I love my husband but live with my boyfriend

Things were perfect for me until my boyfriend's fiancée started planning their wedding

Published January 24, 2012 1:00AM (EST)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I am very happily married and I love my husband with every fiber of my being. He is the most loving, brilliant, courageous man I've ever known. We love to do things together and we always make our decisions with one another's best interest at heart. When I am with him, I am always happy.

I don't live with my husband. I live with my boyfriend.

My boyfriend is also incredibly wonderful, and, unlike my husband, doesn't have night terrors that have caused me a few bruises over the years. We three have been happy living like this for quite a long time now, and we have a comfortable dynamic with lots of respect for one another. In fact, I can't believe my luck, that I have such a good life surrounded by kind and wonderful people. However, this is going to end soon, and I'm really upset about it.

My boyfriend has a fiancée to whom he has been betrothed for nearly seven years. She lives in another country, and yet she manages to make my boyfriend's life very difficult. She hacks his emails and changes all the passwords, she calls up his supervisors at work and complains about him, she is rude to his parents, and she is intensely jealous of other women spending time with him. She does not know that I live with him. She is also expecting to marry him later this year. My boyfriend is too afraid to break things off with her, saying at times that if he doesn't marry her, he will look bad in his community's eyes, and that he will probably divorce her. I am afraid that if he is too scared not to marry her, he will also be too scared to divorce her.

This is the real truth: If my boyfriend were going to get married to somebody who really loved him and treated him with kindness and respect, I would not be upset. However, I know that the minute he marries his fiancée, I will probably never be able to see him again, not even socially, and it is killing me inside. I don't want to live in a world without him. He might be a coward, but he's my coward. Not everyone can be a paragon of masculine bravery like my husband (who is constantly ranting that my boyfriend needs to "grow a pair" and get rid of his fiancée).

What is my role in all this? What should I do? I don't want to be selfish: Is it more selfish to insist that my boyfriend not marry someone who treats him badly or is it more selfish to let him go and possibly live a very unhappy life for the rest of his days?


A Poly with a Big Heart

Dear Poly,

What I see is a group in which one person has a destructive attachment outside the group.

The simple, obvious solution to preserve the group is for him to sever that attachment. But he is unwilling to do that. This attachment offers benefits and attractions to him uniquely. Likewise, severing this attachment would have costs and consequences unique to him.

If he leaves, it affects the group, but it affects you disproportionately. Your husband does not stand to lose a lover or a living situation. You do. Your lover stands to lose you but to gain a marriage partner -- although a seemingly difficult, manipulative, dishonest, untrustworthy, domineering and controlling one.

You are the only one of the three who only loses and does not gain anything. For you, this could be unexpectedly devastating. It seems all the sadder because you seem to have waltzed into this perfect, uncanny balance. Plus, frankly, it seems like a stupid move for your boyfriend.

So perhaps there is more to it. Perhaps he is not telling you everything. Is it possible that he actually wants a monogamous relationship but has been afraid to say so, or has felt that his longing for a more traditional relationship represents a failure of his own vision or nerve? Maybe this is his way of backing out of something and into something without having to declare himself. Perhaps his apparent passivity is not only spinelessness but also calculation.

You three really need to sort this out. I suggest that you reach out to the polyamory community for support and guidance. This can't be the first time that such a situation has arisen. I also suggest that the three of you meet with a therapist or mediator to clarify the stakes for everyone. The stakes are not equal for everyone. They never are.

The more I think about it, the more serious the consequences for you appear if your boyfriend marries his fiancée. Presumably you will lose your home. What will you do? Will you move in with your husband? Will you continue to live apart from your husband? Will you seek another relationship? How will your husband respond to your new relationship?

I wish I knew more about your boyfriend. He is the key to this whole frustrating puzzle. That is another reason to consult with a therapist, who might help your boyfriend express his desires more plainly to the rest of you.

So, in conclusion, please: Reach out to the polyamory community to find people who have confronted similar situations to see how they handled them and what the outcomes were. And also find a therapist experienced in relationships such as yours who can help you clarify your options as a group. And remember, it is axiomatic that you cannot control what your boyfriend does. You can prepare and you can persuade but in the end it will be your role to accept and adapt to whatever he decides.

By Cary Tennis

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