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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Can a Polyamorous Marriage Work?

I haven't posted in quite awhile, there has been a lot going on with self-discovery, thinking about my relationships, thinking about my wants and needs, and just evaluating where I'm at and where I want to be.  Part of that is returning to counseling, part of it is the medication, but I think most of it is the communication I've had with my spouse.  We have decided to become a Polyamorous couple now.  I never thought that was something we could actually consider, but sometimes events occur and are a catalyst for the inevitable. 

Going back to counseling has been a wonderful thing for me.  I thought I had been given the proper tools though books or insight (or perhaps just stubbornness) to figure things out myself without having to go to counseling again.  I was wrong.  I forgot what it was like to have someone who could listen objectively and ask seemingly simple, but very tough questions.  I think we forget sometimes to take a step back and ask the simple questions.  What do YOU want.  How does that make YOU feel.  Why do you think YOU reacted that way?  I had forgotten about myself.  I spoke about it in a previous post, but it came crashing down on me that I had forgotten about myself and my needs.  I was ignoring some pretty serious issues that were causing tension in my marriage and other relationships.

I had felt for a long time that I couldn't, or shouldn't, say anything that might upset my spouse because I thought it might set her back in her progress of finding her true self during her transition.  Maybe it was the right thing to do, maybe not.  What happened was that there were so many feelings bottled up inside me that we became more and more distant with each other.  We pretended things were okay, but we didn't really talk about it.  It began to build resentment and anger on both our parts that things were getting strained, but we continued not talking about it.  If we pretended things were okay, maybe they would become okay again, right?

We had discussed the idea of open marriage on a few occasions, which was uncomfortable for both of us.  I didn't want to need anything from anyone other than her.  She wanted to believe she could give me everything I need, even if I have historically been heterosexual.  The two ideas simply don't mesh.  I have physical needs as a woman. My spouse had started opening up and things in the bedroom were vastly better than before, but it still isn't the same as being with a man.  As much as I have enjoyed our intimacy since the legal name and gender change, I wanted to be lusted after and needed by someone for sexual fulfillment.  I wanted to be wanted.  A situation was presented to me that was the catalyst to a major change in our marriage.   I saw someone look at me with that look of lust.  I responded to the looks and it stirred things in me that I forgot existed.  

I didn't know how to talk to her about my feelings except to just mention that I was being flirted with by someone and that it was flattering.  I saw the look in her eyes that she understood what I meant, but we still didn't really discuss it in depth right away.  At some point, I started feeling the pull of that desire and the feelings I'd been pushing down about my sexual needs and those desires came out in a discussion one night.  We talked about it and she gave in to the idea that I should be able to fulfill something once in awhile on the side.  I was doubtful that it would work, but a little excited at the prospect.  After our discussion where she gave me a "pass" to fulfill something she could no longer give me, she got very quiet the next day.  We discussed it the day after and it got very intense, with discussions that our marriage may not work out after all.  

I was devastated by the thought of my spouse not being willing to "bend the rule" of a traditional marriage...and very angry.  During the transition, I had been forced to think about and accept that my spouse would be changing to the opposite gender, try and reconcile that I am not a lesbian (bi-curious would be a better description) but still love my spouse and I was willing to try working on those issues to make our marriage work.  I was angry that I had done so much thinking about what I could accept from my spouse's gender change, what I would need to sacrifice and what that meant for our marriage...but the first sign of me needing something that made her uncomfortable felt like a deal breaker.  I asked her, "What did you really expect?  I'm not a lesbian.  I like sex with men."  It was a bit volitile because I let things out I hadn't expressed in the year and a half to two years she has been going through the transition process.  

I felt I deserved a piece of my life back too.  I felt I deserved some understanding that something I need might be uncomfortable for her, just as her transition was uncomfortable for me.  It wasn't that I didn't support her, but I just wanted her to think for a moment how this must be making me feel.  Yes, I knew she was confused when we first got together.  She also knew my stance that I will probably always need sex with a man.  I had to consider, from the very beginning of serious talks about transition, every scenario she might go through with her hormonal changes, desires, need to befriend women, possible sexual attractions, my role in supporting her with family and friends, etc.  I was angry she hadn't even considered what my position might be in the situation up to that point, or that if she had, we had never discussed it seriously.  I felt forgotten completely, like everything since the decision to go forward with transition revolved around her.  It wasn't totally her fault, I didn't let my needs be known, but I still wanted her to recognize what I might be going through too.

I thought a lot about what my drive was for being with a man again.  For me, it was about being desired and recapturing a youth I never really had.  I grew up too fast.  I was beholden my whole life to other people, especially when it came to sex and relationships.  That was before I met the person I married.  When I met my spouse, I found someone who fulfilled me in every way a relationship should...except sexually.  I was ashamed of what I wanted and she wasn't as experienced or kinky as I was.  I think I subconsciously chose to be with my spouse because it validated my own shame about what I like in a sexual way.  I didn't want to want the things I did, but the desire was there.

It's very confusing when your first sexual experience is "abusive."  That phrase, "sexual abuse" is still extremely difficult for me to say.  I was willing, I liked it wasn't abusive, right?  I was far too young and the other person was a much older married man who took advantage of a young girl just seeking some kind of connection. It happened over the course of a few weeks, so I became quite confused about the whole situation.  That experience  and subsequent experiences impacted me in a way that might actually help explain my current situation.  It isn't healthy, it is just a fact.  I have completely detached my sexuality from my emotions.  I conditioned myself not to care about sexual acts because the first, and many after that, resulted in a deep shame within myself.  I was capable of breaking my moral standards and I had been used by many men... then discarded.  I had to shut my emotions out of sexual activity out of a sense of protecting myself from further heartbreak and shame about what I'd done. 

I finally realized that the problems my spouse and I had in the bedroom were not just her fault.  We couldn't connect on the same levels.  I couldn't connect emotionally, she couldn't connect physically.  We both had things to learn about ourselves, each other and how we work together as a couple.  I am able to be open to emotionally connecting with other women without me being involved.  She has been able to accept my need to physically connect with a man from time to time.  Neither of those things mean that we feel less for each other.  

Eventualy, I did end up sharing a few experiences with someone else, and it did fufill something I felt I was missing.  I was able to express a part of myself I had been hiding and was ashamed of.  I was able to re-claim something within myself that had plagued me for years.  I didn't have to feel so vulnerable to my sexuality, I could be in control of it and enjoy it without the shame that had haunted me for most of my life.  I could admit that I am a sexual person, and that doesn't mean there is something wrong with me.

The amazing thing is that I think this experience brought us closer together than ever.  It sounds weird, but it opened us both up to talking about things we never talked about before.  What we need, who we really are, where our life might be going.  Hard topics, but it was good for us to communicate in a loving and understanding way about what each of us was experiencing without anger or resentment.  I am excited to hear about her connections with others.  She isn't ready to hear about mine yet, but that's okay.  I have been honest about the few times I have indulged in what I have needed in a physical sense, but respect that she doesn't need to hear any details.  I think there is a part of her that feels more freedom that she can explore relationships with other people too without it being a threat to our marriage.  The key is the open communication.    

The whole situation and decision to become a Polyamorous couple was a very valuable lesson for us both.  My spouse was able to admit that there was a part of her that was angry or felt guilty that she couldn't provide everything I need.  I felt angry or guilty that I was not able to be the only person she was emotionally connected to.  I realized what I was really looking for with having a sexual connection with another person was to be desired by someone who wanted me to reciprocate.  Yes, I understand that there is a component of someone being trans* that inhibits their ability to allow someone to focus on their body, but that can leave a void in the relationship.  Human beings want to feel connection on some level.  Some of us need physical connections, some of us need emotional connections.  Neither is better or worse, more or less valuable to our well-being.  In my mind, to feel truly connected in either sense requires reciprocation.  

We are both very realistic people.  We don't know that a Polyamorous relationship can work forever.  It would be nice, but might not work in the long run.  We are both at a very good point within ourselves and with each other.  It's still a little awkward to discuss that we do have interests in other people, but in a way it's very freeing.  I'm hopeful that we can keep the core relationship of everyday living as it is, but be able to explore other sides of ourselves with other people at the same time.  If either of us found "that person" who fulfills all of our needs and desires and vice-versa, I think we would be happy for one another and we could part on good terms.  The realist in me says that it just isn't possible and being open to loving multiple people might be the best way to live a fulfilling life.  What a wonderful world it could be.