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-   -   Another judgy thread: Opening up marriages (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=24359)

mostlyclueless 06-02-2012 06:13 PM

Another judgy thread: Opening up marriages
I wanted to bring this up as something I have seen that is starting to bother me, and I'm hoping to hear some other perspectives will help me be less judgy.

I find myself getting irritated at the posts about opening up a marriage. It seems wildly dishonest to me to enter into a monogamous relationship, sign a contract saying you'll do that forever, co-mingle your lives in a way that makes it very difficult to extricate yourself, and then tell your spouse you want to change the rules.

Are these people really blindsided by their desire not to be monogamous? It never occurred to them before they got married? It seems more likely to me they always had a hunch, and didn't bring it up until all the contract signing was done so their spouse was more likely to try to put up with it.

Ok, that's all my judging. Tell me I'm wrong! Tell me your stories!

TheHistoryBoy 06-02-2012 07:12 PM

I've been lurking for several months, but your question relates to my situation. I went into monogamy on autopilot, it was just the default setting. It was only when I developed feelings for another girl that I realised I was poly (this took quite a while) so no, I don't feel I was dishonest with my fiancee.

KitWalker 06-02-2012 07:23 PM


Originally Posted by mostlyclueless (Post 138180)
I find myself getting irritated at the posts about opening up a marriage. It seems wildly dishonest to me to enter into a monogamous relationship, sign a contract saying you'll do that forever, co-mingle your lives in a way that makes it very difficult to extricate yourself, and then tell your spouse you want to change the rules.

A couple of things right out of the gate here.

I don't recall signing any such contract when we got married. Is this a local thing? The marriage license and the marriage certificate only state the names of the parties and declare them to be husband and wife. The application we signed only required us to provide identifying information and to certify we aren't lying. Nothing about monogamy. Now, the law does say we can't MARRY an additional person, which means we can't file another application and get another certificate, but it says nothing about what our relationship should be.

Even before we got the paperwork, we have always known and agreed that the piece of paper isn't what makes a marriage. We are married because we agree on that and behave accordingly. This is evidenced by the multitude of cheating spouses - the paper certainly doesn't stop them.

Now, we also had a church wedding. The exact vow we took was ""I take you as my wedded wife/husband, and I promise you love, honor, and respect; to be faithful to you; and not to forsake you until death do us part"

When our relationship changed and someone else entered we still fulfilled the conditions. I love, honor and respect her, she loves, honors and respects me. We have not forsaken each other and have no plans to do so.

As to the "faithful" part, that is something we had lengthy discussions on. We thought about what that means to us, and, luckily, we came up with matching definitions. It's about trust and honesty. Faith and trust are synonyms.


Originally Posted by mostlyclueless (Post 138180)
Are these people really blindsided by their desire not to be monogamous? It never occurred to them before they got married? It seems more likely to me they always had a hunch, and didn't bring it up until all the contract signing was done so their spouse was more likely to try to put up with it.

Personally, I haven't given it much thought until we met our girl. I never had an explicitly articulated "desire not to be monogamous". It's just that one day I realized I also love this other person as well. Surprised the hell out of me.

One thing I've learned lately is that love doesn't work the same for everyone. So, my experience may not be transferable. People may have had this desire and ignored it, or hid it because they haven't come to terms with it. Or they might have hoped it would go away, or thought it was just a phase. Who knows.

Also, people do change. Neither me nor my wife are the same people we were when we got married. This is probably a good thing, since I would call a lot of our changes growth. (One caveat here - this in no way validates the idea some people have that they can change their partner. There are many factors in how people change and only a tiny minority of them are external.)

rory 06-02-2012 07:54 PM

Oh yeah, nowhere have I made a contract about monogamy when marrying. The only thing that was stated is that by getting married, we form a family; nothing about who else that family can entail. [Neither have I promised forever, simply said that I want to commit in the present moment.]

It is simply not realistic to enter into a union, and expect there to be no changes, ever. People change, and relationships need to be adjusted or they will break. That's just life.

mostlyclueless 06-02-2012 08:11 PM

Let me clarify -- I'm talking about the threads where people come here and say, "my spouse is adamantly opposed to open/poly relationships, how can I convince him/her to let me have one?"

KitWalker 06-02-2012 08:42 PM


Originally Posted by mostlyclueless (Post 138205)
Let me clarify -- I'm talking about the threads where people come here and say, "my spouse is adamantly opposed to open/poly relationships, how can I convince him/her to let me have one?"

Oh, those...

Well, the stuff about contracts and change and all that still applies. That said, there is a definite problem there. The problem isn't necessarily one of dishonesty towards the partner, though.

There is a multitude of ways this can come about. It might be that people truly got blindsided. It might be they deluded themselves. It might be they were dishonest. The one common thing here is that they are looking to change someone else. This, as I mentioned above, is a silly belief that ruins a lot of relationships. It's rampant across all types of relationships. How many times have you come across someone who suffers for years and bitches about some characteristic or other of their partner that they thought they would be able to influence? Anything from not picking up laundry to excessive drinking, to this particular issue. This, however, is a worst case scenario.

The other case is that, to be blunt, their desires are getting the best of them and making them drop an infobomb on their partner rather than having a discussion. It's damned hard to be patient.

On the third hand, it's entirely possible that some of these folks are just selfish and looking for validation. Can't say for sure, not being a mind reader.

Anneintherain 06-02-2012 09:41 PM

Well in my first marriage we were monogamous for 11 years before being other. Luckily we were on the same page about thinking that non monogamy would great, but I can certainly see how somebody would have no idea that they'd be interested in more than one person until it happened. I sure didn't.

But yes, trying to manipulate somebody who wants monogamy to embrace poly when they don't want to is kinda shitty. I certainly could see why you'd want to do it though, nobody wants to lose a person they love so it makes sense to scramble. Most people do want to have their cake and eat it too. I just feel bad when the falling in love with somebody else comes before conversations about non monogamy.

I think that it's great as alternatives to monogamy start becoming more known and understood that more people will know there are options and discuss them before getting married to hopefully prevent stuff like this happening as often.

Tonberry 06-02-2012 11:16 PM

I'm one of the people who opened up my marriage.

What happened for me was that I had been told so much that when you are really in love, you stop loving others, that I assumed it would happen to me too. Even though I had always had several crushes, or several boyfriends, I figured I would find "the one" and settle down and everything would be fine.

Add to that the fact that we needed to get married for him to be able to stay in the country, and we married much earlier than I otherwise would have wanted (although after three years, which many people consider normal).

When I kept falling in love for others I did my research, realise I wasn't evil or anything but just polyamorous, and told him about it. He was shocked and surprised, and hurt, being monogamous himself.
I absolutely understand the confusion and hurt the people must feel. Finally understand what's "wrong" with you is liberating. Being unable to explore that part of you is restricting and can make you depressed and miserable.
And people being what they are, each side is going to think of ways to change the other's mind. I've seen it in other occasions, such as children ("if he loves me, he'll realise he's happy with me and won't want children to ruin it!" "if she loves me, she'll want my children!"
I think it's important to realise that people might adapt, but rarely change to that extent. My husband reluctantly agreed, nothing came out of it for 1-2 years, then he met someone and brought it back up, then I met someone (Seamus, I'm with him now).
I had been with Seamus 6 months when it became obvious my marriage wasn't working, so I broke up. Two month later I learned that my husband identified as monogamous again, and said he had always been and was pretending for my sake.

In hindsight, I wish we had broken up the second I mentioned polyamory and he was against it. The rest of the relationship was a wreck, a mess, and we could have gone each our own ways still friendly if only we hadn't tried to hold on to this utopia of making it work anyways.

But sometimes it works, and people who don't know how to deal with these situations can use the help and advice of this board.

PinkDragon 06-03-2012 01:57 AM

Here's my take on it...

Bear and I have been married for seven years. When we met I was very open with him about my sexuality. He assumed that meant that he would get to have two girls in the bedroom every now and then. I assumed that the girl-loving part of my life was over.

Neither of us told the other what our assumptions were.

Fast forward through 6 1/2 years of marriage, which was very happy, btw, to last fall. A long time friend that's always flirted with me suddenly started laying it on hard and thick. I asked Bear if it was ok with him if I had sex with her without him present. He said yes.

Later he told me he did fear that I might not come home, or that I would tell him that it was over between us. That really shocked me. I mean, he's my LIFE. To use the godawful cliche... he completes me.

I was intimate with my friend, which I thought would lead to a relationship with her. Because of assumptions she made, it was a one shot deal. Because I was in love with her I got my heart broken.

But, this isn't about that....

However, that incident opened up the opportunity to talk about our sexual relationship. I told him that while yes, I really love being with women and miss it, that I didn't want to be swinger because that's just icky to me. I enjoy having relationships for the sake of the relationship, not just for sex. And, I've had numerous deep emotional relationships that involved no sex at all. For me those relationships are a million times more fulfilling that some random sexual encounter could ever be.

At this point in my life I knew exactly two people who were self-described as poly, though one I would argue is more of a swinger.

Bear and I talked, and talked, and talked, and then we talked some more. We decided that we would try the poly thing.

Before I started researching it never dawned on me that "polyamorous" was a label I could apply to myself. Bear, smart man that he is, says that he already knew because he knows me so well. He knew what my desires were and is cool with them.

I would argue that we both ASSUMED the other person would understand what our relationship would be like when we got married. We both come from a background that claims one man-one woman, monogamous for life, as the only "right" way to do marriage. I assumed that he would want only that. He assumed I knew he was more free-thinking. So, neither of us has been shocked, coerced, badgered, or talked into exploring the poly lifestyle.

We are now dating someone who has also never been in a poly relationship before.

Did I know seven or 12 or 20 years ago that this was what I wanted for my life? No, I did not. Did Bear know? I don't know, I haven't asked him. Did he know when he married me that he wanted to share a female lover with me? Yes. Did I know he wanted that? No. Did I know *I* wanted that? No, not really. Did it become obvious to me that I did want that with the heart-breaker? Oh, most certainly. I wanted her as our wife. I could see the whole hand-fasting ceremony in my head.

It only made sense from there and a couple subsequent other encounters that yes, I do identify as poly.

I can also tell you that if EITHER of us had said, "No, I don't want this." that we would not be where we are right now.

Neither Bear nor I entertain thoughts of trying to change the other. We married each other because we liked each other as we were/are. Have we changed and grown over the last seven years? Oh, most certainly. We've faced trials and tribulations. We've had expectations dashed. We've had dreams shattered. But we've also climbed mountains, ridden some wild bulls, slain monsters, and stood back-to-back to fight enemies. All of these experiences have changed us in ways we never imagined and we are better for it.

And now we're here, embarking on yet another grand, life-changing adventure that we will, as always, journey together.

JaneQSmythe 06-03-2012 01:58 AM

We got married without any expectation of sexual monogamy - "forsaking all others" was not in our vows. Instead we had boundaries that revolved around what we were comfortable with at that time in our relationship. At the time of our marriage (and indeed before) his "boundaries" included "no boys" for me. I boundary I had no serious problems with for 19 years - until, unexpectedly, I did. "Boundaries", like people, can change.

We were lucky enough to recognize before we go married, that society's "rules" for marriage were not necessarily the ones that we wanted to live by. We defined our marriage by rules that made sense to us - screw society. Not everyone has the benefit of exposure to alternative configurations/ideas before they tie the knot. They may not be aware of the fact that they DO have a choice (societal pressures being what they are) - so I don't think they can be faulted entirely for realizing after the fact that they do have options.

Tonberry - good point re: having children. When I married MrS I was aware of the fact that he didn't desire kids (he was 24 at the time - I thought this was entirely normal). I assumed that at some point he would change his mind, but was prepared for the possibility that he would not - not a deal-breaker for me. Turns out he DID change his mind - and we couldn't have kids anyway...

Point is - people get married (date, make friends, etc.) with all KINDS of assumptions/expectations. Sometimes they are WRONG. We live in the real world - sometimes we make mistakes. Should people who, at some point, realize they have made a mistake own up and admit it? Or should they "suffer in silence" and, possibly, sabotage any possibility of honesty in their relationships? Would you really want people to continue to lie to their partners about who they are and what they want once they have come to the realization that their marriage is based on a premise that they have come to realize is not actually true for them?

Yes - it sucks. It sucks for the partner who was led to believe that their lives would proceed in a certain pattern. It sucks for people who want kids to be infertile. It sucks to realize that your life has been based on a lie that you told yourself. Life sucks sometimes. At some point I think the best path is to look at where you ACTUALLY are and decide what is the "most honest" decision from that point onward. We can't change the past, the future is unknown, the most we can do is take the present moment and make the best decisions we can based on the available information. And sometimes those decisions SUCK. Sometimes we will make the wrong decisions, sometimes we will regret them, sometimes they will lead to happiness beyond our wildest dreams...

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