By most socially accepted standards my relationship is unique. My husband and I have an open marriage. I have a boyfriend and he has had his collection of boys on the side. It was agreed upon at a time when our marriage was on the rocks, but after one night drinking at a Palm Springs bar, our relationship actually has never been stronger. I think it’s because with having an open relationship, we have to be honest and vulnerable. We have to share whenever something is bothering us and rigorously set boundaries of where we will allow ourselves/the relationship to go. It’s the biggest game of trial and error and (so far) has worked.
With my husband’s ALS diagnosis, it has made things even more complex than before. Exclusively for me.
When I was first dealing with the initial shock I went through this weird range of emotions. I was overwhelmed with guilt that I was basically replacing my dying husband with another before he was even gone. Then I shot off on a mental tangent that my in-laws would look at me as though I was brushing my husband aside or that I didn’t care for him as much as I should. The worst of all of them was that I thought my boyfriend wanted him to die so he could “finally have me.” All of this was thought up and manufactured in my head. There was nothing that anyone had done or said for these to be legitimate.
Regardless, I couldn’t shake them and these lingered like a cloud of gnats at the back of my mind.
I have since moved past it all because of communication. It was through that that I was reminded that when we agreed on all of this there wasn’t a terminal diagnosis. (Maybe our marriage, but that’s been recovered.) So, I can’t get caught up in these negative thoughts when they don’t apply and don’t exist.
I felt my guilt and shame because I was driven to do more for him. Be there. Do whatever I can. With the way it is, there is nothing dictating that I can’t.
I felt even more remorse toward my boyfriend because he was unfairly getting the brunt of my anger (about my husband dying) for absolutely no reason at all. It was unreasonable of me to even think he felt that way, and since we’ve talked I know he doesn’t. He’s even gone as far to say that he will help me care for him when it gets the most difficult. Again, offering way more of himself than he should. I never expected that kind of reaction.
Again, the key to all of this working is honest communication. The only hold out is, usually, me. I am so quick to share every detail of my personal life, but there are certain truths that I can’t be open about. Maybe it’s my need to still have “secrets.” It’s just stupid for me to even attempt at being emotionally guarded when I’m wounded, because I have THE WORST poker face. Anyone who is within my orbit will immediately know something is absolutely bothering me, no matter how I empathically remark to the contrary.