Dear Dr. Jenni,
I’ve tried monogamous relationships my entire life, and try as I may, I just don’t find monogamy to be spiritually fulfilling. In fact, I find it boring. I’d like to try polyamory, but I’m not sure how to introduce the subject to my girlfriend,
or any girl in the future for that matter. How can one discuss polyamory
with a significant other without coming off like a complete jerk?
—Perplexed by Procedure
Polyamory is one of society’s top taboos. There is an old adage that says, “Nature loves diversity, society hates it.” However, polyamory is about love, commitment, transparency and trust … with more than one person. Unlike swinging, where interactions are based more on recreational sex, polyamory is a lifestyle of intimate relationships practiced with or without sex. Also called responsible non-monogamy, the lifestyle requires the consent of all who are involved.
For many people, polyamory can feel threatening to the security of a monogamous relationship. Yet many people find it daunting to mate for life. It’s easier to have an affair than introduce fantasy or explore change in a relationship.
That said, polyamory is not necessarily the answer to the monotony of monogamy. Spiritually, ask yourself what feels “spiritually unfulfilling.” Are there sentiments going unsaid, or questions unanswered? Is it easier to stay silent on certain issues, especially sexual ones, than ask for change?
Making the switch mid-relationship to a polyamorous lifestyle can be a difficult process. The relationship must have enough trust and honesty that letting your partner be with another person doesn’t feel threatening. You can still say to yourself, “I’m good enough, and I fully trust my partner won’t leave me for another person.” It’s normal to bump up against boundaries where you feel threatened in any relationship, exclusive or not. In polyamory, though, you must be fully willing to continuously process how all parties are feeling.
Before you suggest polyamory to your future partner, it’s wise for you to first get acquainted with the lifestyle. Keep in mind, casually dating numerous people is not considered polyamory. Do your research, read some books, go to some meet-up groups, and get involved with the community. Most likely, it will be easier to date those with similar values in the community.
If you are in an exclusive, monogamous relationship, and you don’t want your partner to consider you a “complete jerk,” start by having conversations that are less taboo. Share a fantasy you had from high school, and ask her to share one. Then share one from college, and ask her to share one. Build up your ability to share sexual content together.
Once you feel comfortable vocalizing all your needs, wants and desires, then you know the relationship can withstand a deeper level of authenticity, and broaching the topic of opening the relationship will feel safer.
For all you know, your radical honesty with one another may make you fall in love with your partner in a new way.
Dear Dr. Jenni,
I’ve had an affair and haven’t told my husband. I’m too afraid it will crush him. The problem is that I don’t want to be with him and haven’t for a long time. Yet I can’t seem to leave the marriage.
—Stuck in the Mud of Marriage
It is up to you whether you disclose the affair. However, you must ask yourself why you are still in the relationship.
What makes you stay? What makes you want to leave? Consider the dichotomy of “love vs. loneliness.” Are we with our partner because we are scared to be alone, scared to leave and scared to hurt the other person? Or are we with our partner because we feel an undeniable sense of love and respect? Weighing these questions is your first task.
Skyler is a sex therapist and board-certified sexologist who runs The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, www.theintimacyinstitute.org. Questions? Send questions for Jenni Skyler to drjenni@ theintimacyinstitute.org.]