Is this jealousy or something else?

My husband and i have been married for 7 years. I’m 43 he’s 40. We’re young 40’s fit and fun and do well financially. We have 4 kids and are in business together. Not that much matters. But I wanted to give an idea as to our character.
We been having threesomes. Almost from the get go. Maybe a year or 2 in. We’ve always kinda just had little trysts. Nothing lasting more than a few dates. About 13 years ago we had our first triad relationship. It went ok for the most part. Until she and my husband spent a weekend away without telling me. That was hard. Sleepovers were a hard no. My husband and I think he is addicted to sex. And needs it. I’m bi (and possibly gay-working on that currently)
It’s been a long time since we’ve considered a triad. (Also because of that elusive unicorn. ) for the last 4 months we have been in a second triad. I found her initially. And introduced her to my husband. My husband doesn’t have a o t of friends. We’re busy with work and kids and life. He really attached himself to her. I’ve been trying to as well. She’s great. And I like her. Tho in small doses. My husband goes to see her once a week. She lives 90 minutes from us. The sex is great. She and I have tons in common. He gets along great with her. And she seems to like everything he likes.
He has assured me ok more than one occasion that he only loves me. And he could never love anyone else like he loves me. He has assured me that he would never leave me for her. And that he would never be with her. Even if I died and he was single again. She has expressed that she would never love anyone. Let alone him. She tried hard to make sure I’m happy and thought of. There’s just something. I can’t put my finger on.
I am so jealous I can barely breath when they’re together. I have a full on stomach ache every time. And I cause a fight every time as well. And he’s miserable. He said he would never leave me for her. But he would leave because he can’t handle how things are at home. He needs this. And I need him to be happy. And I need to be happy. But I’m terrified I’m gift wrapping him for her. I need this to work. I need to figure this out. I would love some help. How do i trust them? When they’ve really given no evidence that I shouldn’t. Other then their convos. And sweet talk.

This might surprise you to hear but… this is a classic case of a person who thinks they are jealous when they actually are not jealous at all. Let’s clarify a few things.

  • Polyamory, ‘sex addiction’ and cheating
  • Unhelpful reassurance and love
  • Rebuilding trust

Polyamory, ‘sex addiction’ and cheating

Generally speaking, cheating is something which I think people in relationships need to define for themselves. For some people, watching pornography is “cheating” in their relationship and, while many people may think that’s silly, I am a firm believer that it’s very much up to the individuals and how they want to define it.

However, I generally feel like lying to your partner, whether or not it constitutes “cheating”, is a pretty damnable offence. If you were jealous, you would have had problems with threesomes from the very beginning. But you didn’t. It only became a problem after you were essentially lied to by both parties, your husband and his girlfriend.

Even if we removed the cheating potential from the situation, how messed up would it be for someone you love to just be away inexplicably for a weekend, especially if you share a life together and see each other on a daily basis? Whether or not you consider it cheating, he crossed a boundary and violated your trust and that, in and of itself, is going to take some time for you to deal with.

Feeling nervous about your partner crossing a boundary, especially when they have already crossed it before is not jealousy. It is understandable fear in response to a scenario which has happened before. If you had a friend who abandoned you one night drunk and alone and you were afraid when they asked you to go out again that they would do it a second time, you wouldn’t be jealous of alcohol or jealous of your friend’s hookups or whatever they decided to do when they ditched you — you would be understandably worried about something horrible happening to you yet again. But before I go onto rebuilding trust, I want to address a few other things here.

‘Sex addiction’ is one of those things I don’t really like to postulate about not only because I’m not a psychologist but because I think that this is one of those areas where people who can sometimes claim to be ‘sex addicts’ seem to be misunderstanding the term ‘addict’ to begin with. Being an ‘addict’ is never an excuse for anything and anyone who has serious problems with addiction that they take seriously knows and understands this. They understand the seriousness of what it means to be addicted to something and seek the appropriate treatments for that.

If I were to think your husband was an actual ‘sex addict’, I don’t think that having threesomes would actually be helpful for him. And if he seriously did consider himself an ‘addict’ in any way where he is going to actually take that seriously, he would be taking the appropriate steps to address his behaviour, including apologising to you for the damage it has done to your life, not blaming being a ‘sex addict’ for being unable to keep it in his pants.

But, and I give you my unlicensed opinion on this and feel free to seek more professional advice, I don’t think he’s an actual sex addict at all. If he was, he would not need your help finding people to have sex with. If he was addicted to sex, he would be ditching work and responsibilities and the “life” that is taking up his time to feed his addiction.

If he was an addict, he would not feel great about what he was doing and he would be using sex to compensate for something, just like what most addicts use substances for, because that’s what being an addict is. So honestly, I don’t think he’s a sex addict. I think he’s just trying to avoid taking responsibility for his actions which, at 40 years old, he really needs to start doing.

But part of that is you holding him responsible as well. This “sex addict” stuff is an excuse for him as much as it is for you. And when you said in your letter that you haven’t considered a triad “because of that elusive unicorn” you are placing the entirety of your husband’s complete dishonesty and failure to respect your boundaries on her shoulders when really, it belongs on him more than anything.

He is the one who was responsible for telling you what was up and he failed to do that. She failed too, don’t get me wrong, but considering you have four children whom he also has a responsibility for, he failed not only you but your entire family in a way and you are pretty much letting him off the hook for it.

And let's say he is a sex addict and he does have a problem and is using sex to fill some type of hole.. he is still responsible for his actions. Addicts do not get to excuse their behaviour on being addicts. That’s not what addiction is about and anyone who thinks that being any type of “addict” is somehow the correct response to hurting someone and not “I’m responsible for that. I am sorry. And it won’t happen again”… that’s a bigger problem. Because this ‘addict’ excuse coupled with his attempts to reassure you, which I think he believes is himself taking some responsibility, is absolutely never going to work. And I’ll explain why.

Unhelpful reassurance and love

Most people’s response to “jealousy” is to reassure their partner about the importance of the relationship and that can work wonders when the problem is actual jealousy. But that isn’t your problem here.

No one can ever assure anyone that they will only ever love that person. Not even someone who is monogamous can make that guarantee because no one controls your feelings. Maybe he can assure you that now he only loves you, but he cannot make any promises that he will not fall in love with anyone else.

I find it deeply, deeply troubling that he is reassuring you to the point where he is completely excluding the possibility of this other woman ever being in his life — even if you were dead. It is one thing to say to someone, “You are my primary, domestic relationship. We have children together and have built a life together and I have no interest in abandoning what we have built together for someone else” but it’s another thing to say, “I will never love X as much as I love you, no matter what.”

Not only is that something no one can guarantee, but, even as it may seem like the perfect thing to say to you when you are worried he’ll run off with someone again, it’s actually completely unhelpful. Because what he’s basically communicating is that there is one position for “love of his life” currently available and, while you’re in that position now, you could potentially not be in that position in the future.

And since he has a history of lying to you and running off with someone else, you have every reason to believe that your position as top dog in his love pack isn’t necessarily going to be secure unless you somehow keep it secure. And what that creates is essentially is an environment of constant vigilance on your behalf, waiting for the “sign” that your time is up and someone else is going to take your crown.

This is furthermore exacerbated by the fact that this girl is saying she’s not going to love anyone else but him. It doesn’t seem like you’ve had a discussion about where long term triad partners actually fit in your life and the last time you tried it, you got lied to. So why, logically, would you believe anything to the contrary now? No one is talking about what this triad is going to look like so the only model your feelings have to go on is one where you’ve previously been lied to. So it’s absolutely no wonder that your emotions are flipping the hell out right now. And that brings me to the next part.

Rebuilding trust

First and foremost, realise that you are not jealous. If jealousy were an issue, you would have had problems with threesomes from the beginning. You are legitimately worried about being lied to again. And even as you’ve tried to shift the blame onto the “unicorn” for that, your brain and your gut know a lot better in this case.

Your husband needs to do the work to accept responsibility for his actions and try and rebuild that trust with you. Part of that needs to be more talk between the two of you about what these relationships are and what they mean. He needs to stop giving you reassurance about things he cannot promise. Maybe it seems like what you want to hear at the time (and it’s very much a takeaway from monogamy-centric culture where that tends to be the canned response to any jealousy expressed in monogamy), but it’s not actually helpful.

You both need to accept what you can’t control. I don’t advise you try and make rules about feelings. You can’t promise not to fall in love with anybody else. And part of having a healthier relationship means also accepting that it might come to an end, as much you might not want it to. Remember that going back to monogamy or stopping threesomes isn’t going to magically stop your husband from falling in love with somebody else because if it did, there wouldn’t be any cheating in monogamous relationships and we know there is.

If you are going to have a triad, she needs to be part of this conversation. You need to talk together about what your lives are going to look like if you want to make this a committed thing. If it’s not that serious, then talk individually about what you want out of relationships and how you envision this working among all three of you.

But you and your husband also need to see a polyamory friendly therapist to talk through the ‘sex addiction’ excuse, the lying and rebuilding trust together. I think having a better understanding of what it means to have a triad might help you, but he might need to rebuild your trust slowly through some slight restrictions at first. Maybe no sleepovers for awhile, etc.

As long as those rules are put in place with the idea that things will change and aren’t put in place to prevent your anxiety completely but to slightly prevent an overload at first, that will help and a therapist can help you work through that and decide which rules are helping you cope and which rules are preventing you from experiencing the fear you have and knowing you can live through that.

And lastly, part of this is going to mean experiencing all of these negative emotions and seeing yourself come out of the other end. Part of building trust with anyone is being vulnerable enough to open yourself up to being hurt again and then seeing that you aren’t.

Because your trust has already been violated, this is going to be very terrifying for you, but rather than trying to avoid the feelings or fight over them, if you work to a place where you accept that you’re going to have the feelings and learn to cope with them, you may find over time your trust gets better.

Finally, I want you to look at your last paragraph and examine the priorities of your worries. Notice how you are putting yourself last. It might seem selfish and contrary to how you were probably taught growing up, but you need to stop putting yourself last. You need to secure your own mask before you worry about securing other people’s masks.

You need to stop putting his needs ahead of your own and start worrying about your own happiness. You deserve to be happy too. And if you are ever in a situation (barring your relationships with your kids of course) where someone is forcing you to sacrifice your happiness for their own, that is not a relationship you should ever want to or have to be in.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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