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She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
My wife wants to try a polyamorous relationship, and I don’t.
So my wife and I have been married for three years now we have a two-year-old daughter. Since before we got together, she says she has been thinking about this and had continued to think about it when we started dating and after we got married.
A while back, I had opened up to her that I feel I might be trans.
She has been very supportive as I try to figure myself out. She is now comparing her situation with mine.
I love my wife with all my heart, and I love our family. I just can’t seem to bring myself to be okay with this right now. I told her to give me time to think about it. I’m trying to see the good about it all but also want time to see what the bad could be.
Thinking about the fact that she would be out having sex with some guy, then coming home to me is not okay with me.
She goes to school in the mornings, and I work evenings. We don't get to see each other much as is. So when I have a day off, and she's not in a class, I like to be able to spend that time together. I also don't think I'm okay with having our daughter around someone else.
I mean, I do feel like I'm lacking an emotional connection with her since we are so busy all the time. But I'm trying as hard as I can. I can’t take the possibility of our child lacking any emotional connection with either of her mothers. She tells me every time we talk about it that I'm not supporting her.
I need advice.
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I get variations of the polyamory question quite frequently. And it’s invariably some version of one partner wanting to open the marriage up to polyamory and one partner wanting to remain monogamous. Neither of you is wrong for what you want out of the relationship. But I think you need to be clear with one another about expectations and boundaries.
Before opening up your relationship, the two of you need to agree on what that looks like.
There is a difference between polyamory and an open relationship. While they are both consensual forms of non-monogamy, there is a difference. Generally speaking, an open relationship implies a primary relationship (as in you and your wife) that allows for sex outside of that relationship. Polyamory is usually defined as having more than one romantic relationship at the same time.
These are two very different scenarios. It’s not entirely clear to me from your email which type of non-monogamy your wife is interested in pursuing. But, it doesn’t sound like you’re ready to take that leap either way.
What won’t work is you acquiescing to something that feels wrong for you.
In your email, you mentioned that you wouldn’t be okay with her having sex with some guy and then coming home to you, nor would you be okay with having your daughter introduced to another partner. You have your answer right there; this is not something you want to participate in, at least not today.
Your wife compared her situation to you grappling with your identity as possibly being trans. While it may be an unfair comparison, it sounds like what she is struggling with is monogamy and perhaps her identity as a wife. At the same time, being supportive of her doesn’t mean you shelve your own very valid feelings.
Before any changes to the marriage occur, I strongly suggest seeking the guidance of a therapist. Ideally, you would do so individually and as a couple. I think you need the time and space to work out your feelings of possibly being trans as well as what you want and need from your relationship, as well as what you can give.
While it can be scary to get honest about your needs and boundaries, it is essential for your relationship to survive and thrive.
Neither of you is going to be happy pretending in your relationship. I am hopeful that with honest and open communication, you can arrive in a place of understanding, one that will lead you to take the right next steps, either together or separately. I hope that you can work things out, especially as you have a child together. That said, life is too short to remain in a marriage pretending that you’re okay with an arrangement that is actually making you miserable. If you find yourself at an impasse, honor your feelings.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Pink Tourmaline, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my newsletter, which contains a behind-the-scenes look at STRUNG OUT and the publishing process, exclusive extras and book giveaways only for newsletter subscribers, recommendations to get you through the week, extra Ask Erin content, and more… XOXO