My wife wants our marriage to be open but I don’t want that. What do you think of polyamory? I may be old-fashioned but I don’t get it. If I wanted for us to sleep with other people, why would I have even proposed? I don’t want my wife having sex with anyone else. I don’t even want to have sex with anyone else but her. And what can I do if I don’t want our marriage to be open? I might lose her if I say no.

—Caught Between a Rock (United States)


If you don’t want an open marriage, you must communicate that honestly to your wife. Yes, you might lose her if you say no but the other alternative is to be in an unhappy marriage since you don’t want an open marriage and she does. I would start with couples counseling to see if there is some way you both can make changes to your relationship that would make both of you happy.

It is up to each couple to define and create the kind of marriage they want. As long as they are open and honest with each other, it is their right to set the parameters of what is acceptable and what is not for their marriage. Unfortunately, often married people in supposedly traditional, monogamous marriages cheat on the side and lie about it even though they don’t have an “open” marriage. In my opinion, an honest and open poly relationship beats a relationship that pretends to be monogamous but is not.

I know some who embrace polyamory in an effort to love without possessiveness and ownership and with permission for the partners to explore outside of the relationship. I think that ideal of honesty is admirable when the parties are truly honest and open with each other.

Some of the challenges of poly life, however, are that it can perhaps be difficult to go deeper into a relationship and to stick with a partner when things get difficult when there are easier options (and potential distractions). That doesn’t mean that it can’t be done—it just takes work, even more work perhaps than with just two people in a marriage, which in itself can be a heck of a lot of work. Also, I feel that some live the poly lifestyle with an undercurrent of a kind of sexual materialism or acquisitiveness, which doesn’t resonate for me personally although I admire poly couples that live with complete honesty and openness. I’m friends with a couple who also say their goal is to love without borders or limits defined by society.

If any polyamorists have anything to add to this discussion, please share your opinions and suggestions as people who actually live or have lived this lifestyle as far as the benefits or challenges of this lifestyle as well as your philosophy of relationship.

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