A visit to Monogamish Country

My husband is OK with me having a lover, but I'm not OK with my lover getting married

Published June 28, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

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


I am a 33-year-old woman in a monogamish relationship with a wonderful man for the past 14 years. My lover is eight years my senior, and convinced that I am his soul mate and the love of his life. We have been in a romantic and sexual relationship for seven years. My husband accepts my close relationship with my lover; my lover accepts my love for my husband and my marriage.

Due to certain family pressures my lover is now getting married. The woman he is marrying is 25 and infatuated with him. I have known for a year that his having to get married is a possibility. I thought it would be a marriage of convenience but that isn't what it seems to be. My lover says that I will continue to be the love of his life, that he is not trying to replace me with someone younger and hot, and does not believe that he will fall in love with this other woman.

I am plagued by insecurities and doubts and jealousy. My lover has been unreliable -- he told me that we would work through this marriage thing together, that we had a year to figure it out and that he would not do anything that I wasn't comfortable with. But he made the decision about marriage and whom he was going to marry without discussing it with me at all, and got engaged three months after he told me he would not even entertain the idea of marriage for the next 12 months, so that he could help me get comfortable with it. Needless to say my trust in him has been completely shattered.

My lover is a vital and accepted part of my private and public life -- he knows and interacts with my friends, family and colleagues, though most are not aware of the sexual relationship between us. But he wants to keep me hidden and secret from his wife and his life. He says it is the easiest way to protect our relationship.

I have never shared my lover with another person. How does one learn to not be possessive, insecure and jealous? I find that his wanting to keep my existence secret, to not acknowledge me even as a friend, hurtful and tawdry. Especially since I have worked so hard to never put him in the position of "dirty little secret." Is my anger and hurt misplaced? Under these circumstances, how do I move past my insecurities and learn to accept my lover as a happily married man?

Is My Lover a Bad Man?  

Dear Is My Lover a Bad Man?

The best way to learn to accept your lover as a happily married man is to learn how to accept things in general.  This may be easy or it may be hard. It may require some fundamental psychic change.

It helps to recall how you have accepted other things in the past. Let's consider something from my own experience, a difficulty that I had to accept, and how I accepted it.

So there was this person I could not control who was getting things I wanted. I had admired this person and assumed certain things about our relationship -- had assumed that certain things would be given me. My recurring thoughts about this person caused me anguish. I knew in general that people do things for their own complicated reasons and that people can sometimes give us the wrong impression either knowingly or unknowingly. But knowing this did not help much. I knew that this person's actions were unrelated to me, yet my thoughts were all tied up in them.

I struggled with this for years. I sought help in understanding it. Certain revelations eventually came to me with shocking force.

I realized that I was substituting this person for other people in my life from whom I had wanted things earlier and from whom I had not gotten these things. I realized I had a well of disappointment, anger and shame concerning past events, and that a part of me, strangely enough, seemed to feel that those past events could still be rectified -- that I could still get those things that I had wanted, so long ago.

When, in my present-day life, enough triggers would collect in one person or event, it would be as if I had been transported out of the present into some past battle or conflict; it would seem to me that I was about to get this long-desired outcome, this fervently wished-for thing.

I would suddenly be living in an emotional past. It was a little bit like being crazy. By crazy I mean not living in the present, but experiencing the present with all the intensity of the past.

We do this so often we don't generally call it crazy, but if you think about it, and if you ever, for a moment, escape it, and experience the luminous and serene present, you see that it is indeed a little crazy to be experiencing present events with all the awful intensity of a long-past disappointment or hurt. And you also begin to thirst for more of this wonderful serenity of the present.

But when this thing would happen, it would be something like this: First I would be filled with excitement and expectation. Then worry and sleeplessness would come, and constant thinking-about-it, and then, as things turned out not to be as I had dreamed them to be, then would come disappointment and anger.

In spite of what I knew, I could not stop this pattern at first. But I learned to at least recognize the feeling that would come over me and the voices that I would hear. Feeling that I must do something is the first warning. I will suddenly feel that I must do something right now, and also that I must not tell anyone about it because they might stop me. Then, without realizing it consciously, I start scheming. I develop a scheme to make this person do what I want. It seems quite sensible at the time. The fact that I do not tell anyone does not immediately strike me as a danger signal; rather, it seems prudent because I know if I tell anyone then my very important plan might be thwarted, and my plan must not be thwarted because I really need and deserve whatever it is.

Thus I am off and running on my quest for something I cannot have. Thus I am acting on a delusion. The sooner I can catch myself beginning to do this, the sooner I can return to by previous state of serene acceptance of everything in the universe, including myself. But it isn't easy!

One barrier to serene acceptance of everything in the universe including ourselves is the sheer radicalism of the proposal that we must accept everything, including the things we believe on solid grounds to be "unacceptable." For instance we must accept tragic cruelty and evil. That does not mean that we encourage it or let it happen in front of us, but that we allow the fact of it to be as it is. We try to see the fact of it, for instance, the fact of our great world horror, the Holocaust. We struggle to learn its lessons and to prevent such a thing from happening again but we also attempt the more difficult exercise of simply knowing, knowing that it happened and that all the attendant and necessary steps leading up to it also happened, and that all the possible events that might have averted it did not happen. We just sit with that. We sit with that and let it suffuse us with its truth and hope that sitting with such an awful truth will affect us, will sensitize us or change us in some deep way and thus nudge humanity. We don't know for sure that it will change us. We just sit with it anyway, letting it engrave itself upon us.

So I suggest that you try to move into a state of acceptance, starting with small things and moving toward larger things, like acceptance of the sun and the planets and of the billions of years the universe appears to have existed. Having reached that state of radical and unreserved acceptance, observe the things around you, the people and animals and cars. Just observe what is happening when you see the animals and cars, and observe what is happening when you think of this man, and let yourself feel these things and think these things and observe what is going on.

This is not as easy as it sounds, nor as silly. If it were easy, you would have done it already.

Usually when embarking on something like this, it doesn't seem like it's working at first. But life is long. If you stick with such endeavors until they become habits, I do believe you will notice improvement.

Of course, I have had lots of help in these endeavors, both professional and of the volunteer group variety. Help is good! I recommend getting help.

Oh, yes. One more thing: Breathe!

By Cary Tennis

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