Is is normal that my spouse wants polyamory?
Lately, I have had interesting conversations with several of my couples about whether it is “normal” for them to engage in polyamory after they have been married for a long time. At times, this topic is accepted with laughter and openness. When this happens, I am thrilled to notice smiles on the couple’s faces or their body language towards the end of a session that tell me they have become closer to one another as a result of this new discovery about their marriage.
More often than not though, this subject is brought up with intense emotions and fear of uncertainty for the future. What I have found from my work with couples is that the challenge does not often lie in the behavior of engaging or not engaging in polyamory. The couple’s choice itself impacts their relationship, which causes them to feel devastated in the aftermath.
So to answer the above question, here is what I have to say:
“Normal” is a very subjective word to describe you and your relationship. There is “no one size fit all.” What appears to be normal in your friend’s or acquaintance’s relationship does not mean that it will be for yours. Your relationship is unique because it has the personal touch of you and your spouse/partner. So, stop measuring your relationship by using someone else’s standard. Go build your own!
One’s sexuality is fluid and moves on a continuum, which means it can change. Since the day we met, my husband has never told me that he is interested in having open relationships with multiple partners; but for me, being a therapist, I do not just assume that his or my sexual preference will remain forever unchanged. To be honest, I do not know how I would feel about it, but I would be there to listen to him with openness because I know how hard it would be for him to share it with me. When your partner discloses that they want to experience being polyamorous, it does not mean that they stop loving you or that your relationship is on the brink of destruction. It may just mean that there is a shift in the relationship that requires your curiosity and attention. If it becomes hard for you and your spouse to discuss, go get professional help. I know I certainly would.
Do not go along with it out of pressure. One common idea that can come up when discussing polyamory is “I didn’t sign up for this when I married you.” This may sound argumentative but being able to speak the truth may help start the healing process. You see, our guts feelings often tell us that we are not built or ready to commit to a certain thing. Instead of exploring and reflecting on that inner voice, we shut it out because we are afraid that if we say “no,” we would be judged, rejected, or viewed as a failure by our spouse. If polyamory is something you and your partner want to spice up your relationship, I’d say go for it. You may learn something new about yourself, your partner, and your relationship that you did not know before. However, if you go along with your partner’s desire out of fear of rejection and loss of your marriage, then that is a red flag. This is where you need to find help from a couple’s therapist. There may be more things that need to be addressed in your marriage than a simple desire of trying to engage in an open relationship with your spouse.
I have always been an advocate for pre-marital counseling because what I’ve learned from my work is that couples do not like to talk about taboo subjects, such as sex, money, and illness/death, especially during the dating period. Talking about intimacy and sex with your partner is not easy. Sharing with your partner that you are interested in engaging in polyamorous relationships takes the complication to another level. Do not feel ashamed of yourself if this is what you want to experience. Likewise, avoid judging your partner when they come to you and disclose what their heart desires. Your relationship is unique because it reflects who you are and who your spouse is. Do not judge your relationship just because your neighbor despises polyamory. And remember, this is a time when reaching out for professional help can save your marriage.
Meet the Author:
Michelle is a Couples and Individual Therapist whose private practice is based in Frisco, Texas. Michelle is passionate about helping couples work through marital and relationship issues, especially those related to money and sex. Michelle is also a fully trained EMDR therapist who loves helping individuals thrive despite their past trauma. Besides helping others, Michelle enjoys spending her time traveling, cooking for her family, and spending time with her puppies, Ben and Bell.