Polyamory as an Alternative to Infidelity

“That doesn’t work.”

No doubt, if you have heard someone talk about “polyamory,” or any of the terms describing open marriage or non-monogamous relationships, and especially if you have suggested it to your spouse or significant other, you likely heard those words.

“That doesn’t work.”

Discussion over. Next.

The harsh truth about marriages in today’s society is that nearly 50% of them end in divorce, largely due to infidelity. Second marriages, in which one would think they had avoided the pitfalls that ended their first marriage, have a 60% divorce rate. Third marriages? 75% divorce rate.*

Perhaps it is monogamy that doesn’t work. Certainly not for everybody. That said, alternative lifestyles like Polyamory don’t work for everyone either. Couples are like snowflakes: no two are alike. What works for one couple may not work for another. There is not a magic tool that will fix all marriages, but it helps to have as many tools in your toolbox as possible; that is, if your goal is to have a healthy, happy marriage.

As a society, we pride ourselves on our “family values.” We fall in love and get married. We buy a house. We have kids. We build our career. We join a church or social group. We are living the American Dream…until it turns into a nightmare.

“Love,” that euphoric feeling and rush of desire so common at the beginning of a new relationship, always fades.

It. Always. Fades.

There are no exceptions to this. You may be reading this saying to yourself, “Not my marriage, because I still feel a rush when my wife kisses me! Not my relationship! It won’t fade.”

It will.

The average length of time for that “in love” feeling to last in a primary relationship is two years.**

Which means you may be in your fifth year of wedded bliss, still getting excited watching your wife get dressed in the morning, but someone else has lost it in their first year. Perhaps even before their first year.

It fades. It’s a fact of life. That feeling of euphoria fades, and there is nothing wrong with that. Too many couples think that the “honeymoon is over” when that fades or that it must not have been true love, but that is not the case. It was very real, but it was just the first step. A deeper connection and a more beautiful love come after that. Something real. Something that lasts. Something that is not just based on brain chemicals and hormones. True intimacy is what comes next, if you are willing to do the work to establish that.

Recently, when discussing polyamory with a friend, he said to me, “But it’s just so much easier to cheat and lie about it.” We had had a conversation about polyamory years ago when my husband and I first were experimenting with an open marriage. This friend said his wife would never go for it, but he did bring it up in passing one day. Her response was: “That doesn’t work.”

End of discussion.

Two years later, he had an affair. His wife is blissfully ignorant of it, but if and when she finds out–and let’s face it, they usually do–she will feel devastated and betrayed. And she should, because he betrayed her trust. He betrayed their vows. He lied to her, and the greatest pain is in the deception, not the sex. He adores his wife. I know it doesn’t seem like it, because he did cheat on her, but he does adore her.

Perhaps the greatest problem with the monogamy model is that it does not leave room for personal growth and personal satisfaction. The monogamy model shows us that once you are married you stay married…or you get divorced. Or, of course, you cheat. But then, you are no longer monogamous.

Desire happens. Even love sometimes just happens. Usually when you least expect it and even if you don’t want it. Another fact of life. We are sexual beings. Sex to most men and many, many women (more than you’d think!) is as essential a need as food, water, and shelter. Sex, after several years of marriage, can fall to the wayside because the comfort and security are there. The kids. PTA meetings. Career. Day care. Housekeeping. After all the maintenance of life, sex falls to the side. Where once you had sex daily or at least weekly, now weeks or even months may go by without sex.

Then one day it happens. You’re off on a business trip, or at the office, and you notice someone in that way. S/he notices you, too. You feel seen. You feel attractive and interesting and desirable, all those things that your spouse truly knows but no longer seems to notice. Is this person better? Younger? Sexier? More beautiful than your spouse? Not necessarily. In fact, unlikely. S/he’s merely different. New.

So. What are your choices? Deny your own desires, or worse, your heart if you’ve fallen “in love”? This can mean to emotionally castrate yourself, which can actually cause physical ailments.***

Your other choice, the one that has become far too common in our society, is to cheat on your spouse, jeopardizing your marriage and family, if you have children. All for what?  To feel good. Not attractive options. Especially because this new “in love” euphoria, too, will fade over time. As many people find out in their second and third marriages. It always does. It is biology.

Here is a third option: Polyamory.

Polyamory is many things, but it is not a license to have sex with whomever or whenever you want. Not necessarily. Not unless that is what you and your spouse decide. Polyamory cannot really be defined, as it means different things to different people. In fact, polyamory might not mean having sex with anyone but your spouse.

Polyamory is about open and honest relationships, which first and foremost must happen in your primary relationship.

For starters, you can use this new office attraction as “borrowed desire,” sparking things at home, but not deceptively. Tell your spouse about it. I know this sounds terrifying, but this is how one develops true intimacy and a deeper relationship with one’s spouse: by sharing fears.

You must start and end the conversation with reassurances on how much you love him/her and how you would never leave him/her. Tell them that revealing this is scary to you because you are afraid s/he will think something is going on, but that is precisely WHY you are telling them, to reassure them that there isn’t. Otherwise you wouldn’t be telling them.

This conversation can be extremely powerful. By telling them about this attraction you are 1) at least partially diffusing the situation at work (by hiding it, you’re only fueling the excitement and the desire for this new person, and, worse, deceiving your spouse) and, 2) making yourself vulnerable before your spouse. Tell them that you don’t want to feel this attraction, but you do. Tell them that you aren’t going to act on it, but it feels great to be seen again. Tell them that it has inspired you to want to make them feel desired and loved and cherished again, because you would never do anything to hurt him/her or your family.

Ask if your spouse feels threatened. If they do, then address that by reassuring them again. There is no place for anger here. If s/he get’s angry, then it is likely because s/he is scared of abandonment, too. Listen to your spouse’s fears. Likely, their fear is that you are going to leave them. Abandonment is one of the greatest fears in any marriage, in any relationship. The tragedy is that this overwhelming fear of  abandonment keeps couples from opening up to each other, which ironically and ultimately pushes them further and further apart making an indiscretion, separation, or divorce all that more likely.

In my next article, I will be addressing 5 myths about polyamory.:

  • Casual sex with whomever/whenever
  • Something must be wrong with your marriage to want to open it up
  • It’s only about sex or It’s only about love
  • My spouse isn’t enough for me, so I must look elsewhere
  • It doesn’t work



*   Chapman, Gary. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2004. 35. Print.

** Chapman, Gary. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2004. 30-32. Print.

***Ryan, Christopher, Ph.D. & Cacilda Jethá, M.D. Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. New York: Harper, 2010. Loc. 4873-82. Digital.

Ryan and Jethá discuss how men in monogamous relationships have a decrease in testosterone over time whereas men who are in non-monogamous relationships and enjoy a certain level of variety maintain their testosterone levels if not increase them. They also write that “researches have found that men with lower levels of testosterone are more than four times as likely to suffer from clinical depression, fatal heart attacks, and cancer when compared to other men their age with higher testosterone levels. They are also more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.”


BUY Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality on Amazon
BUY  The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts on Amazon


~ by omgrey on January 7, 2011.

21 Responses to “Polyamory as an Alternative to Infidelity”

  1. Great article. I have a lot of friends who enjoy polyamory. It seems to “work” for them. I look forward to reading your next article.



  2. […] as I’ve stated in my first article, can mean many different things, depending on the couple. The foundation for it is an open and […]

  3. […] Polyamory as an Alternative to Infidelity […]

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  6. […] As I’ve stated before, sexuality is biological. We are sexual beings. It’s part of our makeup. The need to be loved and for sexual satisfaction (and sometimes sexual variety) are as natural as hunger and thirst. […]

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  8. […] Last week, a colleague and I were discussing polyamory vs. infidelity. The latter she called non-consensual non-monagamy. I had never heard it put quite that way before, […]

  9. […] know that the rush and excitement of a new love is intoxicating and addictive, but as I’ve said in other articles, ultimately fades. We cannot burn that brightly indefinitely without burning out. The initial […]

  10. […] As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are different stages of love. New love is intoxicating and often agonizing, but it’s nothing if not exciting and hot and passionate. We all too often equate our sexuality with this new love or new desire. […]

  11. Great article. I think the two big stumbling blocks are insecurity and jealousy.
    Alot of people will see poly as a doorway to loosing the one that they love. If they think the grass is always greener than eventually their spouse will find someone smarter, better looking, better in bed, makes more money or has a bigger penis than they do. Someone more deserving of the spouses love. in short insecurity.
    And of course jealousy. Not everyone can be comfortable picturing their spouse in a loving, passionate embrace with another. This doesn’t make them any better of worse of a person. These emotions are deep evolutionary triggers. With allot of people they take time and effort to overcome. I have been in poly and monogamous relationships, (Among other variations) it all depended on the other person, what they were comfortable with. But the discussion was always on the table and was discussed. Communication is key. Always.

    • Of course, and they are valid emotions. I’m insecure, and I can be quite jealous, too. If anyone had said I’d be polyamorous 10 years ago, I would’ve said they were crazy. Seriously. But here I am, and ultimately it’s wonderful. Jealousy can be managed.

      Communication is key. Always. As long as two people are talking, things can be worked out. It’s when they don’t talk that’s the problem.

  12. […] Original blog post here. […]

  13. An interesting angle is always comparing the failure of relationships within polyamory and other forms of open relationships vs. monogamous marriage, however if you look at all the one-on-one relationships a person had before they married, the failure rate of monogamous relationships is much higher.

    For instance, lets say a person has four long-term monogamous relationships before they get married in the fifth one. Isn’t the failure rate of monogamy now 80%? And if half of the marriages end in divorce doesn’t that now make the failure of one-on-one relationships 90%?

    I don’t see how any other form of relationships could do any worse.

    • Excellent! Very, very good! 🙂

      No, monogamy is not the answer for most. But I think all types of relationship would be infinitely more successful if there was honesty all around. Monogamy or polyamory or whatever, honesty is what makes it work.

  14. Maybe love means living on past the honeymoon and accepting that your fantasy can never fully be met? http://thoughtcatalog.com/2011/the-words-love-and-revolution/

  15. failures in mono or poly are only due to the lack of communication and immaturity of the people in today’s society. Ever heard of extended teenage ? When immature people, that is nowadays nearly up to 25 – 30 years old marry, the wedding can’t last.

    Now polyamoury is not new… it was called swinging before by more honest people, not hiding behind a word.

    What happens when lets say a poly of 1 girl & 2 guys fails ? Do you really think that the 2 guys will pay the child support ? Of course not ! The only one paying alimony & child support will be the guy stupid enough to be the biological father, the other simply running away.

    • Agreed that many, if not most, failures in any relationship, regardless of lifestyle, is due to communication problems in one way or another. Usually, lack thereof, but sometimes because of the way things are communicated, too.

      I don’t agree than poly and swinging are the same thing. Not at all. They are both forms of ethical non monogamy, or at least supposedly ethical. Ideally ethical. However, I have met *many* people who call themselves poly and are closer to swingers, but they’re not really that either, as swinging still focuses on ethics. And if one identifies as poly and talks a good talk about responsibility and investment and loving relationships but is really riding on NRE and lots of sex, then not terribly ethical either.

      As for your final sentence. Um. No. The “guy stupid enough”?!?! You started this comment out by talking about the lack of maturity, which this statement and what it implies is drenched with. It’s not “stupid” to pay child support, it’s responsible and mature. It’s irresponsible, selfish, cruel, and cowardly to “simply” run away.

  16. […] Polyamory as an Alternative to Infidelity […]

  17. Fourth option, and the one always missing in polyamory discussions, you can resist the temptation, go home, talk to your spouse, tell them you want/need to make each other a priority again, romance the hell out of each other, and fall in passionate love all over again. I watched my parents, married 52 years and counting, do this several times over the years. Did they face temptation to stray? Probably. Did they ever feel bored and boring? Undoubtedly. Did they ever think the answer could be found outside of each other? Nope. They renovated their marriage and desire, just as you would a dated kitchen that was still functional and beloved. You don’t move just because the cabinets are dated. But this is never an option even hinted at by polyamorists. It’s always, get it outside, it’ll make it better inside. Which very rarely happens.

    • I think you’re right. I think it does very rarely happen.

      The relationship has to be unshakable before you go outside. You can’t fix it by going outside.

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