Dear Goddess: I have a couple of questions about navigating my poly relationship and I’d love your advice. First, a bit of background. My husband and I began a polyrelationship with one of my best friends about 6 months ago. Working out my jealousy has been truly difficult, but also rewarding since I continue to learn more about my own internal behaviors as a result. Much of my jealousy revolves around my role as the “practical wife” whereas my friend serves as the “fun wife.” Any ideas you have about this would be truly helpful, since I find myself stumbling over it a lot when I watch them carrying on laughing and having fun. I believe I hold myself apart from them to highlight my isolation and then I feel like if I say anything I will become the needy one. Ugh. None of this sounds great, I know. On the other hand, this is the first real relationship with a woman, and I feel like I have no one to crow about it to. My friends who do know aboutall of this seem to think I’ve set myself up for nothing but pain, so I cannot open up about how excited I feel or, good, or even badly since that would only serve to prove them right. Yikes! And help! Anything you say to me would be helpful.
In cultures where a man might have a wife and a mistress, there is the expectation that the wife fulfills the practical roles and the mistress is for fun. Even in polyamory relationships, it’s not unheard of for one relationship to be about fun and the other about practicality. I’ve not noticed it consistently working well, and do see resentments occasionally building from it.
Since polyamory is not (in theory) really supposed to be about the wife/mistress paradigm, it’s reasonable that you really don’t want to be the one whose role is mostly duty. However, if you choose to hold yourself apart, you’re giving a signal that you’re not wanting attention or to participate in the fun activities, and you’re making that choice for yourself. I know, it can be a pride thing. You can reframe pride to a point where you’re too proud not to express your wants *grin*. Honest, it can be done. Asking to spend time with someone you love isn’t needy. The patient Griselda act doesn’t work. In fact, see The Brave Little Toaster for a complete genius of an analysis of this. *grin* (Speaking of jealousy, I’m mildly jealous that one of the best columns here was not one of mine! — only a little. Rainy is a delightful writer)
Part of this is the “new and shiny” syndrome (known in polyamory circle sas NRE or New Relationship Energy). If you have a habit of going from obsession to obsession, you get absorbed in whatever is new. I expect that’s part of what is going on with your husband and girlfriend. However, don’t you have some fun, new and shiny going on with your girlfriend, too? You stated you’re excited about the relationship.
It’s okay to say, “Look, I don’t want my relationship with you to be solely in terms of practicality and bill-paying. I love you and want to have fun with you, too. Can we schedule something?”
It does seem like there is a lot of labelling going on. “The Fun One”, “The Needy One”. I won’t say roles are worthless, but don’t get too into that. Treating people as individuals with individual wants and needs often works out pretty well in relationships in general.
While it would be unrealistic to expect a lot of support from your friends in this if they’re not poly, do yourself a favor. If you’re getting consistent comments, sit back and analyse them. They can sometimes have a point. Sometimes they’re entirely from a monogamy perspective and not all that useful, but sometimes they can be big screeching reality checks. Try to figure that out.