"Should We Go Polyamorous?"

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

One of the emails I get over and over again is a variant on this one:
“My partner has just told me they’d like to see other people.  Should we go polyamorous?”
And that question always carries the assumption that there’s one answer.
Look: polyamory is not for everybody.  For a lot of people – and maybe even most people – monogamy is what’s going to maximize their happiness.  There’s no “HEY YEAH GO POLY,” and anyone who tells you that everyone should be polyamorous is selling you something, Princess.  (NOTE: they are most likely attempting to sell you on the vast benefits of their genitals.)
Should you guys go poly?  I dunno.  How are you at dealing with jealousy?  Can you own your own insecurities?  Can you communicate properly?  Will you self-destruct if you have to spend a night alone, knowing they’re in someone else’s arms?  Are you guys stable enough that it’s a good time to start experimenting?
(Don’t start poly as a last-ditch resort, man.  I hear couples going, “Well, we fight so often that I almost stabbed him with a steak knife at the Sizzler last night – but having a baby will bring us together!”  Maybe, but probably not, and if it doesn’t you’ve just made things a lot more complex.  So it goes with polyamory.)
So the question is, “Was your relationship good enough that you should be staying regardless?” is the looming question that too few people ask when trying to fix their love life.
What’s your partner looking to get out of this polyamory?  Are they hard-wired for the polyamory lifestyle – and if so, why hasn’t this been addressed before?  Have you been walking around this massive elephant in your living room for months now, and only now are having to address it?  (If so, “blithely ignoring the potential dealbreakers until they threaten to crush us” usually isn’t a great dynamic for a flexible, healthy relationships.)  Is your partner wanting to sleep with one particular person?  Do they want sex, or emotional relationships?  Do they want to experiment for a time, or is this a hard-core surety that this is the way it must be?  The question of “What is someone getting out of polyamory?” is one that a lot of people overlook, thinking that polyamory all stems from some universal and easily-parsed desire, and you can do great harm with the wrong assumptions.
Do you trust your partner?  Do they love you, or are they just hoping to do the bare minimum of placation while they run out and get their rocks off?  Do you trust them to care for you, even in the throes of NRE?  Do they respect you, or are you making too many excuses for their bad behavior because you fear losing them?  The question of “Is your partner someone worth handing the keys to your heart?” is one that every couple faces, and polyamory only exacerbates that.
And are you willing to watch this relationship crash and burn?  Any time you make a major adjustment to a relationship – moving to a different state, moving in together, moving in with your family – you risk changing a comfortable dynamic.  Is it worth losing everything you have now for something that might be nice but not vital?  The question of “How much comfortable stability are we willing to gamble in the hopes of positive change?” is a muddy, ever-shifting question.
And what if this is a dealbreaker for them?  Then the answer isn’t “Should I go polyamorous,” but rather “Should I stay with them, or try to see whether I can live with this thing they need?”  That’s another separate question – and again, one that gets asked by lovers who’ve discovered their partners need more of a life outside of the house, have discovered their partners need more kink in their lives, their partners need to have less sex.  The question of “How much suck is worth tolerating in this relationship?” is something that again, there’s no singular clear answer to that fits everyone.
Thing is, when this is all said and done, “Should we go poly?” is not just one question, but a hundred of them, and there’s no possible way I could give you an answer from a two-line email.  Monogamy isn’t bad.  Desiring polyamory isn’t bad.
What you gotta do is ask the right questions, and that starts with realizing that “Should we go poly?” is in fact the starter topic to a large discussion that’s only gonna be solved by you two, working together, honestly.
I wish you luck.

1 Comment

  1. ellixis
    Feb 4, 2015

    When we were discussing marriage, my spouse and I sat down and had a particular discussion – since we had both been in other monogamous relationships when we fell in love with one another, we felt that we needed to address the possibility of one or both of us finding a desire for an emotional or sexual relationship other than the one we had with each other. It had, after all, happened before, and ignoring the possibility that it could happen again could be trouble. We decided that since we trusted each other enough to make the commitment to be married, outside interests were not a definite dealbreaker, and should they come up, we would discuss it openly and honestly and proceed according to how we felt then.
    Long story short – we’ve been married 12 years and we’re coming up on 5 years with our amazing girlfriend, who will be spending this Valentine’s with her boyfriend, who is also a mutual friend of all of ours. It doesn’t work for everyone. But getting the elephant out of the room before it started any problems has done us worlds of good.


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