“Could Non-Monogamy Save Your Marriage?”
I’m asked this fairly often, if I think non-monogamy is a good way to fix a troubled relationship. And outsiders often assume that this is the major reason that relationships open up in the first place.
But it wasn’t that way for me at all. When Seth and I opened up, it was out of curiosity more than anything.
I didn’t feel like our marriage was in trouble.
I felt like we were really solid.
We’d been monogamous 8 years (married for 4 of those). And my relationship with Seth had been the most stable one I’d ever had.
True, we’d both settled a little bit. Seth regretted marrying the second woman he’d ever dated. Before he really had a chance to experience a variety of relationships.
And while I was attracted to Seth’s confidence, he was very self-contained. I never felt like we really connected. While I longed for closeness, Seth needed space. Sharing blankets was out of the question (we each had our own). No cuddling in bed. He didn’t want anyone touching him while he slept. And no way was he going to shower with me. Or entertain the emotional talks I was dying to have.
But we had the same sense of humor. And we both liked philosophy and video games. So we laughed at the same things. Limited our discussions to those two shared interests. And it served us well for eight years.
Polyamory Found Us
We never sought out polyamory as a solution to anything. Polyamory came up and found us when we discovered Megan and Pete, close couple friends of ours, had been open for quite some time. Without any of us realizing it.
And although my initial reaction was definitely judgement of those friends (in my head, if not aloud), as time went on, I realized that it worked for them. And I could also see that my resistance towards non-monogamy was built on very shaky ground.
It was largely based in fear — fear of the unknown. Fear of losing the only stable relationship I’d ever known. But as I took a look at this, I came to realize that if the relationship I was in was as good as I thought it was that opening it up to other people wouldn’t affect us negatively. I could look at Megan and Pete for that. And see that, if anything, their bond had been deepened by seeing other people.
The trouble was: What if my relationship wasn’t as good as I thought it was? What if other people being in the picture demonstrated that?
I sat in that space with that question for a very long time, until I had my answer: I decided I’d rather know the truth, even if the truth were unsettling. As Carl Sagan wrote, “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
With that, I changed my mind about non-monogamy, shocking Seth and everyone who knew us. And we leapt.
Living in a Box, Without Even Knowing It
What happened next was full of twists and turns (for the long version, see my book).
But the short version is that seeing other people, especially once we both started to date on our own, led to a sense of autonomy I had long forgotten. Prior to opening up, my identity had effectively been consumed by my marriage to Seth. My identity had become fused to his. Little did I realize I’d spent 8 years always putting his needs first. Working my whole life around his. Whether he wanted me to or not.
The first few nights I spent alone while he was out on dates were especially difficult. But after a while, I actually came to look forward to spending time by myself.
And I ventured forth and made my own friends. My own connections. People who shared interests with me that Seth didn’t. Seth didn’t always understand what I saw in them. And often disapproved of sides of me that seemed to come out with others. He was used to the version of me that was tailored specifically to him. But in reality? That version was a very small sliver of who I was.
And as time wore on, Seth came to see more and more of me he didn’t like. And I came to realize that I wasn’t happy pretending to be someone I wasn’t. Inhabiting a small subset of my personality just to get along with someone who I really wasn’t that compatible with. Not when I’d been able to connect so easily with others without maintaining that façade.
I came to realize that I had been living in a rather small box, without even knowing it. And once I experienced the open air of being my full self? I didn’t want to go back.
Non-Monogamy Saved Me
We’re now divorced. Live in separate states.
We are both happy — happier than we were together.
We write to each other on occasion. And laugh now that we were ever married.
And while that marriage is over and I’ve gone on to seriously re-partner, that autonomy and authenticity remain.
I am my full self with people. I’m tactful and polite as situations require, but I worry far less that someone won’t like me.
So no, non-monogamy didn’t save my marriage. It saved me.
My book is out!