Sex & Sociability

Question and commentary on connections, both sexual and social

Monogamous/Open Relationships

Can an open relationship and a monogamous one exist simultaneously? Read More

My thoughts...

"The answer to “why” is for love and companionship, the same reasons many people couple"

Marriage is not for love & companionship. Obviously, if you were lacking that 100% before being married, you should think twice and probably not get married.

Marriage is in essence to put a "bet" on it -- which yes, does include, by default, exclusivity.

I think people who are content and even sometimes happy with one person getting porked by others, while the other remains exclusive to them is that they're running in different gears, and the person who isn't having sex with others has:

a) A low sex drive
b) A high emotional dependency and is in love with them as a non-platonic partner, but not in love in every sense of the word, possibly due to (a)
c) Kind of "lying" to themselves much like someone who cheats periodically or regular lies to themselves yet are happy with their significant other

Is it (technically) possible for person A to be monogamous with person B, while person B is open getting ball-banged rather fruitfully by multiple people? Yeah. Just about anything is. Is it MUCH more likely they are not completely happy with it, and only OK with it under certain conditions during certain phases? Yes.

Re: My thoughts...

There are many more variations than your a, b, c options which all seem to reflect some pathology. What about a poly person who genuinely experiences "compersion"? I don't think they'd use the cold-sounding word "pork".

As for not being completely happy, I'd say a lot of people in straight monogamous married relationships are not completely happy, so you're not making much of a point there.

Re: My thoughts...

Sure -- one would get married for kids... or a "this is best for lifestyle; we'll stick together whether we like it or not", etc. My point was that marriage is not *to make it* have full love & companionship. That's not it's purpose.

Yes, "pork" sounds cold-sounding, but the reason I use it is to purposely NOT be "PC". Essentially, let's call a spade a spade. Let's not pretend it's on some level of innocent-no-big-deal flirting & mingling that some people would want with the opposite sex to feel wanted, to get attention, etc.

And yes, many people aren't completely happy in monogamous LTRs (married having less of an escape route). Just because that's true does not at all mean "anything goes" and it solves everything. If you aren't happy in one, after giving it extra time to resolve things, a temporary separation to jump-start something, etc -- get out. No need to let attachment keep you in it and have another one on the side. There's a reason why those FAIL almost every time. :)


I don't know if I am polyamorous, or simply dissatisfied in my selection for a wife. I know I settled, and as I have made a life for myself and rose up in economic and power stature, I have many options available.....and many temptations. I want to act on them all!

My question, if I really was attracted to my wife, deeply, from the start, would that add a layer of protection?

I need to toss in another phenomenon that I can't explain. There have been several examples where I actually did not recognize my wife in a crowd. I think I have always wanted her to look different to the point I have a false image of her in my head that does not match reality. Sounds crazy, I know!

Anyway, I feel my dissatisfaction with my wife's looks are what drives me to harmonize with the polyamorous mindset.

Re: Trev

If you're wondering whether you're dissatisfied with your wife, you at least aren't completely satisfied -- that's a no-brainer. :)

Your many options & "rise" in economic & power stature -- yes. It's a reason most Hollywood people can't, in the end, stay in an LTR for too long and many like shorter-term relationships and LTRs are just a change of pace. We aren't built to have tons of high-quality options consistently over time. We'll be in non-monogamy mode.

IF you aren't attracted to your wife, deeply from the start -- don't make her your wife in the first place. :) Don't get married to have kids or to appease parents & peers, or to feel complete in lifestyle. That'll only burn you later on.

You don't want to leave your wife, you care about her, and love her (although missing important ingredients which requires attraction for full-circle). You're in a tough spot. I think that's why some people cheat -- because it's dam*ed if you do, dam*ed if you don't, and it will at least make something "give" in the end if it's continued and they find out.

Re: EyesAlwaysWander

Your feelings are very common among people who think about cheating or do it. Lots of people do that. It has little to do with polyamory.

A real test of whether you are polyamorous is how you would feel if your wife wanted to have another man as a good friend with benefits. If you genuinely could take joy in knowing that your wife experienced fun sexual pleasure with another man, in addition to the pleasure she has with you, then you would be considered to have a polyamorous attitude.

Another test would be, if you found someone else you wanted to sleep with, would you share those desires honestly with your wife before you do it and get her approval? That approach would be another sign of being truly polyamorous.

I get the impression that you would pass neither of these tests.

Response to Trevor

Having a wandering eye is not the same as being polyamorous nor does how you feel about how your wife's looks really affect that. I would try focusing on what you do like about your wife and her looks; try to fall in love with her and see how that affects your wanderlust.


No. This arrangement is a divorce waiting to happen. Next question.

Beware, you might be with a narcissist

This type of desired lifestyle is common among narcissists. So before you agree to it, listen to your instinct (how does this open relationship proposition make you feel?), and definitely read this research on how narcissists perceive commitment: Much love.


It's amusing that it's called things like polygamy or polyamory if you're having sex with more than one person, monogamy if you're having sex with one, and STILL called monogamy even when the marriage is sexless! Should be called "zerogamy"!

The concept of someone sexually shutting off their partner and yet insisting on "monogamy" seems contradictory. :)


Insisting on chastity within the context of what is supposed to be a sexually exclusive, life long romantic relationship is immoral and one ought not allow themselves to be abused in such a manner.

If one does not believe in adultery then one does NOT believe in a sexless marriage. They will bust a gut to ensure their partner is satisfied.

If one refuses to keep their partner satisfied then they, by default, believe in adultery because eventually the probability is high that it will happen.

You cannot insist on both chastity and sexual exclusiveness (unless BOTH agree).


When one person sexually "shuts off" the other and requires fidelity I call that selfish. See my new essay on loss of libido.


I keep hearing pro-poly people talk about the benefits of having a spouse who is polyamorous, but no one ever says what those benefits are. Can someone please fill me in on them? I'm monogamous, happily, my husband of 21 years dropped the polybomb 5 months ago, and I just don't see any benefits for me in opening our marriage. Lots of losses and pain, but no benefits other than the person I love most in the world will be happy and fulfilled in ways he isn't with me as his wife.

I'm not poly myself, but as

I'm not poly myself, but as someone who admires those who can manage it and the positive reasons for it, I'll give it a try. Anybody who's poly and knows better feel free to correct me.

So let's run through a thought experiment starting with your case. Let's say your husband wants a poly relationship with you as his main (primary) partner, and you agree to give it a try. Nothing else has happened yet so nothing has really changed except the agreement. Then if your husband meets another woman who he likes, and she likes him and understands it's a poly situation, before he does anything with her your husband would come to you and be completely honest about the new woman. Let's say you weren't sure you were comfortable with the new woman, but you agreed to meet her along with your husband. Your husband would continue further with the new relationship ONLY if you approved and felt comfortable with it. If you had a poly mindset, you might allow the relationship because you love your husband and you are happy to see how happy he is with a new exciting woman. If you felt jealous you might choose to work through your own jealousy, realizing it's not really a contsructive feeling, or you would tell your husband that you can't overcome your jealousy, and he would then respect that. The idea is that everybody does a lot of talking so that everybody is happy. It's tricky, but if you have good insight into yourself and good communication with everyone, it's possible to make it all work out.

If you agree to try being poly, but you don't approve of any other women for your husband, well then you're poly in name only, and you're not practicing it.

If your husband announces unilaterally that your marriage is now open and poly, and you don't agree with that, then he has broken the rules and it's not a poly relationship. It's still a standard marriage where he's cheating and flaunting it. He might have a poly relationship with others, but technically only because he has separated or divorced from you. If he's insisting it's poly regardless, he's full of baloney and using the label to make it look like he's not an a-hole.

Another advantage is that if you and your husband agree to try being poly, you have the option of meeting another man and asking your husband if you can go ahead and bring him into your life. Ideally, your husband and the other man would get along too, and you three would be supportive friends, and both would admire you.

The whole point is that everyone tries keep everyone happy, and hold back if anyone doesn't want something to happen. It's not supposed to be a "polybomb" or anything like that. That's not poly.

If you don't want to share your husband with any other woman, and you don't want to have another man in your life at the same time, then poly is not for you, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I'm not to that point of

I'm not to that point of glibly accepting this. It's more of a resignation. I don't want to meet any of his lovers. I don't want to know who they are, don't want a face and body to flesh out my nightmares. I guess I'm in the "I love my husband and I know this is something that will make him happy" camp. I just don't want to know how happy and why and what the other woman/women have that I don't. He's happy, that's all I need to know. I don't WANT to share my husband, but I'm realistic enough to know we don't always get what we want. That's why marriage vows include worse with better, sicker with health, and poorer with richer. This is just part of the "worse". There's no happy outcome here, I'm just trying to make the best of a lousy situation.

Why don't you divorce him and

Why don't you divorce him and take him for everything that he's got? I think your situation is the more common (a selfish partner pressures and forces their monogamous partner who doesn't want it into it) type, which is why society will never accept it and looks down on people who propose it. Like I said, why be miserable to an unfaithful cad after you gave him the best years of your life? Take him for everything that he's got. Laugh when he ends up only being able to afford a grimy basement apartment because of the alimony.

I'll have to agree with Angel

I'll have to agree with Angel on this one. I hate the "good old American" approach of taking your past life companion, lover and marriage partner to the cleaners. I mean, really? The very same person you picked as the best person you could find to share your life with, the other parent to your children, and then you're going to suddenly take them to the cleaners as if they're the most hated person on earth? It's unecessarily destructive all around. And in my opinion, reduces you to appearing to be the most materialistic, grabbing, selfish, me-first person your previous life companion has ever met.

For some reason, we don't treat our children or parents quite the same way if we disagree with them. But in America, for some reason, it's considered "fair play" to suddenly treat our very most cherished life companion in this way. I never understood that.

So if you lawyer up, of course they're going to lawyer up too. And you both lose and the lawyers win a lot. You'd be far better off if you can stay friends, be giving, and divide things up in a respectful way.

Another twist. For example,

Another twist. For example, if you wanted to explore a relationship with another woman, and your husband met a bisexual woman, you three might agree to a relationship where your husband was with the other woman with your approval, and you would be with the other woman with his approval, and she was ok with you two still being man-and-wife as a primary relationship. Or you might decide to hang out and do fun things together as a group of three close friends. And that might include going to bed together as a threesome, where all three of you were sexually attracted to the other two.

It sounds complicated but it can work out very nicely if everybody is aligned and open-minded. I've personally enjoyed some aspects of this particular arrangement and we've had a lot of fun. Many times two of us have planned a fun surprise for the third, in every combination. We've gone out to movies and lots of fun events as a threesome. Just lots of fun and flirting and humor about our special three-way. It's not just about sex at all. That's what sets apart from swinging, where the emphasis is on sex with other people, not relationships.

another twist

I appreciate seeing how it works for poly people, I know it's a viable option for some who aren't suited to monogamy, but it's so not for me. I'm monogamous to the core. I just want the man I've loved for the majority of my adult life, no one else. And I'm definitely not bisexual.

I can't even imagine hanging out with him and his other lovers as "friends". Being the third wheel in your own marriage sucks, plus someone has to take care of our girls. We can't both be out playing around.

I'll just try to give him the room to do what he needs to do, and I'll find a way to deal with the fallout. I can love him while he's off loving other people and maybe he'll get it out of his system and want me again. I know he doesn't want a divorce, or he would have just filed. Probably would have been easier on him. I sometimes wish he had just cheated instead of teling me about and wanting me involved. I guess getting my approval makes him feel less guilty. I haven't really approved, just accepted this is how it has to be right now.

It's funny that you should

It's funny that you should say that poly is for people who are not suited for monogamy. Perhaps some poly people would describe themselves that way. In my case, I feel just as suited for monogamy. I don't have a desperate need for more. But if everyone is happy, I'm happy with more too.

It's kind of like the number of children you have. People think it's strange that you can be in love with two romantic partners at the same time, while they see nothing strange about being in love with two children at the same time. Yet it's often the case that the first child will act out and be jealous when the parents' attention suddenly turns to a second child in the house. But in this case the social expectation is that the first child needs to deal with it, not that the parents have betrayed their first child.

Third wheel..

Hmm, yes, I see how you feel when you say "third wheel". The ideal poly philosophy is that you are not a third wheel in the sense that you are at the bottom of the totem pole. Rather, you look at the good side of it, which is that you now have two friends who admire you, not just one. And she would admire and support the relationship YOU have with your husband.

It's hard to embrace all of this at once when you're coming from a monogamous mindset. You try to understand it with a monogamous set of emotions, and that doesn't work. You have to rethink a lot of your feelings. But there are advantages if you can do it.

Response to Angel

I am not necessarily pro-poly nor can I speak to what is true for you. Some of the benefits I have heard from others is that having a poly spouse leaves one more time for personal pursuits - whether causes of one's own, one's own interests, or one's own lovers(s). You need not agree to this arrangement, you know. Please consider seeing a couple's therapist to help you through this difficult time.

response to angel

Thank you for your response, we're looking for a couple's counselor who is "poly friendly" or at least neutral (my husband's requirement). I get physically ill at the thought of going outside my marriage vows, I don't want other lovers. As for more time with him out dating? I'd be doing the same thing I'd be doing if he was home, taking care of our daughters. I'm a stay-at-home mom and primary caregiver of two profoundly autistic teens. I'd just be doing it alone rather than with my partner.

One of the things we're losing that I'm having a hard time dealing with is physical intimacy. I can't stand the thought of him touching me after being with his other lovers. I've tried to ignore it, to pretend he was just out bowling with his buddies, but deep inside I know and it's killing me. I moved out of our room, we still hug and show affection around the girls so they don't have a sense of things changing, but I just can't get past it.

It sounds like poly is not

It sounds like poly is not for you. But if I were you I'd still give it my best shot and try to fully understand what it's all about and sleep on it for a while to see how you feel about it. The whole poly philosophy is that how YOU feel about it is very important. If you feel forced into it, that is totally against the whole concept.

You've focused on your not wanting to share your husband with others, which is quite normal and OK, obviously. How do you feel about having an additional caring man in your life. Again, poly is not just about sex, so we're talking about another man who could provide all kinds of emotional support for you, perhaps in ways your husband isn't. Would that make you feel better about the freedom your husband wants to enjoy? If your husband is truly embracing the poly concept, he would consider such an arrangement for you and try to accept it.

It all requires a new level of tolerance, openness, honesty, transparency, and lots of talking. It's complicated, takes energy to set up, etc. But for a few people, once it's set up, these kinds of arrangements can be enduring, stable, long-lasting, supportive, and very rewarding.

But again, I'd never even think of recommending this kind of arrangement for most people.

Incidentally, if your husband

Incidentally, if your husband won't agree in principle to allowing you to have another man, then I'd say what he really wants is nothing more than the good old double standard. He wants a license to cheat, and wouldn't mind calling it poly if that gives it an air of sophisticated legitimacy.

I do feel for you, and I worry that your husband's understanding of and likely success with poly is already diminished by his demonstrated approach to breaking with you on this already. But of course if you would never agree to it, he wouldn't have the choice anyway. These are the sorts of things your therapist should be able to help you with.

But in the present situation as you've describe it, if I were one of the poly women who met your husband, it would worry me that you were out of the picture and that you might not be approving. I would take it as a clear sign that your husband has not arranged a true harmonious poly situation, but already comes with baggage of unresolved serious disagreements with his primary partner, which is not something I'd want to get into the middle of as a poly person. I'd worry that your husband was just another guy who was declaring he was poly just so he could sleep with more women, while not allowing you to do the same or taking comfort in the fact that you don't want to do the same. Again, stuff that your therapist might help sort out.

Of course, not all poly people are as communicative and caring as they should be, so you never know for sure. But I would be a little suspicious of the "poly" people he's meeting who would readily agree to "hook up" with him without knowing what the situation with you and meeting you to verify it. I'm sure a lot of women have heard a married man say their wife is OK with them sleeping around. But if you want to talk to his wife to verify it, well, you see she's very busy or out of town right now and all that obvious BS. Oldest story in the book, and has nothing to do with being poly.


He's fine with me having another man, actually that would take the pressure off of him asking for this if I'd do it too. It's just, strange as it may seem, I don't WANT another lover. And I really don't want to be best buds with the women who are taking my place in my husband's bed. I can manage to control myself and not key their cars and go batcrap crazy. I just don't want to have my nose rubbed in it all the time.

Isn't there any other way to assure them he's doing this with my knowledge and acceptance? A letter, signed sworn affidavit? Really what difference does it make? They aren't seeking a relationship with me, but with my husband. Is is some perverse need to flaunt it in front of me? I'd even do a quick phone call if absolutely necessary, but I really want no involvement or knowledge beyond that. If I'm willing to accept this, why can't his lovers be willing to accept that more involvement with them would be excruciatingly painful for me and just leave me alone?

I see what you're saying.

I see what you're saying. You're in a tough situation and you're very tolerant. Yes, I suppose some of them might be satisfied with a phone call or some indication of approval on your part. But again, if I were one of those supposedly "poly" women, I'd still be reluctant to get involved with your husband if I sensed that I was getting in the middle of something that was making you unhappy.

caring friends

I have lots of caring friends of both sexes in my life, but purely platonic. I have no need or interest to have other lovers, and I don't understand my husband's need for other lovers. I've never been jealous of his other friends, male or female. Have no problem with him spending time with them. But when it comes to him having other girlfriends/lovers, I hit the wall. That is (was) our special relationship, that was our bond that we shared with each other and no one else. Now I'm not even sure what he wants from me other than domestic bliss and comforts of home. I could be a housekeeper and give him that.

Even as a poly person, it

Even as a poly person, it sounds like your husband is lacking some communication skills. Because even if you disagreed with his desire for an open marriage, he could still be reassuring you in many ways.

As someone who admires the poly concept, I still agree with you that I don't see the "need" for it, so I'm not sure I can explain that. That's definitely something you should talk about in therapy with him.


You wrote:
"even if you disagreed with his desire for an open marriage, he could still be reassuring you in many ways."

Reassure me of what? He's saying all the right "I love you and don't want to lose you" things, but the actions are contradictory. You don't go chasing after love affairs if you're happy and in love with your spouse. So I really don't know what to believe. I feel lower than shit, unwanted, unloved, tossed aside; and all of his protestations and "No, baby, I still love you, I don't want to lose you, I just want...." I don't get it. I try so hard to make a nice home, make his world comfortable and happy and safe and loving, I know I'm not a slinky little sex kitten, but I didn't think I was sludge either. So what exactly is he supposed to reassure me of as he goes out to romance someone else?

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Isadora AlmanM.F.T., is a Board-certified sex, marriage, and family therapist, lecturer, author, and syndicated advice columnist of "Ask Isadora."


Subscribe to Sex & Sociability

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.