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.”
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