Wanting to explore an open relationship with your partner? We have many resources to help you navigate your poly journey, but first, ask yourself some questions. Are you in one of these three situations? (This article assumes you are married or otherwise coupled.)
- You’ve been married to your current partner and your relationship is stable but kind of boring. There’s a new person at work who flirts with you, makes you laugh, and makes you wonder…is the grass greener on the other side?
- You’ve already crossed the line with someone. You’ve had sex on the sly, and it feels great. You’re worried your partner will discover it, but you’re curious if this is actually a good thing.
- Your marriage is at a low point. The fights and stress are not worth it. If you haven’t already starting looking to others to meet your emotional or sexual needs, you’re thinking about it. What if there was a way to reignite the flame between you?
These describe very common situations in monogamous couples. They are also common entry points for couples that get into polyamory. Caution! These exact situations can actually hamper your future happiness with new partners. Let’s look at each situation in detail and how you can resolve them before becoming polyamorous.
1. Do you have someone in mind?
Polyamory offers the opportunity to explore love relationships with multiple people regardless of whether you are married or not. One person can’t meet all of the needs in your life; that’s why you have drinking buddies or or spa friends. In marriages, emotional needs get neglected just as often as our sexual needs. The spark you feel with your new friend points to something missing in your life. Sometimes it’s just the rush of stealing glances like teenagers. Other times it’s the late night phone conversations that help you feel loved. (If you’ve already crossed into emotional infidelity with this person, see quesiton 2.)
If you have identified someone who may be a good potential partner for an open marriage, take a step back. Does your partner know this person? Do they already suspect that your feelings for them may be more than just a friendship? If so, the bonds of trust are already starting to degrade in your marriage. Suggesting an open relationship may only confirm your partner’s fears of being left for the younger, hotter model. Even if your partner doesn’t suspect, your suggestion could start the death spiral of anxious thoughts about the health of your marriage. Have a frank discussion with your partner about what’s missing. What are your needs? What about your partner’s? How are they getting met or being neglected? Enlist the help of a counselor to help you hear each other. Polyamory requires trust and communication, so build those skills now! Don’t move forward until you both feel comfortable.
2. Have you already cheated?
When the outside world thinks of polyamory, they picture sex with multiple people. Even the typical stock photos are of threesomes kissing or in bed. So why not open your marriage to more sexual freedom? Whether you married young or want to explore another side of your sexuality, adventures outside of your marriage sound like a way to have fun and still stay secure in the life you’ve built together.
Infidelity is a serious breach of trust in a marriage. Even if the spouse never finds out, you are lying to a person you promised to commit your life to. Polyamorists make committments too. Cheating is not OK. There is Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell but there is no down low. Therefore, before you engage in an open marriage, reveal your infidelity to your spouse. They may be hurt, they may not care, but you are starting the process of communicating your desires and how you want them to be met. Your partner did not consent to your affair, but they will need to consent to any relationships moving forward. Many times the spouse agrees to the open marriage only because they are afraid of divorce. Do your best to give them an honest choice. If they say no you are bound by that decision. Do not continue to hurt them by forcing them into an open marriage when they are unwilling. Once again, a marriage therapist will help you communicate with each other and get past any sticking points.
There are very few circumstances where I would recommend continuing a relationship with the person you cheated with. Your polyamorous relationships should be with people who are ethical. Your spouse will also likely have lingering mistrust about that person’s place in your life. If you want to be in a relationship with that person, do the right thing and get a divorce.
3. Is there some problem in your current relationship?
Marriages go through highs and lows, and sometimes people just stop meshing. Maybe your interests are different, or your schedules are out of sync, or you’re just disconnected. Often mismatched libidos lead people to try swinging or inviting a woman to have a threesome. Whatever problem you have in your relationship, new people and new feelings seems like it could bring back the connection you want with your spouse.
A marriage is between two people, and (besides a therapist) those two people are the only ones who should do the work of fixing your relationship. Polyamorous people want healthy relationships based on communication and openness. If you have unresolved issues in your marriage, you’re missing the boat on one of those. The last thing a poly person wants to do is get involved in a relationship with one spouse, only for the other spouse to demand that it end because “we need to secure our relationship.” Other people, especially bisexual women, are not here to make you feel good about your marriage. Understand your needs and where they are not being met. If both you and your partner agree to pursue an open marriage, start by reading and learning. Your expectations about what a new partner can do are likely wrong. Most couples date separately, and most bisexual women date men as well as women outside of their spouse. You are unlikely to find a woman willing to date both spouses in a serious poly relationship.
I know this post is full of bad news, but transparency is a big part of polyamory. We polyamorists put a lot of work into building relationships that are ethical, respectful, and honest. Your current relationship may need some work of its own, but hopefully that work make your relationship stronger or bring it to a place where it can end peacefully. Either way, you will develop good tools to enter into healthy polyamorous relationships.