort of set up relationships a specific way if you’re intent on it. It just takes a lot of self-awareness and self-control. For example, you need to be able not to succumb to the “sparkle” of a new, exciting connection and forget about the other partners during that time. I guess what I’m saying is that successful poly people are very good at managing this stuff.

      • Stonegypsy Stonegypsy December 5, 2013, 3:12 pm

        Yeah, there are certain couples who have a “no emotional attachment” rule, and the way that works is that you tell your partner if you’re developing feelings for someone else and work out where to go from there (whether that means ending the secondary relationship entirely or just changing the rules). But the trick is, as with most relationships, that it requires complete, unbridled honesty with all partners involved, especially the primary partner (though not all poly relationships have ‘primary’ partners).
        It’s just constant communication, and if you can’t do that before the relationship is opened, it’ll crash and burn after.

      • avatar zombeyonce December 6, 2013, 12:34 pm

        That’s exactly it: people in successful open relationships understand that you can’t control feelings for other people and you have to plan around that understanding.

        I’m surprised that LW put that limit on her relationship of being allowed to have sex but not develop feelings. How many letters have we seen from other women that go into an FWB relationship promising they don’t want a boyfriend, then writing to Wendy asking how they can get their FWB to be their boyfriend? We should all know better than this by know.

  • barleystonks barleystonks December 6, 2013, 12:04 pm

    So (if anyone makes it down this far) this is my general comment on open marriages:

    Personally, in my (not currently active but past) open marriage, emotional involvement isn’t a problem- this is the rule offered by my husband, and I agree. Falling in love with another man or woman isn’t any more an issue than having a bestest bestest friend. It’s only when the other relationship starts coming BEFORE the primary (or married) one that it’s a problem. While I’m certainly able to see how that could eventually create more problems- if it got to the point that it DOES get in the way of the primary, talk about serioius pain and conflict- it hasn’t really been that way for us. At least on my part, I was heavily infatuated with one of my girlfriends and the breakup was devastating. But it didn’t really give my husband pause because we make an active effort each day to make each other a priority.

    That being said, I also knew better than to (re)start something with an ex- FWB+ who is in a similarly open situation because it could get far too messy.

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