Advice – My wife is dating someone who is in a rocky marriage.

My wife has been seeing someone for a couple of months and she really seems to like him. In getting to know each other, he has let it slip that he and his partner are currently working with marriage counselors and therapists to get through a few of their past mistakes. Until recently, he told my wife that they are currently separated but he still wants to talk and go out with her. Everything I’m reading is telling me how difficult it is for everyone in the situation. She is leaving it up to him on deciding to continue. Is it normal to continue dating even with something as bad as a separation? We have always said we stop dating if we aren’t in a good place. I think my fears are her bringing that toxicity into our house. Either through increased anxiety or stress etc. She says if she sees anything like that starting she will end it immediately.

Porter Francis, Reddit.
Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

Dear Porter,

Your feelings of fear and of the unknown are very apparent. It sounds like you sense the potential turbulence in your metamour’s marriage deeply affecting your wife, and subsequently affecting your marriage as well. Those are valid feelings and concerns, and we will spend some time in this post unpacking the true source of those concerns and what you and your wife can do to alleviate those feelings, individually and collectively.

Let’s first distinguish the different relationships. There are three different relationships in your current polycule as you described: the relationship between you and your wife, the relationship between your wife and your metamour, and the relationship between your metamour and his wife. And in those three different relationships, there are two hinges: your wife and your metamour. The distinction between the different relationships and how each of them function in relation with and isolation from each other is a really important concept in polyamory.

In this column, I have repeatedly upheld that the hinge partners are responsible for facilitating theirm multiple relationships. That means that the hinges are responsible for managing any inter-relational conflicts, smoothing transitional inflection points, and upholding the relevant boundaries & agreements. Even the most experienced hinge partners will find it impossible to completely compartmentalize struggles in one relationship from bleeding over in their other relationships. While complete isolation from drama is impossible, a mindful filtration is not only possible, it is also functionally necessary for long-term success in polyamory.

We have to use our own experiences to measure the world at large.

Consider how your own personal worldview colors your assessment of external relationships. It could be that you have had some very dysfunctional relationship with relationship therapy or counseling that has shaped how you are envisioning your metamour’s separation process. But it is not always the case that therapy is a premonition of failure. In a way, going to therapy is a lot like going to a gym. You get to work out any kinks in your form, strengthen your core, and become more durable in the process. Going to therapy or counseling is a good thing for them because they are taking an active measure and interest in improving their relationship together, even if their marriage does not survive.

It is true that most separation / divorce process is going to be difficult. As someone with a partner going through a divorce, I can personally attest to how challenging it will be for both your metamour and your wife. But she is the one who is in that relationship with your metamour, and is the one that will be doing the emotional labor associated with supporting her partner through the separation and divorce. Not you.

On a first date with one of my former partners, my former partner and I talked at length about how the main challenge of polyamory lies in that you are also dating circumstances. You don’t just get to date the person you are interested in. You also have to welcome their existing agreements, their polycule status, and their extended relational worldview. So take that into consideration that when you are actively choosing to date your wife, you also have to take her poly happenstance into consideration… in the same way that she is doing her partner’s.

Instead of allowing your fears to hold you hostage, take this as an opportunity to connect deeper with your partner.

Instead of saying “I don’t think he should be dating while going through a separation process”, say “I am afraid that your relationship with your other partner might bring emotional baggage into our relationship.” And dig deeper and flesh out what that “toxicity” might look like. Have a dialogue about how you and your wife can each develop your own respective coping mechanisms to ensure that your own marriage isn’t too disturbed by the transition that is taking place in her partner’s life.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – How can I support my boyfriend through a big life change?

My (32f) boyfriend (34m) just had a bomb dropped on him by his wife (38f) of 10 years. She confessed that she doesn’t love him anymore, not like she used to. She doesn’t yet know what she wants to do, and he’s terrified. He doesn’t have any family here in the US, he emigrated here to be with her, and all his friends are her friends too. I’ve made it abundantly clear that I will support him in any way I can, even going as far as letting him move into my spare room if need be even though I’ve only been seeing him for 2 months.

Anybody have any advice on helping him through this? I’ve helped partners through breakups before but never something this heavy before. I’m feeling really apprehensive about everything, but I’m also feeling very protective of him and I want to be as much help as I can.

/u/BomberBootBabe88, Reddit.

Dear Bomber Boot Babe,

Your boyfriend is going through a tremendous relational traumatic experience in his decade-long relationship with his wife falling apart.

There is something even more terrifying in the uncertainty of what she will do next once she figures out her next steps whether that is a drawn-out divorce process or mutual efforts to rekindle their marriage. And the most challenging part of all this is that from what you have shared, what happens in their marriage appears completely out of your boyfriend’s control. That precise lack of control (or even ability to scope out what his next several months could look like) is further compounded by his lack of support network here in the States – other than his relationship with you.

That lack of scope and inability to anticipate also applies to your own future as well. Helping a partner through any kind of trauma can be a very draining experience for the supportive partner, especially if you are still romantically engaged with the person resolving trauma.

Two months is not a long time to get to know someone. While the decision to offer your spare room to your boyfriend came from a place of deep compassion and empathy, it is possible that you might want to think more about what that could look like. Is it a temporary offer for while he resolves separation and divorce? Or is it a semi-permanent offer for until he can get back on his own two feet? If he does decide to take you up on the offer to live together, what does that mean for both of you?

In short, what does your support entail?

Let’s talk more about the different divergent paths.

There is three likely possibilities in the current situation, not directly accounting for any changes to your relationship with him.

First is that they decide work on their relationship together. Whether that is through couple’s counseling or through individual therapy, they will each need to work on why and how they became so disconnected in their respective experiences within their relationship. That is most likely to impact your relationship with him in the amount of energy he has available to be present in his distinct relationship with you. If he is already sharing with you about the types of intimate conflicts he has with his wife, then I would guess that he already struggles with compartmentalizing relationship experiences between different relationships. As such, you will get more exposure into why their relationship has struggled as he struggles to selectively filter information that is both honest and compassionate to you.

Another more drastic option is that they decide to separate and pursue a formal divorce process. Divorce in most US states take months (if not years) and thousands of dollars in legal fees to just to get to the settlement point. Your boyfriend will likely experience significant grief and loss in his discordant past and unrealized future with his now-ex-wife. And even if the divorce itself is finalized, it could be possible that he might struggle to be in a healthy mental headspace to be a good partner to you (or anyone else). Even if we assume that he was on the same page as his wife about the end of their marriage together, you can’t just wipe away a ten-year history with another with a penstroke. He’ll have to find his footing on his own, even if you are there for the initial support to help him get back on his feet. One thing to keep in mind is that polyamorous relationships are not recognized in the court of law. Many courts do not look kindly upon a divorcing partner residing with their other partner while the divorce is being finalized, and his living with you will definitively negatively impact his divorce proceeding.

The third option is that they stay married but de-escalate. This option is the most likely if they already have kids but lack the financial reserves to go through an official divorce process. This means, that he’ll have to continue to encounter his partner in close encounter while still passing as a loving couple in front of all others, especially so in front of his kids. That is an immense emotional labor to undertake, especially so since this wouldn’t be his decision, but a decision his wife would have thrust upon him. Like the first two options, he’ll have a lot less emotional capital available here as he’ll have to compartmentalize and manage his grief and loss.

Regardless of what happens, it is important for you to keep supporting yourself.

It can be very easy to fall into codependent habits when supporting a grieving partner. And the best way to ground yourself in reality is to take care of yourself and make sure that you are in a place of mind to be able to support someone else.

That could mean regularly checking in with yourself to see if you have the support necessary to be able to support another. If you are dating anyone other than this particular boyfriend, you are going to have to creatively carve out spaces that are entirely your own. If you decide or realize that you cannot support your partner, the best thing you can do is to be honest with him about the support you can no longer provide. Doing anything less than that is dishonest.

If he decides to move in with you, you two should have a very honest conversation about what that means for each of you, and what your respective expectations are going to be. Setting a timeline will be a must.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – Open marriage problems.

“My partner and I have been together for 15 years and married for 13. We opened up our marriage four years ago. She has been with several men and I have not been with other women other than threesomes that included my wife. I have attempted to date other women but have not had success, partially because it is not something I really need.

Throughout these four years I have really struggled with jealousy. This past year I have broken my jealousy down into my emotions underneath and tried to walk through the door and change. But I have recently realized that the change I was trying to make was for her and not for me. Realizing this I have decided to stay monogamous. Becoming non-monogamous / polyamorous is not something I am capable of. I have tried my hardest and it is just not me.

This week I told my wife that I cannot be non-monogamous and it did not go well. She called me a liar and that she knew all along this was going to be the result. She is not speaking to me at the moment, which I probably deserve. This past four years I thought I could become something I am not and kept trying and trying. She is very upset and I believe she feels like she has to choose between being with me or not being with me.

We have two children, a beautiful house, a dog, lots of toys and we both love our life together.

Please advise.”

– Anonymous

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

Dear Anonymous,

You’ve given non-monogamy your best shot. You tried dating (and it is difficult for men to date non-monogamously). And you’ve done your emotional labor by breaking down jealousy into smaller, more digestible chunks. Ultimately, it is just not something you’re all that interested in. So it is obvious that you are not going to have non-monogamous encounters of your own. You tried your best.

Your experience does not mean that your wife has to stop exploring non-monogamous relationships of her own. In your post, you’ve shared how destructive jealousy has been for you. In your post, I sense that you’ve not only ruled out non-monogamy for yourself, but also partaking or even hearing about her non-monogamous relationships as well.

Your wife’s subsequent reaction makes emotional sense. In a way, you’ve consented to non-monogamy for the past four years. And she might feel like she has been lied to for the past four years with your sudden retraction of consent. Her pain is understandable. But maybe we all need to step away from that absolute reading of consent.

You didn’t just consent to having a non-monogamous relationship for perpetuity. Your consent was proactive and continuous. You are perfectly within your own rights to revisit an agreement you’ve made in the past in the face of ongoing changes and new developments, just like your wife is perfectly within her own rights to feel upset.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Now you and your wife are standing at an impasse.

Especially since the divorce is completely off the table, I would strongly advise some couple’s counseling for you and your wife. There is a lot of flesh out here that I don’t have personal insight to. I would also strongly advise some individual therapy for you as well. In your post I sense some really deep self-critique that cuts a bit too deep. The safe confines of a therapist’s office will help you analyze that wound and learn to heal yourself more effectively.

Separation might be a prudent option considering the circumstances. If you have a separate third or fourth bedroom to stay in, giving some space for not only you but your wife to grieve the reality trajectory she has lived in for the past four years will be necessary for these next steps. Think of this as both you and your wife experiencing a loss. A loss of this version of future together, as you might have experienced in the past four years of your non-mono experience together. And she is distinctly feeling the gap between the reality you are suggesting and the reality she lived in. And that might be what she is feeling when you suggest she might be deciding whether to be with or not with you anymore; with your aligned visions or living separate realities apart.

I strongly advise against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policies for the simple sake of your own sanity. That is not going to help with your sanity or managing your jealousy. You and your wife already nest together. For her to live a life that is completely separate and distinct from the one she shares with you will continue to drive a gap between you two. Even if you both decide that the romantic/sexual aspects of your marriage is no longer viable, continue to mindfully engage with each other for the sake of scheduling. Parenting is already difficult enough with two fully on-board parents.

Photo by Amber Lamoreaux on Pexels.com

As a father, I can also understand how the end of this phase of your marriage could affect your children. You didn’t say how old your children are. But I’m guessing based on how long you and your wife have been together that your children are not quite teenagers yet. And I’m also assuming that you are not fully out to your children as non-monogamous either. It is far too early to fully embrace or understand that their parents’ marriage is not perfect. And while kids are resilient, you and your wife need to set some priorities and regarding the safety and security of your parenthood together even if your romantic future has ended. They’ll quickly sense that things are different when the mood and environment changes are apparent. So while you can’t shield them completely from this new transition of your marriage, you and your wife can start preparing to best frame this new transition in the ways that doesn’t threaten your children’s livelihood. So think about and at least proactively align what you’ll tell your kids about why you’re suddenly sleeping in the spare room.

I am really sorry that you are going through this. I feel for you who have to be the bearer of bad news. I feel for your wife who feels like her rug has been pulled from underneath her. I feel for your kids who are about to experience some major turbulence in their home. I even feel for your pup who will have to adapt to new changes as well.

Someone at some point in time told me that blood bond in family is resilient. Through time and time again, I’ve questioned why that was so. It was in the past couple months that I’ve realized that your family is what you make it out to be, not who you share your blood with. But in your experience, why not have that chosen family also be the one you share blood with? What can you and your wife accept and compromise from your current positions to choose to remain as a family together?

Good luck.

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – I feel bitterness over my ex-wife’s happiness.

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

/u/annoymousdad14726 on /r/relationship_advice writes…

“It all started 5 years ago. Our relationship had been going downhill for some time, I’ll leave it at that. We were living together, but our sex life was nonexistent and we barely talked as their always seemed to be some tension building from previous arguments. One day, my wife suddenly told me she was planning on filing for divorce. I was shocked. I knew she was just as miserable as I was, but if anything, my wife was always the one who was going to ‘wait out’ the marriage or hope for a revival in our relationship.

The divorce was finalized rather quickly, we got joint custody of our four kids and everything was handled rather professionally. It wasn’t until a few months later that I learned that my ex had a new man. I happened to know the new guy because he was one of my oldest sons friends. At the time I found out they were dating, my wife was 43 years old and he was 18.

This is where is gets even more weird and disturbing. He graduated high school in 2015 and proposed to her a week later. They got married in September of that same year. Since then, they have had three daughters together. She is now 47 and he is 23. We continue to share joint custody of our 4 kids.

My younger two children talk very highly of the guy and it sucks because I cannot talk bad about him or question their line of thinking or else I could be taken back to court by my ex. My older two kids are more neutral on the whole situation. My older daughter doesn’t seem his as a ‘father figure’ but more as a friend. My oldest son graduated a year after his ‘stepdad’ and moved out immediately. I have been able to have raw conversations with him about everything since he is no longer a minor. He has told me that it disturbs him, but that the new guy truly cares and loves his mother.

It makes me disgusted to know their mother and this guy are brainwashing MY children into thinking he is this saint who came in to fill the role of stepdad/husband to my ex. I’ve thought about going back to court, but my attorney has advised me that we will likely get no where and it will do me more harm than good.

Fair to say life has sucked for me the past few years. I myself have not had an actual girlfriend since the split. I see my ex and the new guy every week I drop my kids off for parental exchange. My ex seems so happy nowadays and part of it makes me miss being married to her and having our family all under one roof.

It sucks being the miserable loner parent while my wife and her new flame are the fun and happy couple. I wish it had never come to this but there’s not much I can do now. I know it sounds terrible but I often hope their relationship fails just so my ex can get a taste of what I’ve felt for the past 5 years while she’s been out having the time of her life.

How do I stop feeling down about myself? Am I supposed to just accept that my wife married a guy that much younger than her and just be ok with it? Do I have a right to be angry?”

Photo by Louis on Pexels.com

Dear Annoymousdad14726,

There is a lot of pain in this post. It is steeped in bitter resentment towards your ex-wife for the end of your marriage. It is spiked with disdain for their new relationship. And it is brimming with misunderstanding and discontent. I really feel for your deep pain and sense of longing for part of the fatherhood and partnership that you’ve lost in the divorce process. Divorce has so clearly shaped your life and continues to define your motivation and intention going forward.

Let’s get the two most difficult discussions out of the way.

One. It does not matter what kind of relationship your ex-wife has with her new husband. Yeah. It is really weird that your kids’ stepfather is your oldest kid’s friend. The age gap alone would have raised some eyebrows. And the obvious undertones and circumstances surrounding how your ex-wife’s new husband entered her life and your kids’ lives is not very pleasant to look at. However, this relationships is not yours to pass judgment on. Your ex-wife is an adult and she can choose to follow through in any relationships she wants. Even if you personally feel that this is a mistake for your kids, it’s a decision your ex-wife and her new husband made organically and conscientiously. It has been five years since they’ve met and the feedback you’ve gathered from your shared children have all indicated that while they also feel that it’s weird your ex-wife’s new husband is doing a great job. All the evidence is there to support that they make a good team. Five years is a long time to come to accept that their relationship is as legitimate as any can be, regardless of happenstance or age gap.

Also. Your ex-wife and her new husband are not brainwashing your kid. Like your lawyer said, there is no basis here to believe that there is any sort of foul play going on. Your ex-wife’s new husband came into a really difficult situation and have clearly displayed maturity beyond his age that he can be a capable father figure to your kids. Some of your kids are now adults and can make decisions for themselves on whether they want to continue pursuing a relationship with their new stepfather. Please understand that some of these projections that you are placing upon your ex-wife and her new husbands stem from your innate insecurity, jealousy, and bitterness that stem from long before the divorce.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

Others have already suggested therapy, and that is an advice I would echo here as well. There is an immense amount of pain, regret, and resentment that have been festering beneath the surface for the past five years following your divorce. Understand that you were a participant in the dissolution of your marriage and accept that there were plenty of blames and flaws to go around. Instead of choosing to focus on whether or not your kids are being raised correctly in your ex-wife’s care, why not focus a bit more on being the best dad you can be to your own kids? Choose to be happy for your wife’s happiness instead. It is hard enough to find one other person to trust to raise your kids with. Your ex-wife was lucky to find another. There is too much life and our time on this brilliant planet is far too short for us to engage with malicious intent.

When was the last time you sat down with a cup of tea and thought about your own place in this wild, crazy world?

Good luck.

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!