Mandatory Monogamy Doesn’t Work Either

 Jasmine Peterson was polyamorous, her husband wasn’t… guess which one cheated.

It has been nearly a year since I had an epiphany and came to the realization that I am, by nature, polyamorous—six years into a monogamous relationship. There were several well-wishers who were curious to know how this would turn out for me. Just three short months after coming out as polyamorous to my partner (and the internet), my life took a tremendous turn, relationship-wise, I thought I’d follow up. If you haven’t read about my self-discovery, you can read it here to give you a little background on my story.

The comments that I received, from commenters at GMP and from friends and family, were mixed; some were really supportive but others less so (i.e., hostile and even a bit derogatory, at times). In particular, my long-term monogamous partner of six years really struggled in coming to terms with my identifying as polyamorous. And I understood that, of course. But what I’ve discovered is that I’m not alone in making this self-discovery well into a committed, long-term, monogamous relationship. In fact, through the supportive comments of commenters here at GMP, I discovered that there were a number of others struggling with very similar situations (and thank you for that, to all of you who also shared your experiences; it really legitimized what I was going through). And the more I heard from people who said “You know, I’m going through something very similar right now” the more I knew that talking about this so publicly was the right thing to do (even if terrifying).

In our culture, monogamy is considered the only real, legitimate relationship style (heterosexual monogamy, in particular). I have noticed, in recent years, a proliferation of discussions about nonmonogamy in the media and at the cultural level. Sadly enough, these conversations often devolve into rhetorically vitriolic discussions based on misconceptions and ignorance in which nonmonogamy is vilified as being immoral and wrong. And this, I do firmly believe, is why it wasn’t until I was 27 that I was finally able to recognize that I, myself, am in fact polyamorous. And, this too, I believe, was why many of the commenters at GMP reported similar experiences, only discovering this of themselves later in life, while already in monogamous relationships (and even marriages) themselves.

And here is where the irony comes in. All of my monogamous detractors (just to clarify, this is not an imputation against all monogamous persons, by any means), who have suggested that polyamory is only about promiscuity, that it is based on an inability to commit to one human being, that it is somehow less than monogamy, let me tell you a story and explain away these misconceptions. Polyamory is about having the desire or capacity to engage in more than one relationship at a time – whether that be a sexual or purely romantic relationship would be up to the partners involved. It does not mean using the term as permission to have as much casual sex as you want (unless that is part of the understanding between partners). It does not mean cheating. The basis of polyamorous relationships should be open and honest communication. To me, that seems a beautiful, functional way to relate.

After divulging to my partner that I am polyamorous, we had many intense (and often unpleasant) conversations. Having entered into our relationship under the understanding that we were monogamous, I assured him that, although I am polyamorous, I was fully prepared to maintain that commitment and to remain monogamous with him. It doesn’t change how I identify. It really changes nothing at all about our relationship. There were many who, probably largely due to misconceptions of polyamory, thought that our relationship clearly couldn’t work out because I would never be able to remain faithful. You know, because I’m polyamorous. But the reason I am so drawn to polyamory is not merely the capacity to relate to more than one romantic partner, but the openness, the honesty of the communication that must occur. And consent.

Things got pretty rocky for us, after this revelation (although, looking back, he’d been a bit distant before finding out I was polyamorous; I just didn’t make the connection until afterward). He became even more distant over the following weeks. I was alone in another province attending graduate school, while he remained in our house. I began to wonder if he couldn’t handle my being polyamorous, even though I repeatedly let him know that I was committed to our relationship, which includes maintaining monogamy. I thought it was me. I struggled with my loneliness, and with the fear that we were growing distant, and that things wouldn’t work out after all.

Then, approximately six months ago (it was on our six and a half year anniversary, to the day), he finally filled me in on what was going on. He’d been unfaithful. For months. In fact, it had begun a couple of months before I had even discovered myself to be polyamorous that this illicit affair began. She was pregnant. Given how much value he had always placed in faithfulness, my world was shattered in that instant. I spent a month reeling from the news, trying to come to terms with all it, with what it meant, and with how I wanted to move forward. But I could not fail to see the irony in this situation (I guess it’s a good thing that I love irony, huh?). Even more ironic, I think it was my capacity to understand the ability to love more than one person that had allowed me to forgive him and to attempt to work toward reconciliation (although this is not at all polyamory, given that there was no openness, no honesty, and I was not consenting).

In the conversations that ensued, he asked me at one point “How can a ‘poly’ person be faithful, and a monogamous person be so disloyal?” I think I can answer that. We are coerced into monogamy, in this culture. It is the dominant discourse of what a relationship ought to be, and so anything outside of that is considered less, is peripheral, and becomes a non-option for most people. We are inculcated into monogamy. However, I would say most people have the capacity to be polyamorous. Because anything that falls outside of hegemony is shamed and denigrated, most people hang onto monogamy because they feel they must. Thus, when feelings develop for others, because it is considered to be shameful in terms of monogamous relationships, additional relationships are embarked upon in secrecy. There is shame. There is guilt. But there is not honesty. In saying this, I do want to be clear that I am not suggesting that monogamy isn’t also functional, or that all monogamous persons will become unfaithful. I’m merely suggesting that this can set the stage for affairs, unfaithfulness.


Six months ago, when my ex first revealed to me that he had been having an affair with his boss, that his mistress was pregnant, my reaction was to forgive, to move forward. I’ve always been someone who resists change, but I’m also someone who believes that love doesn’t just happen; it’s something that we must constantly work at. There had been times in the past where I’d felt disengaged from the relationship or when he had talked about wanting out, but it seemed that through each of these times, one of us was always still in it, and it got us through a number of trials. So I held on… for a time. I had had a rough year (I can honestly assert that it was the worst year of my life, to date, given the number of tribulations I faced in the span of twelve months), and I wasn’t willing to lose one more thing in my life at that point. I booked a flight home, mere days after I wrote my last final examination. Just two days before I was scheduled to fly home, my now ex and I were conversing, and in the midst of that conversation, he had the audacity to blame his infidelity on me. While I was able to forgive his unfaithfulness, his deceit, his months of lying, I was not willing to accept blame for his actions. In retrospect, I can only thank him. I learned a lot about myself from this experience, and about what I want out of my relationships and life. I evolved, and was able to let go of a toxic relationship. I am now single, happier than I’ve been in years, and dating. And it has been wonderful.

If there is anything to take away from this, I think it is that honesty is (almost) always the best policy – for anybody, in any kind of relationship, with any sort of orientation.


Photo— banjo d/Flickr

About Jasmine Peterson

Jasmine Peterson is a feminist and an activist. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Clinical Psychology. Her research has examined social constructionism, self-objectification, and, most recently, conceptions of health and their impact on males and females.


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  2. Brassyhub says:

    Thank you for this thought-provoking and honest article. Much the reflect on, as someone in a 33 monogamous relationship. My wife’s just come out as a lesbian, but we want to stay together, so this IS one of our options, for the moment only on the horizon. We clearly locked ourselves into this ‘prison’, but there were indeed also pressure from society and environment: for my wife, a lesbian life-style was literally unthinkable, so not thought about.

  3. I’d be very interested in learning how the dating is going with men, more specifically their reactions to your identifying as Poly.

    • Hmm, I’m not sure if I ought to write another piece detailing how that’s gone, or just fill you in here. I can say it’s been interesting and that I recently became half of a partnership. 🙂

  4. I think monogamy CAN be a choice (as in those who have poly inclinations but feel that that is deviant because of cultural mores who then choose to remain in monogamous relationships might make the choice to be monogamous), but that there are some for whom monogamy is natural and others for whom polyamory is natural. Nobody is saying that either relational style doesn’t take work or commitment. Nobody is saying that monogamy is less than polyamory (in fact, it has been iterated several times that that is exactly what is NOT being said). I am not denigrating monogamy or monogamists. I’ve been very careful about that. But we are coerced, through inculcation, into the belief that monogamy is more legitimate, more appropriate (just like heteronormativity). Saying this isn’t saying that monogamy is wrong, but simply that there are many for whom the option doesn’t present itself because it’s considered disparate.

  5. I’m tired of monogamy getting a bad rap too!!

    • Monogamy is not coerced… it’s a “choice”….

      Is Monogamy Natural or a Choice?
      The Love-Session Team finds out!

      When we think relationships, we automatically also think and assume monogamy. As a society, we have learned one person per relationship, which means we find someone we feel strongly for, get to know them for a little while and then focus on building a relationship with them- and only them.
      This all sounds beautiful and like the perfect plan, but can it really work for a lifetime or at least for a very long period of time?
      The answer to that is not standard; it really depends on both the beliefs and personalities of you and your partner.

      We did a poll asking both men and women whether they felt monogamy was a natural thing where we would naturally want to be monogamous in a relationship, or if was a choice intentionally made in order to make their relationships work.

      The Answer?

      While it really does depend on the person and the personality they carry, we found that the majority of MEN and WOMEN asked confessed that monogamy is something most of them want, but that it requires real work and effort to make that happen in a relationship. Most men and women actually believed that while monogamy is something they wanted and craved in a relationship, they do not believe it is something that happens so naturally, or even easily.
      Those who participated in our Poll said that temptation and the feeling to stray is more natural than the feeling to stay monogamous, but when you feel real love for someone, you want to make that effort to stay committed and faithful.

      So while monogamy is certainly possible and successful, it does require work since it is more of a choice rather than something we can do so naturally and effortlessly.

      Here are just some comments from some of the men and women we asked to participate in this poll (names have been listed as it was requested by the commenter):

      “ I definitely believe monogamy is a choice rather than natural. It is just not realistic to believe that we will forever feel drawn to only one person the rest of our lives”- Adam, male 36- Chicago, IL.

      “I really believe in true love. I believe there is a special connection we make with someone that we will make with no other. But temptations can come along, so I guess monogamy is a choice instead of natural.”- Julie- female 23, San Francisco, CA.

      “To me, it depends on the person. Some are more faithful and loyal by nature than others. I am a real committed and faithful type by nature, so I believe others are naturally like that too. “- Ellie- female 40, Seattle, WA.

      “Monogamy is a choice. I always found that being monogamous required effort. It takes real work to make a relationship last. Having to work at being monogamous does not mean your relationship is not based on true love either- it’s just being real.”- Dan T. , male 29, Los Angeles, CA.

      “I say choice versus natural. We go on instinct like all living creatures, so we will always find other people attractive and will feel tempted along the way, but it does not mean we have to follow through on it. Having real love and respect in a relationship is stronger than those passing moments of lust, but you have to choose to be monogamous.”- Brian, male 52, Austin, TX.

      “ I guess I would say choice, though I would like to believe it is natural. I think most of us are naturally monogamous when we find love that is real, but those who have not had real love can disrespect others relationships and lure them into straying, since we all have our weaknesses and can have a slip.”- Kassie, female 26, New Jersey

      “It’s a choice for sure! Nothing as beautiful as a deep and rare love comes easy. You have to be willing to make all the efforts in order to make it work. To assume that love will effortlessly stay happy and healthy with no temptations and issues will only get you a broken heart. Monogamy is a choice, but when those efforts are made to stay committed to each other, you can have such a great and loving relationship. “- Cate M. , female 48, New York, NY.

    • Both my husband & I went into our marriage 32 years ago as a monogamous couple. It is important to have communication and honesty in any relationship especially if you want to keep the sexual intimacy spark alive. All new relationships have that initial “gitty” feeling of something new not used before… but like with all relationships, that too will taper off and the relationship moves into a much deeper one surpasses that “honeymoon” phase or stage in a relationship if honesty and communication are truly there… I’m just tired of seeing articles about how monogamy is coerced or why people cheat… it doesn’t matter what type of relationship you’re in… a cheater is a cheater whether in love or business… One type of relationship over another is not the answer to the other in preventing the behavior of dishonest people… Monogamy is a “choice” just like being homosexual is a “choice”.

      • Nick, mostly says:

        There are words for things you’re talking about, and polyamorists are quite aware of them. For example, new relationship energy (NRE) and limerence are both factors in a new relationship that polyamorists discuss.

        No one has said monogamy is not a choice – quite the opposite, actually. Monogamy is a choice, and a difficult one at that. It’s a choice that is made every day, in spite of monotony, in spite of opportunity, in spite of resentments. That it is hard is what makes it worth celebrating.

        Cheating is violating agreed-upon rules. You can be monogamous and cheat or polyamorous and cheat. Doesn’t matter.

        But homosexuality is not a choice. A minute or two of introspection should be sufficient to demonstrate this (unless, perhaps, you’re actually bisexual).

        • Personally, everyone is sexually attracted to both sexes. Pansexual is more of a better description of human nature. Everything outside of that a “choice” but that is my perspective on sexual attraction vs born that way mentality.

  6. First of all, I want to applaud you, Jasmine, for your courage and thoughtfulness- you have provoked quite a discussion!

    Like Nahmaah’s Daughter I am involved with two people, although we consider our relationship a triad. We aren’t swingers. We don’t cheat. Indeed, we are a quiet and loving family that spends most of our time at home cooking, reading, listening to music and engaging in other generally not-too-sexy behavior.

    We share a deep love and if anything ever happened to any of us the others would be devastated.

    I find myself in agreement with several of the above comments and in disagreement with others, as I suppose is to be expected. Mostly, though, I am impressed with your cool-headed and patient response to those judging you.

    A little more of my story, with which your readers may empathize- or not. From which they may draw guidance perhaps, or disregard, as they like:

    I told my wife that I identify as poly well before we married, indeed before we decided to get serious (AS we were deciding to get serious) because that was a major sticking point. I simply could not abide hiding the truth from her, for her sake or mine. My commitment would’ve felt false if I’d have withheld my plan to impregnate multiple wives. Many men have babies with more than one woman (and vice versa), for various reasons to be sure, but I certainly agree with your point that a ‘monogamous’ man cheating on his partner has the potential to fuck up families far worse than a man in a loving, committed relationship with more than one partner.

    A man should not lead disparate lives, squandering his resources among separate families, sequestering kin from kin. I concur with Namaah’s Daughter’s second paragraph wholeheartedly: Children can benefit from being raised by a ‘village’ or ‘tribe’. This is one of the major reasons I have always been interested in having more than one wife. (I’ve traveled extensively and seen many models of polygamy- most nothing like Warren Jeffs’ inarguably disgusting style. Indeed it is hurtful when LGBTs and/or polys make eviscerating statements about polygyny {I expect that kind of thing from the Vatican and am able to shrug it off but how about a little respect people? One man and 2+ wives doesn’t necessarily = misogyny}).

    I also empathize with ND’s difficulty regarding ‘coming out’. This was exactly the issue my wife most feared and articulated brilliantly in our many long, exhaustive, honest discussions about opening our relationship to another woman: How would she tell her mother? (The issue of jealousy was much more easily dealt with- as a bisexual person she was excited about the possibility of finding someone whom we could both pleasure and possibly fall for.)

    How have we dealt with it? Well, we don’t flaunt our relationship with our live in girlfriend. I suppose we feel that it’s nobody’s business until we have kids. (@ Sarah, whose comments are well taken and certainly poignant: I believe that the sex appeal of younger women has everything to do with their fertility- although many men are simply uninterested in fathering children (or any more children), and thus they might gladly choose an intelligent, sophisticated companion in her 40s or older, and even prefer her.)

    Speaking from my own perspective, which is all any of us can really do I suppose, I desire children for spiritual reasons. I believe becoming a father is my purpose. Nothing seems more natural or more pointless to deny. My wife (who is 31) understands this, and she is all for having an extra (younger, more energetic) pair of helping hands around when the times comes. Furthermore, an extra womb; she has also vowed to love ALL my children, and I trust that she will, since they will be hers as well as mine.

    The point of this super long ramble, I suppose, is that we talked about polyamory (hell let’s call it what it is and let the haters hate- polygamy) extensively beforehand, met our lover together, and the three of us discuss our feelings, dreams, excitements and fears openly and even at nauseum sometimes. I would never presume to dictate the terms of our ‘arrangement’ to my partners. I could even see inviting a man we all respected to contribute his resources, intelligence, creativity, love, strength and DNA to the tribe. That doesn’t seem to be what my ‘harem’ yearns for at the moment but who knows- as you mentioned peoples’ perspectives are in constant flux. It would be extremely tough to deal with anybody ever having something on the side though.

    Here’s the thing. For us, love’s like a hug: SHARING don’t diminish it.

    • Wow, thanks for sharing! Your story is inspiring. I think people have this really strange idea about ‘enough’ (I know one of my ex’s first questions was “Why aren’t I enough?”). It’s not at all about being enough or not enough. Nobody asks someone who has two or three children why one wasn’t enough, so why is it so difficult to understand that having more than one partner isn’t about one or the other not being enough but simply about the fact that love is expansive and different people bring different qualities to the relationship?

      And I know, someone is going to say “But having children is a different kind of love”… But it is a fair comparison. Or friendships – we don’t typically have just one friend, but a few who we are close with. I know I have four or five very close friends, and I love them all, but they all bring something different to our friendships. I don’t have more than one close friend because one isn’t enough, but because they are all different, and I love them all differently.

  7. I agree with Nahmaah’s Daughter on this good for you knowing yourself and willing to be honest. When my first husband told me he had been cheating on me since six months into our marriage and that he only wanted me to have babies and cover him (he was struggling with his gay orientation) I did everything I could to support him to be himself. I told him I was and had always been poly but had been monogamous the whole relationship though I had had opportunity not to be. I supported his continued relationships with men if I could have the same opportunities with other men or women he refused and we separated. But his unfaithfulness, his struggle to be something he was not, and his inflexibility and dishonesty taught me a lot about myself. I am 15 years into a brilliantly functioning poly relationship and we are all very happy. It can and does work.

    • Wow, thank you for sharing your story! It is good to know that there are others out there who have gone through something similar. It is interesting how much one learns about themselves going through such a situation. I really evolved through this situation and am now better equipped to make sure I get what I want and need out of life, in the future. And it gives me hope to know that there are other people who are in happy poly relationships!

    • I am have been wondering if the sex dwindles off and sometimes stops alltogether in poly relationships like like it does in monogamous (straight) relationships – my guess would be no it wouldn’t because there is more dynamics at play, more novelty etc.

      Average monog rates I would propose as
      2 years relationship – 1 – 2 week
      5 yrs – 1 – 6 a month
      5 + yrs with 2 kids below 10 – 1 – 3 ever 6 months.

      These are guesses and conservative – also age & indvidual varitation play a role.

  8. Nahmaah'sDaughter says:

    I am a polyamorous woman (and a parent) in a stable “v” relationship. To answer GayStudent’s comment about ‘coming out’ – it is absolutely like coming out. My partners and I are very much NOT out except to a few trusted family members and friends, and it is not fun at all to explain why we are together all the time without tipping anyone off, watching our behavior in front of people that don’t know, and to loose out on simple pleasures like attending family celebrations together when only one of us would be expected to attend.

    And to answer another commentor about raising children in this type of relationship: There’s plenty of evidence that growing up in a multi-adult household is actually better for children than in a simple monogamous marriage. (See Jasmine’s comment about how mono relationships can screw up a kid just as much as anything else.) They have more adults to lean on, ask for advice, learn from, and look to as examples of behavior. It’s the ‘it takes a village’ concept. My other significant other loves my child as much as my husband and I do.

    And to anyone who think that this kind of lifestyle is just for kicks, or for fun, or to get more sexual urges satisfied – they’d be better off cheating or engaging in serial monogamy. Polyamory is a hell of a lot of work. It would be much easier on many levels NOT to do it, and I tried, on multiple occasions. I found that the heartache of doing without either of my partners was not worth it.

    Kudos to you, Jasmine, for recognizing early what you are and being honest about it.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Nahmaah’s Daughter. It’s nice to hear from people for whom this is working, who have supportive words to impart! 🙂

  9. GayStudent says:

    I’m 21 and gay and I find it a little disconcerting and appropriating the way you talk about your “coming out” as polyamorous in a way that’s similar to the LGBT coming out process. To be quite honest, I’m a little offended. Being polyamorous is nothing like being queer. It’s a lifestyle, not an orientation. I support your right to live your life however you choose, but please stop trying to commandeer queer rhetoric that you have no right to.

    • I’m sorry you were offended. Whether polyamory is an orientation or a lifestyle or two different sides to the same coin is not really settled but I have heard from people who are both poly and gay or bi who describe the coming out as poly process as every bit as profound as queer coming out process. And often it happens separately, so it is pretty hard not to compare the two if you happen to be poly and not straight. I would encourage you to read more about it before judging others for commandeering queer rhetoric that you seem to claim sole ownership of.

      I am sure no one here means to offend or take anything away from the profound nature of coming out as gay or bi, indeed I think you will find that poly people of all orientations are pretty sensitive to those who have been through it or are going through it. Poly people lose jobs for loving whom they love, are shunned by family, are denied housing, lose custody cases, all because of with whom they have fallen in love. These commonalities unite rather than divide us.

    • Nick, mostly says:

      It’s a lifestyle, not an orientation.

      People once said that about homosexuality, you know (some continue to make that claim). You’re young, so I think you can be forgiven your ignorance of the shared challenges between poly and LGBTQ people that Bob points out.

    • I am sorry that my words have offended you. I am in no way attempting to appropriate queer culture. In fact, I am a huge advocate for the LGBTQ community, and I spend a great deal of time on issues facing the queer community. My intention is not to take anything away from you or your experiences. However, I have to say that being poly IS an orientation, and not just a lifestyle choice. I identify as poly, even when I’m in a monogamous relationship. I can do monogamy, and have done monogamy for a number of years, in spite of the fact that I am, by nature, poly. I read it once best described in this manner – if a person identifies as bisexual, but enters a relationship with a person of the opposite sex, this doesn’t make them suddenly heterosexual; if they enter a relationship with someone of the same sex, they aren’t suddenly homosexual. It isn’t a lifestyle choice; it is inherently a part of who they are; it is an identity, an orientation. This is very much how being poly feels to me. It is there, no matter what sort of relationship I am practicing. I am not trying to take anything away from anyone else.

      It is, though, a little like being queer. It is a part of who I am, as I am sure being gay is a part of who you are. I am subjected to vitriol and stigma because of this part of who I am. Even heterosexual people have accused me of identifying thus as some pretentious pursuit of being a member of an oppressed population. There are a myriad of ways in which people attempt to delegitimize my experiences, my identity. As Bob says, I believe these commonalities do unite, rather than divide us. And it was a coming out process, for me.

    • Not to trivialize your experiences as an LGBT individual, but neither you, nor the LGBT community, have a lock on the term “coming out,” in reference to discovering that you are most comfortable living a lifestyle that is not widely known, let alone accepted, by mainstream society. This is not a playground, your preferred gender/sexual identity is not somehow awarded more or less special/trauma points than anyone else’s, so you get to take the Coming Out ball and go home. That’s not how this works. One’s experience in revealing themselves to be a 40-something polyamorous cissexual furry is just as valid as your discovery of your own 20-something queer identity.

  10. You talk about polyamory as if it is some system that is easy to define or regulate…it just seems that there is so much deception that can be involved in either monogamy or polyamory…or whatever…plus people’s love feelings constantly change…how can you make rules about something that is constantly changing…

    Carla Bruni, wife of Nicholas Sarcoszy, made a statement about polyamory in the past…of course, she is stunningly beautiful and quite confidant in making her own rules….although I’m sure her husband watches her like a hawk now….everything changes moment to moment….

    • I think rules, boundaries, in any relationship are essential precisely *because* things can change. My feelings do change; we are constantly evolving. I cannot say that what I want today is what I’m going to want in a year, a month, a week, a day, or even an hour. And that’s why communicating is important, and maintaining those rules or boundaries of being open and honest are important. Sure, what I want right now might not be what I want tomorrow, but when it changes, if I communicate that, then there is a better chance of adeptly traversing what that means for myself and any other person it might impact than secrecy, lying, and cheating.

  11. We are inculcated by many ideas Jules. Since the day we are born. Our parents instill in us the values they hope we adopt based on their own beliefs. That doesn’t mean they inhibit are personal expression though. Even when we decide to conform to them or not conform to them.

    So my question is, are we really inculcated by monogamy or do many people simply naturally gravitate toward it? You seem to be mildly suggesting that people don’t have power over their own choices. That their choices, at least when it comes to monogamy, are only a result of social programming.

    I just look at my own experience and while there were beliefs I hold for myself that my parents taught me, I also have cultivated my own beliefs different from them. I have chosen for myself what works for me. And sometimes that means doing things the way they would have and sometimes it means I don’t. I suspect that’s closer to the truth about what happens in people’s personal relationships and lives than people merely being by-products of social structure alone. People hold much more agency than that.

    Marriage and monogamy still largely persist. And I don’t think they persist because of social programming alone. People don’t have to get married today. Even with divorce statistics, many still rush to the alter. Women today aren’t even forced to marry. They choose it because they want it. And hopefully they are choosing people with like minded goals.

    There is certainly room for more variety in relationships. And I hope that people do become more comfortable with themselves to express what they really may need out of a relationship instead of withholding that kind of information. So I am with you there. I certainly think there should be acceptance for each other even while we may not choose someone else’s lifestyle for ourselves. But if you are going to claim that we are simply inculcated by monogamy then perhaps polyagomy is only the rebellious younger sibling looking for some attention…then again, perhaps not. Perhaps these are really just choices people make based on their own beliefs and needs.

    I think most people have the capacity for monogamy AND polyamorous relationships. That’s why it ultimately comes down to personal choice and what values and needs out-weigh each other. I might find other men attractive but I know for myself that I can not have a quality relationship with many different men. I would be spread too thin. That I can only reserve that level of quality and specialness for one man. I don’t choose to live that way because society told me to. I choose to live that way because that’s what is inside me.

    I also don’t believe that monogamy “sets a stage for affairs” anymore than a polyamorous relationship could. I think sometimes people just like to keep secrets and feel like they are getting something “extra”. I think that can be true for monogamous people and polyamorous people.

    Although I will say that I would be very interested in statistical information on polyamorous relationships. I would be interested in seeing how long they last, the average range of partners they engage with, their level of happiness and other personal questions and history. There isn’t much information out there about how successful polyamorous relationships are. We only seem to think they are successful since there is a wider range of options in them. However, I am sure that even in polyamorous relationships, there are just as many problems and difficulties. Whether it’s a polyamorous relationships or a monogamous one, people are still human beings and none of us are perfect…infact, from from.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Good questions. I’ve had some of the same questions myself, and I’m curious about the same things you wonder about in the last paragraph.

      I wonder, too, if there are any statistics about people who tried a polyamorous life and felt disillusioned by it and decided to be mongamous instead. Sure, in a lot of cases that person didn’t really try polyamory but some pale imitation of it, but I presume there must be people out there who discovered it wasn’t what they thought it would be like. It would not surprise me if more people were disillusioned by monogamy than by polyamory, however….

    • I just want to be clear that I am not saying that every single person who practices monogamy is coerced into that. I think there are many people for whom monogamy is truly the best fit. However, because it’s the dominant discourse, it often precludes any other relational styles as alternatives or options for a lot of people. I am fortunate enough to exposed to ideas and concepts outside of hegemony, but what about people who have been raised their whole life being told that they ought to be monogamous, but don’t feel monogamous, and then engage in behaviours like cheating because they don’t think there are other options? They end up feeling guilty and uncomfortable in their choices, but may not realize that polyamory could be an option.

  12. wellokaythen says:

    I’ve gone in circles with my wife and in couples counseling over what to share and what to be selective about, and I still have a lot of incomplete answers. So, I ask this as someone who certainly doesn’t have relationships figured out:

    It’s wrong to hide important parts of yourself from your partner, but at the same time it’s important that sharing emotionally charged is done for constructive reasons, and it’s still important to be a little selective. I’m not sure what the purpose was of disclosing your desires and then telling him that you want to remain monogamous anyway. What was he supposed to get from that conversation? What was the goal in sharing this with him? Was it just to share with him your own self-discovery?

    I understand wanting my intimate partner to know me and know everything about me, but that by itself may not be enough reason to tell him/her. In my case, for example, I don’t see any upside for my relationship to tell my wife about other women that I find attractive. I have the right to make myself known and to share my inner life, but that is somewhat balanced by the needs of the relationship itself. I would love to be able to share everything I think and feel about everything, but I understand that’s not always compatible with a relationship that’s healthy for both people.

    None of this is meant to blame you at all. His blaming you was the ultimate in lame. I’m just trying to figure out this whole deal where a partner has to be open and honest and sometimes selective at the same time.

    • I think this is a very interesting and valid point/question. In fact, I vacillated for a time about telling him, because I wasn’t sure it was pertinent to share (knowing how he would feel about it, and react). However, through discussions with friends and through some reflection, I decided I had to tell him because it’s a huge piece of who I am, and perhaps it wouldn’t impact how I felt about our relationship right now, but if it did anywhere down the road for some reason, I didn’t want in to be a big surprise. There are often pieces of me I don’t share, whether it’s to protect myself or because I don’t feel that it’s the right time to share them with a partner. But this was pretty big, and it needed to be divulged. I think that he grasped onto it as something he could use to excuse the things he’d done. If I had to do it over again, I would do it exactly the same way. But I definitely agree that we do not need to divulge every little detail of ourselves to another human being.

  13. i think polyamory is probably a great option for people in the upper echelon of attractiveness, particularly younger women, who will have many opportunities to explore relationships with a variety of people. I just always wonder how those women will feel when they are 40+ and can no longer find partners while their boyfriends/husbands are perhaps more in demand than ever. What does a polyamoroys 50 y/o woman do while her husband is out with his young girlfriends, does she stay home with the cats and the grandkids?

    I don’t think younger women realize how rapidly their sex appeal declines after their late 30’s and how dramatically different their relationships with men become. I know I didn’t realize it. If you haven’t built a lifetime commitment with a man by then, it becomes much much harder. Maybe some polyamorous people have those commitments built up but I don’t know.

    • @Sarah…

      Interesting points. As a guy, I have really never considered women as having a shelf life so to speak. I actually prefer women my age (50). I really do not feel women lose their sex appeal dramatically after age 40….I know men prefer younger women. I will not argue that point. But is it due to sex appeal?

      Curious. Why do you think the women in the upper echelon of attractive would find poly more appealing? I would think such women would have their pickings of men.

      • I just imagine that younger attractive women might find a poly lifestyle to be a lot of fun. Because they are the life of the party. They can pick and choose from a lot of interesting men in a safe environment (hopefully) of open and aware people. No one will turn them down. Whetever they go, they’ll have options. Get a little older though… now its the younger women who are the life of the party. Not so many men are interested. You become invisible and unwanted. The men don’t want to get to know you are even have a casual conversation. That happens to all of us, of course. But ideally you’ve built a life with someone. Talk to women in their 40’s or 50’s who are diviorced and trying to date.

        • Nick, mostly says:

          Sarah, are you confusing polyamory and swinging?

        • Polyamory isn’t about having hot sex with a bunch of random people. It’s about ‘building a life’ with multiple partners.

          • courage the cowardly dog says:

            Ok what is the difference between that and poligamy? One involves marriage and the other doesn’t. Its f’d up no matter how you slice it.

        • I know polyamory is different than swinging (although I’ve known people who do both). However, even if you are only looking for serious relationships, I still wonder if it will be much easy for younger women and much more difficult for women who are older (just like it is in the world at large). You’ve also given your partners carte blanche to add new, younger and more appealing partners and how much time will really they have left for you? Like I said earlier, I don’t really know from experience, but that’s what I think about. My BF and I have occasionally talked about open relationships, and I’ve basically told him that if he wants to have sex with other women he is free to do that, but I probably wouldn’t be interested in continuing our relationship, though I hope we could remain friends. I just don’t see how I would benefit from the arrangement. I’m 45 and not a hot chick anymore (not that I ever was, really) and honestly what chance do I have of finding 2 or 3 more men who want a relationship with me? It sounds exhausting and probably humiliating. Don’t get me wrong, I think I have a lot of great qualities, and I’m decent looking, normal weight, etc., but I’m realistic about what men want. My reasons for being in a relationship include companionship, emotional support and regular sex, and if my boyfriend has to split up his time between several women, the time he spends with me will suffer. Anyway, those are just my random thoughts about polyamory,

          • Nick, mostly says:

            You’ve also given your partners carte blanche to add new, younger and more appealing partners and how much time will really they have left for you?

            Well, when you write things like this it makes me think you actually don’t understand polyamory. It’s not free-for-all. What gives you the impression it is?

            • Well it would be interesting to hear from older women about their experience with polyamory and whether at some point the inability to compete with the smorgasbord that’s out there becomes a problem in their relationships. I’m not in a polyamorous relationship so I don’t know what it is like, I admit that. i just think about how incredibly difficult it is for middle aged women to find men who are interested in them in the first place, and having to find more than one seems like a total nightmare!

              I do know several people in my social circle who call themselves polyamorous but frankly they all seem a lot like swingers to me. They are always in and out of relationships. Maybe they aren’t going to swinger sex parties, but their secondary relationships don’t strike me as particularly long term or stable. Granted, I’m sure that’s not true of everyone, I have limited exposure to people in this community.

              I guess what I was responding to is just that every time I see comments from women talking about how much they love polyamory, it’s younger and highly attractive women like Jasmine who I’m sure will have a good time with it because they will be able to pick and choose from a wide variety of interesting men. But what will it be like for them when their sexual power is gone and those interesting men no longer give them the time of day?

              • Honestly, I don’t know what it is like to date as an ‘unattractive’ person, or as an older woman. So I can’t say with certainty that when I am 50 or 60 that dating will be as ‘easy’ as it is at this moment. I’ve often considered my beauty privilege in the dating sphere – does it actually give me much of an advantage? I’m not sure that it does. In fact, I’m looking for meaningful relationships and connections, and a lot of the men I meet are looking for casual sexual encounters – because I’m attractive, but am I girlfriend material? So I think that it’s a bit essentialist to think that older women will necessarily have a more difficult time. I don’t think older women necessarily lose their sexual currency. Certainly it changes, but it isn’t lost.

                • Things will change, believe me. You will lose your sexual currency, it is inevitable and happens to all women.

                  Also, being besutiful does give you an advantsge becuase you generate interest from men, and some of that interest may translate into mesningful relationships. If you are less attractive, you simply have fewer options. It’s a numbers game.

              • Nick, mostly says:

                If you go to swinger parties or sex parties (not that I frequent either one, mind you) they typically have a policy of couples and single-women only. Otherwise single men would so overrun the place as to not be fun for anyone.

                But, as to your observations of polyamory, they’re not that far off. If you consider what it’s like to be young and dating, you might go through a lot of relationships, both long- and short-term, before finding someone you feel you can settle down with. Let’s say you did settle down with someone, but kept dating as well. Why would we expect those subsequent relationships to not follow the patterns they had before? You’ll have some short-term relationships, some long-term relationships, and perhaps a few one night stands that don’t lead anywhere. Just like normal dating life. The only difference is that you also have another long term partner that you’re emotionally connected to.

                Polyamory takes many different forms. Where it differs from “swinging” is that it’s not so organized and not always focussed on sex. Some relationships are polyfidelitous, others have “primary” and “secondary” partners, while others still might just have multiple romantic relationships with none being more or less “important” or “serious” than the other. The basic idea, though, is that it’s entirely possible to love more than one person at a time and there’s nothing wrong with forming multiple loving relationships at a time.

              • Sarah,

                I don’t advocate any relationship model as ideal, but something you said struck me. As a man in roughly your age range I wonder if you really stopped to think about what options “typical” men have. For some reason I can’t quite fathom, women of all ages are able to control their lusty desires for me, and I think a lot (most) men trying to form a primary or secondary or whatever ary relationship don’t have a seat at the smorgasbord you envision. I’m not complaining about this, just adding my perspective.

                • @Adrian…

                  Single men in the 40-50 age bracket do have many “options” relative to single women in the same age bracket.

                  Why? Men in this age bracket can date younger women AND women in the their age bracket. However, women will find their choices limited as many men want the younger women.

                  If I wanted to be a player with single women in the 40-50 age bracket, I could have a grand old time. But, I am not a player or womanizer.

                  I think this is what Sarah was trying to communicate.

                  • I still don’t really buy it, though. I may not be 40-50 just yet, but since I began dating many of the men who have shown interest in me have been younger men. Sure, older men do, too, and I have noticed that in their online dating profiles men will list that they’re looking for someone up to 10 years younger than them yet only up to about five years older (on average). I don’t deny that in our culture women of a certain age are no longer considered as autonomous sexual beings, but I refuse to buy into that for myself. I read not too long ago a story about a woman in her 60s who had a very healthy, active dating life. Age doesn’t have to translate into the death of dating.

                    • No, it doesn’t mean you can’t date, it just means that your options become much, much more limited. The majority of single men my age (45) do not date 45 year old women. That’s a fact. It doesn’t matter if you are in great shape and have a great attitude and a wonderful personality. You can’t compete with younger women, you just don’t have what it takes to attract those men. Because youth is attractive, age is not. the men who hit on me these days are in their 50’s-60’s but I don’t want like dating older guys – I just can’t relate to them (especially if they are retired and have grandkids!!) Not interested in younger men, either – no future there. I expect if my BF and I ever break up (which I hope doesn’t happen) it is unlikely I will date actively again.

    • To Sarah: I am 43 and female. Additionally I am 100 lbs overweight and of average appearance. I have two men in my life I love very much and get asked out a lot. I have no problems getting guys my own age to go out with if I want that. I am sorry you have so many issues with dating. But don’t give up based on a past the sell by date attitude. I agree with you that some of the ideas in our society change toward women after a certain point but on the other side of that there are plenty of viable options that are kind, intelligent and interested in a long term poly relationship or mono relationship. Don’t sell yourself short. Go to the places you are interested in and you will find people. What men like is confidence and acceptance of who they are. Don’t give up on happiness.

  14. If that was what he felt and that was what he wanted, he should have been honest and up front about it.

  15. “There had been times in the past where I’d felt disengaged from the relationship”

    Men need the love and commitment of their women. That is why we forego polygamy ourselves in the quest for a dedicated wife and loving mother to create a family around. At first I thought that you were leaving details out of your narrative attempting to paint him as the offending party. It became clear by that admission that you were not fulfilling your role in the relationship he wanted for himself. I would postulate that he manned up, began seeking for a woman that would fulfill his needs, and found one to have his children. Kudos to him. I’d love to share a pitcher of beer and discuss fatherhood.

    • Actually, there had been times where one or the other of us was disengaged. Any relationship has its bumps in the road where a couple, if they are committed to being together, has to actually work hard at the relationship. Relationships don’t just happen. They require effort and energy and attention.

      Clearly I was dedicated to the relationship in that I was willing to maintain my monogamous commitment (and happily so, because the relationship was important to me). He and I were actually planning to get pregnant this past summer. There is no reason or excuse that validates cheating, really. All he had to do, if he wasn’t getting the things he wanted or needed out of our relationship, was to be upfront about that. And then we could have done one of two things – I could have been made aware of what it was that he needed but wasn’t getting and have made sure to accommodate those needs or we could have decided that it wasn’t working and separated before he began a new relationship. I don’t see anything admirable in tearing up a family in such a way rather than being honest. If someone isn’t fulfilling ‘their role’ in a relationship, the appropriate thing to do is to extricate yourself before embarking on a new one, if that’s what you feel you need to do.

      • I’m not trying to ‘crap’ on you as you’ve been through a lot of that already, but Wes has a point. I just finished reading an article where a ‘Relationship Expert’ tries to explain to women why in the hell a man who has a sexual relationship with his wife/gf would pay a ‘profesional’ for some ‘head’ or handjob. He said what he was actually paying for is known as the ‘girlfriend’ experience. You know, where she tells you how wonderful he is and how much of a ‘Macho Stud’ he is. This doesn’t excuse what you’re ex did in any way. It’s just that Wes’s got a point. We males are hard shelled but fragile (damn that ‘Male Ego’) and ocassionally need to be ‘stroked’ (ego wise that is). Anyway, glad to see you got through it , perhaps bruised but not broken. (remember the saying “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”)

        • I think the whole situation was just really complex. I was living in another province, but it had somehow brought us closer than we’d ever been (initially). So he was hearing daily how much I thought of him, how much I appreciated him. It’s incredible, but distance really can be a good, healthy thing for a relationship.

          I had men here telling me how incredible they thought I was, but I didn’t think twice about it because I was already in a committed relationship; it may have been flattering, but I wasn’t willing to destroy a relationship of nearly seven years for some flattery.

          I’ve said it before, but I really don’t think that cheating is inherently some terrible, evil thing. I think that it is always better to be honest (because the fallout isn’t quite as harsh), but I can understand how and why some people stray. It felt devastating in the moment, but in looking back it has enriched my life, because now I’ve developed a stringent list of what I require in a potential mate, I am free to explore my preferred relational style, and it provided fodder for my writing. 🙂

        • Bobbt, it’s not the role of a women to stoke a man’s ego the same way a paid escort does. Men haven’t always been this way. Through porn and video games, a lot of men are developing intimacy problems in a major way. Google “The Demise of Guys”. A lot of men are fucked up and it’s nobody’s fault but their own (fueled by business and marketing.

      • I do agree with one very important thing stated regarding couples who start to drift from each other:

        “There is no reason or excuse that validates cheating, really. All he had to do, if he wasn’t getting the things he wanted or needed out of our relationship, was to be upfront about that. And then we could have done one of two things – I could have been made aware of what it was that he needed but wasn’t getting and have made sure to accommodate those needs or we could have decided that it wasn’t working and separated before he began a new relationship. ”

        It takes “two” to tango… if something isn’t working out… communication and honesty are missing… There is no such thing as “it is easier getting forgiveness than permission”… there will always be consequences.

    • If he were not being fulfilled in the relationship, wouldn’t it then be up to him to SAY SOMETHING, not to idly hope that she would read his mind and magically fix everything FOR him? Further, if he were not being fulfilled, and she were not aware that she was not “living up to his expectations,” how does that justify, in any way, his lying and cheating?

      Being with someone else is not inherently wrong. Being with someone else, under false pretenses/dishonesty is where the issue lies.

  16. courage the cowardly dog says:

    We are coerced into monogamy,

    “Coerced”? Really? I don’t think so. You make it sound like any one who chooses monogamy did not choose if of their own free will. There is something truly liberating and assuring about being committed to one special someone. It is you who is trying marginalize monogamy. I have news for you polyamory will never replace monogamy as a relationship “style”.

    • I am not saying that every single person who is monogamous has been coerced into that. I’m not saying that monogamy is less or that polyamory is more. I am saying that, in this culture, monogamy is presented as the only viable option such that many people feel that their poly inclinations are somehow negative or wrong. It is not my goal to replace monogamy with polyamory; I am merely discussing my experiences and reflecting upon them.

    • I have news for you courage-the-cowardly-dog, no one is advocating for polyamory to replace anything. Threatened much? She lives her life authentically without judging you. You are correct, there IS something truly liberating and assuring about being connected to one special someone. There is something truly liberating and assuring about being connected to two special someone’s as well. One doesn’t cancel the other. Live and let live. She didn’t poop on your love of monogamy. Why do you have to dis her way?

      • courage the cowardly dog says:

        I think we have become too permissive a society. With childless couples polyamory may be fine, but once you bring children into the picture we have duty to those children to provide them with as stable an environment as we can. Life will throw them enough curve balls. Children should not have to deal with curve balls throw at them by their parents.

        Live and let live is a philosophy that contributes to the detrioration of society. I know what you are thinking, “evangelical bible thumper,” but you would be wrong if you did think that. I think we need to call out on attitudes and philosophies that are harmful for the stability of society. Polyamory, if it were generally accepted, which it is not, would be a destablizing philosophy undermining societal balance.

        • Firstly, I did not at all think that you were an ‘evangelical bible thumper’. I don’t jump to those sorts of essentialist conclusions. I did, think, however, that you’re either sadly misinformed about what it means to be polyamorous, or that you’re simply somebody who cannot appreciate and support another’s right to live as they choose, within reason. Polyamory isn’t some catastrophic sexual orientation that would destroy families, and it’s not something that’s really just going to mess kids up. Monogamous couples screw kids up every day of life, and I don’t see you up in arms about that. In fact, a monogamous man cheating on his partner, splitting up a family, and then refusing to see the child he step-parented for nearly seven years (after promising her he would remain present) has far greater chance of fucking a kid up than a person having more than one loving, committed relationship.

  17. I don’t understand people who think that you should have kept this from your partner. Why would you? How would that help your relationship?

    I’ve been with one person for the last 12 years, but I told him when we first got together that I could be poly. I have never explored it, and never really wanted to, simply because I’m content in OUR monogamy. That doesn’t mean that I’m not poly anymore but that I’m happier like this.

    It feels like that’d be a huge thing to have hidden from him, and would have been very problematic if I ever met anyone I did want to explore a relationship with.

    And holy crap why are the commenters not understanding that cheating is not polygamy?

    • Yes! Why wouldn’t I want to be honest with him, once I realized that I have these inclinations? It didn’t mean I wanted to be with someone else; I just realized that I could potentially be very happy in an open relationship. I was committed to our relationship because I loved him. To have not told him would have been disingenuous, and I prefer to be upfront and honest in my relationships. Since I’ve begun dating, it has been important to me for men to be aware that I identify as poly, because even though I can be happy in a monogamous relationship, I think that that part of me is important enough to divulge.

  18. Amazing writer. Too bad your ex couldn’t embrace polyamorous relationship. Had it worked in your favor you could have forgiven and perhaps baby and boss could have enriched the relationship. But, life changes everyday. Being in a committed relationship and being polyamorous are two very different things. And, to be honest, anytime anyone tells me not to do something.. I do it. Sheer psychology. Your ex blamed you and tried to project his shame onto you ~ taking blame and being forgiven (accepting your forgiveness) is a reality most struggle with. I have loved many… I have committed to few. I have been honest to each and everyone (Helps that I’m the worst liar ever and even my kids recognize my “tells”… why try to lie?)

    • Thank you, Nina! I am the same way – I am a terrible liar so I just don’t do it. And I’ve never been able to understand what lying accomplishes, aside from hurting others and making oneself feel guilty. The lies my ex was living with made him feel guilty and depressed, for a time. I just don’t understand what lying accomplished, for him.

      When he finally divulged to me that he’d been unfaithful, he made it out to be her fault – she had pursued him for months, and he resisted but finally gave in to temptation. He felt guilty and had intended never to do it again, but she kept pushing so he eventually gave in to her. Even though he had finally told me about the situation, he never did plan to accept any actual culpability for his actions, it seems. He was even angry with me a few times in conversation for forgiving his transgression. In fact, he ended up telling me I had only forgiven him for selfish reasons and to appear as some sort of martyr. While going through it I was so emotional and distraught that I didn’t really see the absurdity of much of his actions… but in retrospect it has become very clear that all worked out for the best. 🙂

  19. Thank you so much Jasmine for speaking honestly about not only the “lifestyle” of polyamory but also the identification as Polyamorous. Your situation (however painful) casts the prefect light in which we can see the difference. I have been poly all my life and also only realized it about 6 years ago at the tender age of….40. All my relationships in high school and college were open but I dismissed that like so many do as a youthful luxury. I got “serious” which translated to “monogamous” and got married at age 24. Marriage ended (for reasons having nothing to do with monogamy) and I realized that I had never examined monogamy before I had chosen it. Once I truly examined it, I realized it was not for me. I have reverted to my “poly” life ever since. I don’t hold myself above others or look down on anyone who has a different relationship identification, as so many commentators before me have.

    As for those who have assumed that polyamory by definition excludes a deep and meaningful lifelong commitment to life partner, to share all the ups and downs, in sickness and in health, and sticking with each other, in love and devotion through all of it, they need look no further than by girlfriend and her husband of 15 years to debunk that theory. Their marriage is rock solid, they are so in love, they are fantastically devoted to their children and their community. And they communicate and respect each other like very few couples I have ever witnessed. There are only a few marriages in my life I respect as much as that one, and those that know they are poly seem to have the same high regard for them as those that don’t.

    • I love hearing other people’s stories about realizing themselves to be polyamorous. It is legitimizing to hear that others have gone through a similar process.

      People seem to get fixated on sex in poly relationships, thinking that polyamory is some sort of excuse to have multiple sexual partners. But for me it is about connections with other human beings. It doesn’t have to be sexual (although it certainly can be), and it isn’t some sort of ‘excuse’ for infidelity. I have friends who I love for different reasons, and who fulfill different roles in my life. My friendship with any one of them doesn’t lessen or negate my bonds with my other friends. I don’t get, sometimes, why people cannot seem to wrap their head around that, and the fact that polyamory certainly doesn’t exclude meaningful commitments.

      • I am of the opinion that people can’t wrap their heads around it because if they did wrap their heads around it they would have to take a loooooong look in the mirror. It is the same as when people can’t see making a life partner someone of the same gender as legitimate. It stirs their own fears that they may be gay. But when it comes to fearing that you might be gay, that amounts to 10% of the population at most. Replace “might be gay” with “might be in danger (or capable) of falling for someone other than their partner” well that probably comes to 99% of the population. So it is fair to say that most people are threatened by you.

        Most people don’t face those feelings as bravely as you did. And thus they lash out at you. And they lash out at me and lash out at my girlfriend and lash out at her husband. And what have we done wrong? The rewards of loving openly are bountiful, but there are always the haters to deal with.

  20. This is a really interesting post. I have to admit, I know several people from my city’s polyamory community, and to me the “open communication” generally looks like a way to make infidelity PC, especially when one partner acts on their polyamorous inclinations and the other is monogamous. However, I’m not in those relationships, and people are free to make whatever choices work for them. Personally, the idea of trying to manage more than one intimate relationship at a time sounds absolutely exhausting to me – I’m curious how someone can do this and still have time to work, exercise, raise kids if that’s part of the picture, have a social life and hobbies, etc. My husband and I are open about our attractions to other people, but it’s done lightheartedly because we both know how much work it takes to develop real intimacy with another person. No attraction could hold a candle to hard-earned trust and connection that takes years to create. If this kind of intimacy is really possible to do with more than one person at a time, more power to you, but it’s not for me. I guess that’s less about morals and more about just wanting a sense of balance in life.

  21. Good for you I’m glad you learned and developed yourself. Honestly I personally don’t think I could be in a polyamorous relationship but that’s what communication is about right I can see your point. All the best

  22. Hi Jas,
    I loved the article, which I read. I read about the first 3 or 4 comments but then was discouraged because you were being villified. I liked Wet One’s remarks. I am genuinely surprised that people fail to see the difference between being openly poly and secretly cheating. I don’t agree with the commenter who said you were being patronizing…I think you were attempting to be loving and noble by offering to honor your commitment.
    I haven’t investigated very far although I suspect that I am probably poly as well. Nevertheless, I am now in a committed monogamous relationship and for the forseeable future plan to stay.
    I guess I’m just jumping in here to say, I admire you and think you’re probably the kind of person I’d like to hang out with. Good for you. And thank you for sharing your thoughts & experiences.

    • Thank you, Felicity! I definitely was not intending to be patronizing by honouring my commitment to a relationship I had entered into. I respected that we had entered our relationship as a monogamous couple. I tried my best to help my then partner understand what this meant for me, and for us. In retrospect, it became clear that his strong negative reaction stemmed from his own guilty conscious.

      Best of luck with your relationship! I can fully appreciate identifying as poly but choosing to remain monogamous. Now that I’m dating, I certainly would prefer to find someone(s) open to poly, but would enter a monogamous relationship if I found someody to whom monogamy was important. 🙂 Thanks again for your comments. You seem like a lovely person! 🙂

  23. What an amazing, thought-provoking, and eloquent post. Your honesty is brave, given the culture’s ironclad stance on hetero-monogamy. It is so ironic that your partner cheated on you – but I’m so glad you are happy now. A great post. PS: I hope you don’t get a huge amount of nasty, one-sided comments on it from people who are threatened by thinking outside of the box. Good luck! (-:

  24. @jasmine,

    “It really changes nothing at all about our relationship.”

    Do you REALLY think telling your man you desire to see other men (or women or both) is not going to affect him? Or your relationship with him? Or his relationship with you? You’re just being very very naive.

    If it seem like I am discounting your views due to your age, I am. You have spent 6 years in a monogamous relationship and you’re only 27. So, since age 21…..I’m sorry but I just think you are a bit naive and inexperienced about life.

    • I did not tell him that I desired to see other people. In fact, the revelation was nothing more than a realization that I have that capacity. I knew him well and knew that it wouldn’t be something that he would be okay with. It is not naive to say that putting a name to something that had always been there did not change my relationship in any fundamental way. It did open up conversation, but given that he was already engaging in an affair, I would say that was the thing that changed our relationship.

      Yes, I was in a relationship with this man from the time I was 20 years old until I was 27. This does not mean that I am naive or inexperienced. I am extremely self-aware and self-reflective. Nobody can discount my experiences because they are my own, and I have lived them. You may not agree with me, but that is your prerogative.

    • “If it seem like I am discounting your views due to your age, I am.”

      This is what I like to call “age-ism” wherein someone discounts the viewpoints, life experiences or opinions of someone based only upon how old they are. An ad-hominem of sorts. Kind of like discounting someone because of what colour skin they have.

      Sorry, sister, but you don’t have to be “old” in order to intelligent and wise.

  25. I’m poly, but do not think polyamory works for everyone. An adult should be free to share love, sex, residence, and marriage with ANY consenting adults, without discrimination, bullying, or prosecution. If we’re not free to love other adults in the way we mutually agree, what freedom do we really have?

  26. I kind of think that everyone is poly, but the monogamous ones don’t push the edges to form new relationships. Which is better? I have no idea. Some people are great at relationships. Some people are terrible at them.

    Long-term relationships have some distinct advantages for people who make it long enough. They are happier. They are healthier (physically and mentally for men and mentally for women). They form happier families if they have kids.

    Personal anecdotes aside, I’d like to see some longevity studies about polyamorous relationships and their impact on families, divorce rates, physical health status, and mental health status.

  27. At the tender age of 36, after two fialed long-term relationships, I find myself addressing my poly leanings. I had always talked the talk and acknowledged that polyamoury was a viable relationship model. I’ve had many friends who are in poly relationships that took all kinds of shapes, but had never really thought of it as fitting for myself, until now. It has been equal parts harrowing and enlightning and beautiful to be in and bear witness to the worlds of many unfolding in the ways only romantic partners get to. I find myself in love with all of the learning, caring and vulnerability that comes from loving. I hope you keep us posted.

  28. Jasmine,

    At 27, is this really an epiphany or experimentation?

    I do believe there is a natural and inherent tendency for women to be poly because of their need for sexual variety and novelty (best met by an assortment of partners).

    I think men and women have primal tendencies, period. What keeps these primal tendencies in check is our moral, values, religion, laws, etc. Personally, religious beliefs and a sense of morality keeps my primal behavior in check.

    Btw, this is not to cast any kind of judgement on you decision to be poly.

    • I don’t think you decide to be Poly. Either you are or are not, how you act upon it is the real choice.

    • I did not ‘decide’ to be poly; it’s just who I am. I did come to that realization only recently, but when I look back over my dating experiences, I see that it was clearly always there.

  29. I think women are naturally poly. Just as they have a natural tendency towards hypergamy.

    A woman’s sexuality is driven in large part by variety and novelty. That novelty and variety is best met by an assortment of different partners. Now that women’s sexuality is becoming un-repressed, it’s true nature is being revealed. And that true nature is for variety and novelty with lots of partners.

    I do not think men are so naturally inclined. While our version of poly (harems) have existed since Biblical times, it was rooted in power and status. Only the most powerful men such as kings were able to have harems.

  30. I’m poly by nature, monogamous by choice. The person I picked as a Primary partner is Monogamous by nature….. If I’d had unlimited choice I’d have chosen a “Line Marriage” but neither society nor my partner was/is ready to accept those ideas. I’ve never strayed in marriage 20+ years…..she had and it nearly ended it. One reason I feel is that as a poly I’d thought out the issues and reflected on them…..loving someone does not cancel out my love for another person. So having a crush doesn’t mean I have to decrease / stop loving a partner….. I can accept the feelings without having to act upon them and not have them affect my marriage. In her case that situation along with guilt about it and projection snowballed into hell and abusiveness. Years of therapy are still untangling the the gorgon knot she created for herself about all that.

  31. sorry for my poor english but I write from Italy. I think your idea is good but I think that it does not address a very important aspect from the male point of view. the experience of meeting with other potential partners is very different between the sexes. this difference is the biggest obstacle to your idea of polyamorous relationship. while for the women, usually, it’s very easy and frequent (may be too much) be approached by people interested in a sexual relationship or, more rarely, into a relationship. for man, unless you are really really handsome, the encounter with another woman is the result of hard work. and this, in my personal experience women do not understand. it’s OK to have other relationships, but only if they “occur”. but they never happen. you have to build the relationship, to invest a lot of energy of all kinds, you need a lot of time.
    this is the first difference which makes the dynamic Polyamorous very unfavorable for males.
    the second issue, and I’m sorry to be a little cynical, is that probably many of your lovers pretend an understanding and share your ideas for the sole purpose to take you to bed. very few women are willing to have a relationship with a man knowing that he is already committed and that in addition to his wife he wants to have a number of relationships. typically woman happens to be involved in that kind of situation when the man had lied about his intentions. then there are only two practical alternatives: to lie or to look for women willing to interact with a polyamorous dynamic. and good luck with that.

  32. This post really struck home for me – in my last relationship my partner pushed for a polyamorous relationship, and I openly investigated it – and had decided I would be happy exploring it with him- and through myself into it- knowing that I trusted him.
    However (unfortunately) his idea of polyamoury was really just a smokescreen for “I want a hidden life where I can have sex with who ever I want” and this didn’t appeal to me at all – in fact it mucked with my head, and completely broke my trust. And I was heartbroken.
    What appeals to me about both polyamoury and swinging in a committed relationship is that communication levels have to be very high, and so does trust. Higher in fact than in a monogamous relationship. Personally, I believe I’m more monogamous than polyamorous, but I can respect and understand why others would not be.
    It’s not a reason to have hidden relationships, and yes, you can be a cheater in a relationship with more open sexual arrangements. Open relationships have (from what I’ve seen) the most open and transperant relationships of all – and I can see the merits in that. I can also see how easy it is to become deeply hurt, when those rules and boundaries are ignored.
    I hope for you- this leads you to be free to enjoy the life you feel fits you best.
    (for me, I’m happiest reverting back to a monogamous relationship in future 🙂 )

  33. Actually polyamory and cheating are very different things! It is not at all the same; polyamory is about openness and honesty. Hence why I could be monogamous, even though I identify as polyamorous.

    • But this is my problem, we should all be honest and open in relationships, what on earth does wanting more than one partner have to do with that. You ignored those points in my original post. Of course poly/open does not mean you cheat, but if you did not want relationships with other ppl why bring it up?

      Poly is not a sexuality, just a new word for a way lots of us have always been.

      • Nick, mostly says:

        I think you’re reading an equivocation into it that isn’t there. She’s not saying “lying = cheating and honesty = polyamory.” Rather she’s saying that polyamory isn’t defined by the number of sex partners you have but rather your belief in the ability to have multiple relationships simultaneously. If you’re honest and open about that belief you may be polyamorous (whether or not you choose to identify with that label); if you’re lying and deceitful about your additional relationships you’re a cheater.

        That said, I have a different definition for what constitutes cheating, which is simply violating the rules you’ve agreed to follow. You can cheat in both monogamous and polyamorous relationships under this model. Polyamory then becomes a belief system (people can love more than one at a time) whereas cheating is strictly a behavior (the having of illicit sexual contact). Monogamy can be both a belief (people can only truly love one person at a time) and a behavior (having sex with only one partner). This leads to four possible outcomes: monogamous in word and deed, polyamorous in word but monogamous in deed (like the author), monogamous in word but polyamorous in deed (like the author’s husband – aka cheating), and polyamorous in word and deed (having multiple partners and honest about the fact).

      • Nick, mostly – I think that is a great definition of cheating, because cheating is really defined by the situation. It’s not to say a poly person doesn’t cheat; it just seems that when one is open about their desires to be with other people, the chances of being unfaithful are less than in a situation in which someone may develop feelings for another person, but feel guilty about those feelings.

        Jemima101 – of course we should all be honest in our relationships, no matter how we identify. It makes sense to be honest in all of our relationships – romantic and otherwise. What I am saying is that perhaps it is easier for someone like myself who identifies as poly to be open and honest about wanting to make connections with others than it is for someone who identifies as monogamous and then feels guilty for those feelings.

  34. Mugwump 15 says:

    You shouldn’t have a problem with your husband’s cheating since you yourself prefer a polyandrous lifestyle.

    He simply lived the lifestyle you claim to endorse.

    So what’s the problem?

    • Whilst i have problems with the article, at least I bothered to read it. Poly and open relationships are not about cheating, they are the exact opposite,

    • The Wet One says:

      He lied and wasn’t open about it. She wasn’t. See the difference Mug?

      • The Wet One says:

        Sorry that should read:

        “He lied and wasn’t open about it. She didn’t lie and was open about it. See the difference Mug?”

        • The Wet One says:

          Also, she’s not married.

          • Also, she identified as polyamorous but was willing to be maintain her monogamous commitment to stay in her current relationship because she valued it more than the possibility to explore polyamory. He’s a cheating piece of shit who had the audacity to blame his infidelity on his partner.

          • Yes, exactly! I don’t even think cheating is necessarily a bad thing (the outcome was good – I am far happier than I had been in years), but he certainly did not live the lifestyle I endorse. I endorse integrity, honesty, and openness in relationships, whether that involves having just one partner or several; not lying and sneaking around. Such behaviour doesn’t usually end well for anyone.

  35. Actually, our relationship had been better than it had ever been. I have always been open and honest. I had believed him to be, also.

  36. So things were bad anyway, and that makes your whole post redundant. People who want different things in a marriage need to be open or it all goes tits up.

  37. You decided you were poly, your partner wasn’t and he cheated on you? Perhaps it’s because you needed a label for open communication and honesty, which should be the hall mark of any relationship. Perhaps because saying to someone I do not want to be monogamous but will for you is about as patronizing as you can get, or perhaps it’s because anyone who leaps on the latest trendy bandwagon is probably not worth staying with.

    Did you ever think of exploring other sexual behaviors with him, such as swinging or open relationships, or would that not have been academic and posh enough for you?

    • Actually, he embarked on his illicit affair approximately two months before my epiphany. 🙂

    • Did you actually read the article or just the title? The ending paragraph states exactly what you said:

      “If there is anything to take away from this, I think it is that honesty is (almost) always the best policy – for anybody, in any kind of relationship, with any sort of orientation.”


  1. […] originally appeared on The Good Men Project. Republished here with […]

  2. […] GF contributor Jasmine Peterson has an article at the Good Men Project about issues with mandatory monogamy and honesty in relationships. […]

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