Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sharing Love, Embracing Change, and Telling the REAL Truth (Even When It's Scary)

Dear Viny,

Not too long ago I came out of a chilly, depressed, years-long sexual drought in my marriage, reclaimed my sexuality, and flew straight into the poly sun. It was a wild, crazy, blazing, and challenging time. And absolutely the right thing to do. Although my husband is deeply monogamous and has NO libido (while I'm poly with high libido), in the end we decided to stay married, raise our children together, and keep the marriage open for my benefit. We still function quite well as a family. He's my best friend. But we're NOT lovers.

I started dating a man a while back and now we're in love. Not lust. Not infatuation. Love. Profound, beautiful, partnership love. My husband suspects that the relationship is significant. He's asked me where it's going. I've told him the truth: I don't know. But I've not yet shared the extent of the relationship with him. His knowing won't change our lives in any way. My lover and I are content with what we have – we have no need to define and/or label it, no need to establish goals for the future. We're just taking it one step at a time, two people with very busy lives. We both believe in non-monogamy even though we're both only interested in seeing each other right now. We definitely don't want to get married or anything remotely like that.

My question is this: should I tell my husband that I've fallen in love? Should I tell him that this lover is not just a lover but a true partner who now factors into my life? What to do?



Dear S,

Yes, you should tell your husband you've fallen in love. It's important for him to know that “this lover is not just a lover but a true partner,” because anyone who factors into your life in such a big way is also going to end up factoring into your husband's life.

You already knew that, and yet you wrote me, wondering what to do. I have to admit, I was initially puzzled. Why, I wondered to myself, is she asking me to weigh in on this one? She doesn't really need another opinion. And then it hit me: you aren't asking me what I think you ought to do. You're asking me to help you figure out why you haven't already done it.

I have only your letter to go on, but I have a funny feeling about one sentence in particular. I think it's a Big Clue, possibly even The Key to Unlocking this Mystery, so let's get out our magnifying glasses and take a closer look at it, shall we?

Here's the suspect sentence: His knowing won't change our lives in any way.

On the surface, you are saying that you are happy with the way your life is arranged, and you have no plans to do any rearranging, at least not any time soon. You have a functional let's-raise-the-kids-together relationship with your best friend, and you have an amazing let's-share-our-hearts-together relationship with someone you consider to be a true partner, and you want to keep both relationships exactly the way they are. You have had to work pretty hard to achieve your present level of bliss, and you want to make it clear that you aren't about to upset the collective apple cart by doing anything stupid (such as leaving your husband for this other man). So far, so good

Looking a bit closer, I see a rationalization. If you can prove that your love is immaterial (“won't change our lives in any way”), then maybe it doesn't matter whether or not your husband knows how you feel. But that's a flimsy, feel-good excuse, and you know it.

Looking closer still, I see fear. On some level, you must realize that your sentence is one measly little sandbag against a rising sea. Love changes lives. It is changing yours right now. The false bravado of your words belies your anxiety. Let's face it, S: change is a lot easier to embrace when you're coming out of a chilly, depressed, years-long sexual drought than when you are sunning yourself on a tropical beach, cool drink in hand.

Let me put it another way. You're a mother, so I assume you are familiar with the special kind of terror that descends when you've just finished cleaning the entire house – for once it's spotless, an absolute frigging miracle of spaciousness and tidy delight – and you hear the kids come in, shedding raincoats and school papers and wet leaves as they squelch down the hall in their muddy boots. In a panic, you yell, “Don't! Touch! Anything!” And then you start pleading, whether or not anyone is listening to you: “Can we keep it like this for just five minutes? Is that really too much to ask?”

I understand that you don't want to tell your husband how you feel about your lover because you are actually afraid his knowing will change your lives – quite possibly for the worse, at least in the short term. It makes complete sense that you wouldn't want to risk losing what you have by telling your husband something that will probably be hard for him to process. What you have is wonderful, and worth protecting. But his not knowing will also end up changing your lives, almost certainly for the worse. In fact, your little evasions – “I don't know where this relationship is going” (technically true) instead of “I have fallen in love” (the real truth) – may have already begun to take a toll on the friendship you share. Continued silence will only create more emotional distance. Remember, if you wall off your heart in an effort to keep it safe, you are in danger of losing what you value most.

So here's my advice: Don't keep your love too close. Open your heart. Share your feelings, and embrace the inevitable changes love makes to the landscape of your life. It's scary, I know, but just remember, you got where you are today by taking emotional risks. Your future self will thank you for the beautiful view.

Froot Loops and hula hoops,


  1. Viny is right. There is no choice here except honesty. Still, this reminds me of some tongue-in-cheek advice we were given as undergraduate engineers:
    1. If it won't fit, force it.
    2. If you can't force it, get a bigger hammer.
    3. If it breaks it was due to fail anyway.
    There's a good chance you'll all come out of this better off. There is also a--somewhat lesser--chance that it will all blow up and everyone will be miserable. Still, if you do nothing you KNOW everyone will be miserable. So do what you know you have to do. And if it breaks....really and truly and no sarcasm involved, it was due to fail anyway.

  2. Gah I love your blog! I know who I'm turning to when I need some insightful, brutally honest, smartly written advice. I frequently find myself forwarding these posts to poly friends going through various struggles.

  3. Thanks for your wise advice, Dear Viny. Mr. Jones and I have talked about the whole thing. It was the right thing to do. Yes, I knew it all along, but I needed a bit of encouragement. And I believe that looking through your magnifying glass helped me see that part of what I struggle with is guilt. Maybe it's time for me to figure out how to let this go too. xo