Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Divorce Among the Polyamorists

Four ways polyamory interacts with divorce

Divorce is a common occurance among adults in the Unites States, regardless of how people organize their relationships. Monogamous, cheating, and polyamorous people divorce, and the common thread among them all is that the ways in which people handle their relationships determine how those relationships progress or end.

Polyamorous After Divorce

When people attempt monogamy and it goes badly, some of them decide to try polyamory. This is especially true for people who have had tremendous difficulty remaining monogamous with their partners. For people who are polyamorous by orientation, it can be extremely painful to attempt to squash themselves into a monogamous mold. These folks sometimes decide to establish poly relationships that allow them to live honestly and openly in a relationship style that works better for them.

Polyamorous Instead of Divorce

For some people, becoming polyamorous can save a marriage. When people truly love each other and treat each other well but have difficulty remaining sexually exclusive or do not get important needs met in their marital relationship, becoming polyamorous can support a marriage by bringing extra-marital sexuality out into the open where it can be honestly discussed. In some instances both people in a marriage establish additional relationships with others outside of the marriage. In other cases termed mono-poly or poly-mono, one of the partners has multiple relationships and the other remains monogamous even though they could have other partners if they wished but simply choose not to avail themselves of that option.

A white couple in wedding clothes with a rip down the center of the image

Happily divorced people staying together is quite uncommon among monogamists.

Divorced and Staying Together

A white couple in wedding clothes with a rip down the center of the image

Happily divorced people staying together is quite uncommon among monogamists.

Divorced and Staying Together

In some cases, poly people establish non-monogamous relationships that supersede their original marriage between two people. When people love more than one person, they sometimes choose to put all of their relationships on the same level. This can mean getting divorced to equalize with other relationships. Such divorces do not signal a problem or estrangement with the original couple, rather that they are equally invested in the relationships they have established with others and do not wish to highlight one relationship as more important than the others.

Divorced After Trying Polyamory

Like relationships in general, polyamory does not always work out the ways in which people imagine it will, and sometimes things go very wrong. When people try polyamory and it does not work for them, sometimes they stay together and return to a monogamous relationship style. Others who attempt to establish a polyamorous relationship end up feeling hurt or angry at how things worked out, and this can lead to divorce when people are unable to move past the pain they have inflicted on each other. While this same thing happens in monogamous relationships, poly relationships can be so complex and intense that they can explode dramatically if things go wrong. When that happens, poly relationships can lead directly to divorce.

A white couple with angry faces and a rip down the middle of the image.

Polyamorous or not, people who hurt each other sometimes divorce.

WebRep currentVote noRatingnoWeight

More from Elisabeth A. Sheff Ph.D., CSE
More from Psychology Today