Is Open Marriage Worth the Risk?

Is Open Marriage Worth the Risk

When you blog twice a week for 10 years, you’re bound to run across the same topics. But that doesn’t mean they’re any less pertinent the fifth time around.

Take open marriage and polyamory.

I first wrote about it in a piece called “Polyamory: Intensifying the Living Experience”

Then I linked to a post called “Dan Savage on the Virtues of Polyamory.”

Later, I explored this topic in “Is Monogamy Biological?”

Finally, I read this open marriage piece in New York  that almost made my eyes bleed.

You’d think we covered all bases – but then the Times came out with a magazine cover story called “Is an Open Marriage Happier Than a Traditional Marriage?”

It’s an interesting read about couples who are in open marriages that provides a mainstream, non-judgmental look at their lifestyle.

Even after reading the entire worthwhile piece, I’m left with a niggling feeling that there’s a lot of rationalization going on here. It’s not that sex isn’t important (it is). It’s not that we’re wired to be monogamous for life (we’re not). It’s that taking another sexual partner inherently opens up a huge can of worms that can easily destabilize a marriage.

When you hear people in open relationships talk about  the virtues of communication, it’s because it requires a LOT of maintenance. Hours and hours of conversation to ensure that the destabilizing nature of polyamory  doesn’t destabilize the relationship.

Life is too good to potentially mess it up for  pleasures of another warm body.

“Monogamy is an approach  to relationships built on one bright-line rule: no sex with anyone else. Open relationships may sound like the more unfettered choice, but the first thing nonmonogamous couples often do is draw up a list of guidelines: rules about protection, about the number of days a week set aside for dates, about how much information to share. Some spouses do not want to know any details about the other spouse’s extramarital sex, while for others, those stories are a thrilling side benefit of the arrangement.

These rules are often designed to manage jealousy. Most monogamous couples labor to avoid that emotion at all costs; but for the philosophically polyamorous, jealousy presents an opportunity to examine the insecurities that opening a relationship  lays bare. Jealousy is not a primal impulse to be trusted because it feels so powerful; it is an emotion worth investigating.”

That just sounds exhausting to me. Lots of heavy conversations about “us.” You know how many conversations like this my wife and I have? None. We’re solid as a rock, and when you are, there’s not much to talk about.

Believe me, I can appreciate the thrill of a new partner – a thrill I miss as much as the next married person. I would never take the chance of hurting my marriage to pursue that thrill. Call it risk-aversion, but that risk is why I will never cheat  or stray.

Life is too good to potentially mess it up for the pleasures of another warm body.

What do you think? Your thoughts, below, are always appreciated.

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  1. 1

    You’re either compatible with the virtue/understanding of polyamory, or your not.

    Evan, when you say, “It’s that taking another sexual partner inherently opens up a huge can of worms that can easily destabilize a marriage.”   and “You know how many conversations like this my wife and I have? None. We’re solid as a rock, and when you are, there’s not much to talk about.”    To me, that’s your personal view of what marriage inherently is. That a marriage is a relationship of stability. Some poly people would counter that their view of marriage is not that at all. I’m not speaking as a poly person, but I have observed polyamory in-depthly over the years, both in research and engaging in conversations with poly people in my inner circle, and poly people will tell you not to assume their view of marriage/romantic-partnered relationships is the same as any other person. Especially not a monogamous person.

    I agree, adopting a polyamory mindset and making it the way you conduct romantic partnerships is too much to mentally take on, but that is for the people who chose to do so. Clear communication is the corner stone of being a part of ethically, non-monogamous relationships. Staying non-judgmental about it is the best way filter, in my opinion.

    1. 1.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      SFNMA, you make my case better than I can.

      “To me, that’s your personal view of what marriage inherently is.”

      I don’t think that’s a personal view. To me, it’s like defining a house as something that gives you shelter. One can come in and argue: “What about a house made of straw?” What about a house with an open roof? What about a house that’s collapsed?” But that doesn’t change the idea that, by its most common and accepted definition, a house is supposed to be stable and provide shelter.

      Marriage is like a house. Are millions of marriages unstable? Do men and women everywhere feel lonely and misunderstood within their own partnership? You bet. But that doesn’t change the idea that, when you get married, you accept each other, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, ’til death do you part. Not to mention the part about forsaking all others. So while I am not judgmental, nor puritanical, by redefining marriage as “open,” you’re pretty much obliterating the underlying concept of monogamy.

      In other words, you’re allowed to live in a house that has no roof, but don’t be too surprised if other people don’t think it meets the definition of a house, nor second-guess whether such a house will provide the warmth and stability that most people require from their mode of shelter.

      1. 1.1.1

        This argument sounds a lot like what the authors of the DOMA would say. And others before them. The definition of marriage and its purpose is not set in stone. It has been evolving pretty much since the dawn of days. In fact the whole notion of monogamous marriage based on romantic love is very, very new. So if somebody wants to define marriage on their terms – who cares? Let them do what they want.

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          I considered that someone would write that. I disagree. DOMA is about discrimination. My take is not remotely discriminatory. In other words, I don’t care if you have an open marriage. Whatever floats your boat. However, if you ask me, as a dating coach and married man, whether you should open up your marriage, I would probably weigh in that, for the vast majority of people, open marriage is not what you signed up for, and it’s a potentially destabilizing factor to your previously monogamous. That’s not my opinion. That’s an observation, not based on what I want to be true, but rather, what we see all the time – and, in fact, what this article mentions. I don’t care to judge or police anyone’s desires; nor will I fail to point out that there are potential negative consequences to fucking other people who are not your spouse.

    2. 1.2

      I’m halfsies on this one. I’d have to agree with SFN-MA that not all people experience marriage as a relationship of stability. Those who value variety, spontaneity and fun might be more inclined to see those things as having greater value than stability. But I agree with Evan that the number of people who HOPE to have or WANT to have that stability is greater than those who have a different value (such as variety).

      I would also argue that the most common and accepted definition for things, are sometimes still definitions that would be more loving and compassionate if they were expanded (such as marriage being a  union of competent, consenting adults which is usually marked by a loving partnership). I would still define  married people as married if they were childless, the same gender or lacked love. I just might not want that flavor of marriage for myself. I know I would never choose to be poly because I don’t like to share and it would feel unstable to me. However I can see how some people would choose it, especially if one had an avoidant personality, since it would create a looser boundary in the primary relationship.

  2. 2

    Such an interesting conversation.   Especially the first comment.   Interesting that some want unions that aren’t stable. I like thinking about the fluidity.   There are so many different kinds of people.

    As for talking. I’m a talker.   I find without verbal (or written) communication so much gets lost or you’re just guessing.   It’s like what I hear about nursing school. “If you didn’t chart it, it didn’t happen.”   That’s how I feel about talking.

    Maybe that is exhausting for people but once I get to know people communication is less verbal. A single raised eyebrow can speak volumes!

    I think what one person thinks is exhausting another person doesn’t.   Some relationships require more maintenance.     I am glad you share about your life, Evan. It makes you more human and I, for one, need to see humanity   in people. And I’m glad you and your wife are happy.   But the type of relationship you have might not be for everyone.   It works for you.

    I was rereading the Princess Bride and thinking about Miracle Max and his wife, Valerie.   They may have seemed to bicker a lot, but they loved each other and were happy.   Some couples are also happily like that.   To each their own. 🙂

  3. 3

    For me, the best feature of non-monogamy is how much consciousness it calls for.    It can also be done as unconsciously as monogamy, and that approach results in more explosions for non-mono than for mono.    Monogamous marriages in general could use so much more consciousness than they have.    Most people think there is one kind of monogamy (the kind in their own mind), but there are as many kinds of monogamy as there are people.    Each person has a different idea of what monogamy means.

    Examples . . . . Alex thinks monogamy means his wife doesn’t go out for dinner with a man where it’s just the two of them, but his wife Amy think monogamy means her husband doesn’t go out for lunch with the woman in the office next door to his.    They are at odds because Alex thinks it’s fine to take female clients to dinner, just the two of them, while Amy thinks grabbing lunch with a fellow male seminar attendee is fine.

    Bette thinks monogamy means her husband pretends other women just don’t exist.

    Cassie thinks monogamy means her husband dances only with her and no other women, while her husband Chuck thinks monogamy means no sex during a private lap dance.

    There are many cans of worms that really need to be opened and talked through, because people assume too much and communicate too little.    If they assumed less and communicated more, they would relate to each other with much more satisfaction.

    1. 3.1



      I take your point because it is often startling to me to hear what some other people regard as monogamous. As an extremely faithful, loyal person who has a few platonic male friends, it is bewildering and disconcerting to me to be told that I cannot maintain the harmless friendships with these men that I have had for years. I have even heard several people express the view that if a behaviour towards the opposite sex is something which makes your partner unhappy, it is cheating. There are so many problems with that view that I don’t know where to start. Even more murky waters emerge when you get into the realms of “emotional cheating.” Personally, I like Evan’s view on the matter: if you don’t trust your partner, don’t be with them. Although I do think there’s a certain amount to be said for making an effort to overcome one’s insecurity.


      Having said that, though, I think the difference between an open marriage and a monogamous marriage is that, in an open marriage, you are making an upfront agreement that sleeping with other people (or whatever behaviour you agree upon) is okay. You cannot then turn around and say you are not okay with it and that it hurts you. You agreed to it, and both people proceeded on that basis. Putting the genie back in the bottle at any stage I would imagine would be next to impossible.


      Whereas with a monogamous marriage, the agreement of fidelity is what is there from the start. How fidelity is defined is up to the couple in question, but I would venture to say that by almost any definition, fidelity includes no sexual physical contact with others. In a good monogamous marriage, though, you are always striving for an agreement of fidelity that works for both people and where neither feels hurt. Not hurting each other to me seems to be inherent in the idea of fidelity. I can accept that non-monogamous couples go in with the same intention of not hurting each other, but the risk for that hurt just seems to be so much higher, and the definition of acceptable behaviour seems to be so much more fluid, simply because you open yourselves up to so much more possibilities.


      I was friends with a non-monogamous couple a few years ago. They had what seemed to be a great marriage, and they were very in love and very happy, and seemed to genuinely be ok with their partner having sex with other people. However, one thing I’ve noticed with all the conversations about open relationships is that being honest and upfront about everything seems to be a cornerstone. With these friends of mine, there were some things that the husband did that I’m almost sure his wife did not know about. For instance, I came across him on a dating website (he didn’t know it was me). I am fairly certain that was not part of his agreement with his wife. It just seems to me that the potential for doing something not agreed upon and then trying to sweep it under the rug, or trying to gloss over it with “Oh but I assumed you’d be ok with that!” is much, much higher in an open marriage.

      1. 3.1.1

        Clare, I’m wondering what your distinctions are on friends. For me, a childhood friend you see once a year that you kissed once when you were fourteen and who lives two hours away, is different from a co-worker you had sex with a few times after work after you had a few drinks with her. For me, once you’ve had physical intimacy with that person, that’s the line. I don’t think I’d mind a childhood friend that you had never had any physical intimacy with, just loved them like a sister.

        I know for myself, I always make sure to tell my female friends that I know their husbands are  theirs, period. It’s my integrity that says, no matter what, it’s a line I am choosing not to cross. As a result, I haven’t had an issue since I started this practice. For the most part I don’t touch them either. I have too much esteem for my friends to do anything that would cause them difficulty. But I’ve noticed a lot of people play fast and loose with those boundaries.

        1. Clare



          I take your point because I agree that a lot of people play fast and loose with those boundaries. I make a personal choice in my life not to get involved with such people, either romantically or as friends. For me, life is too short to spend my precious time and energy on people who consistently make me feel disrespected and uncomfortable.


          I suppose for this reason, it is not much of an issue with me. Like you, I have total integrity where my friends are concerned. My male friends are absolutely platonic, and there are no unresolved “vibes.” I make sure to keep any and all my dealings and feelings between us absolutely clean and clear and aboveboard. The guy friends I do have know that my boundaries around this are firm and do not push them; perhaps for this reason, I do not have multiple close guy friends, but I do have a number of not-close guy friends. With all of them, I maintain total integrity. By the way, I go out of my way to show respect to the girls my guy friends date as well. I back right off from my guy friend and I make an effort to befriend the girlfriend and put her at ease.


          I operate the same level of integrity with my female friends, much like you. Just yesterday, I was in a rather weird situation where a guy one of my close female friends has just started dating sent me a text out of the blue. It turns out he was simply trying to befriend her friends (albeit rather awkwardly), but nonetheless I sent a screenshot of the message to my friend so that she was in the loop. I would never, ever, in a MILLION years attempt to gain attention from a man one of my friends was involved with.


          Because I operate with this level of integrity, I expect the person I’m dating to trust me, and I expect to be able to trust him to the same extent.

      2. 3.1.2

        Clare ~~ You wote, “Whereas with a monogamous marriage, the agreement of fidelity is what is there from the start. How fidelity is defined is up to the couple in question” but my point was exactly that almost all couples DO NOT have the consciousness to define their versions of “fidelity” up front.     They are simply unconscious of the existence of definitions different than their own.     Of course, these are the conversations that make marriages work: conscious awareness and communications.     When those are the cornerstones of the partnership, the partners DON’T need endless conversations for clarifications except for changes from personal growth.

        As a personal example, I married a man who told me he would learn to dance with me because I loved partner dancing.     He even took lessons with me before we married.     After marrying, he changed his mind, and then he also didn’t want me dancing with other men.     In order to not “hurt his feelings”, I didn’t dance at all.     I realize now that he broke our agreement first and hurt my feelings first, and I had no obligation to avoid dancing with others.     I won’t make that mistake again.     But the cultural bias was for partners to sit on the sidelines when one didn’t want to dance.     It was an unconscious default decision at the time and I wish I had had more awareness of all the underlying mechanics.

        My point is that agreeing to be monogamous (as we had) certainly did not make it easier to avoid hurting each other by way of unconscious default decisions.     In fact, agreeing to be monogamous made it easier to hurt each other by allowing one-sided cultural biases to influence our personal interactions at an unconscious level.

  4. 4

    I’m not an expert on this subject but I bet some  people who gravitate to this kind of lifestyle are not thrill seekers.   They are people who don’t want the finality of the decision to commit.   They are not sure about a  one-on-one lifestyle so they try go half way.   I bet some people consider an “open marriage” even when they don’t have another lover in the wings. Committing to one person is a passionate act.   More than one person is more like hedging your decisions. I think this is not an attempt maximize riches of life but a yet-another attempt to minimize regret.

  5. 5
    Tron Swanson

    As far as I can tell, I’m incapable of monogamy: I’ve only been in a few monogamous relationships, and they’ve never lasted more than a few months, if that long. I felt miserable and struggled to be faithful. I’ve had much more success–and been much more fulfilled–when involved with multiple women at the same time, though in a more casual way.

    Following up on what MilkyMae said, I’m not a thrill-seeker at all. I’m a timid, risk-averse person. I just happen to be biologically incapable of monogamy, or something like that.

  6. 6

    I just don’t get the point of ‘open’ marriage. It’s an inherent contradiction imo.   Why get married if you choose not to only be with that person? Isn’t that kind of the point? But to each his own.


    Personally, I can never be with someone who needs to bang other people throughout the relationship. If that’s the case, we will stay single and just ‘enjoy’ each other (if that was my thing).

    1. 6.1

      First of all I think we need to make sure we distinguish between “open marriage” and “polyamory”.

      Open marriage = a marriage between two people where the people in that marriage agree to have sex outside the relationship, but it’s little more than that. They are essentially monogamous aside from being allowed to get their rocks off with other people (think swingers as a good example).

      Polyamory = a relationship with more than one person. Sometimes you have a primary relationship be it marriage or common law, and then other boyfriends/girlfriends. Sometimes you have a situation where every relationship is held equally to the other. And sometimes you all have relationships with each other, so think a triad where all three partners are romantically involved with each other: dave is with amy, amy is with mark, mark is with dave.

      So with that in mind the benefits as I have observed (I am not personally into open/poly, I am a mono kind of lady, so this is only from talking and being in the company of) in my friend groups are:

      Open relationship: The couple gets the emotional one person only experience. They are essentially in a monogamous relationship. That is the person they share a home with, a family with, bills and stuff. That’s the person the extended family knows etc. It’s essentially a regular marriage with all the benefits that come with that. Except they get to, through trust, communication and many many many rules, continuously experience the novelty of sex. Usually open relationships happen where the partners in the couple like a lot of sex and like diverse sexual opportunities. Where a big part of sex for these people is the newness, the chase, etc. But they don’t want another relationship. They just want fun meaningless sex with others, but a loving committed single partner to come home to. I personally feel this only works well if BOTH partners feel the same way about the relationship and sex. And have only seen it successful once, and those partners have been married for over a decade now. The problem with open marriages is that often a couple will agree to do it as a way of saving a marriage that was not going to be saved through opening it up. Or one partner will coerce the other to do it, when the other partner really doesn’t want to.

      Poly relationships: this one is kind of “it takes a village”. Where having many different people gives a sense of uniqueness but also a sense that everyone brings something different to the table and contributes something lovely and specific to the relationships. I have known a few triads and they work very well, very much similarly to to a two person monogamous relationship. When all three are interested in all three it works well. I have found the poly relationships with one primary couple and then secondary partners less predictably effective. Sometimes it works wonderfully for the same reason as a triad does. But sometimes one partner has more partners than the other and there is jealousy. Or one of the secondary partners gets jealous of the primary one. Such a poly relationship requires in my opinion FAR more maintenance and communication than a mono one. They can work, though, I’ve seen it. And usually it’s down to excellent communication and the strength of the primary relationship.


      Hopefully this helps a bit! 🙂

      1. 6.1.1
        Maria Almudena

        Going through your whole explanation, Callie, my sense is that this stuff is only for the unemployed. Who has the time and energy to do all this? If you work and/or have children, it can be hard enough to dedicate sufficient time and energy to communicate and maintain a functional relationship with one partner, let alone several.

        To keep something going with several partners,, it seems to me that this is only possible by engaging very superficially with each person. So these arrangements may be suitable for unemployed superficial people who prefer sexual variety to deepening a connection with one person. I don’t see how anyone could uphold the stringent competent communication standards often ascribed to polyamory or open relationships unless the parties involved are not doing much with their lives other than manage the arrangement.

        I understand what Evan said about there being no need for conversations about “us” in his marriage. A good marriage is a safe place to return to every day, a foundation from where to do and be everything you need to do and be out in the world. It is something true and stable to carry you through life, not something constantly sprouting cracks that need constant repair and maintenance.

        Sex for the sake of sex is abhorrent to me. And this is not coming from any religious considerations. I just can’t think of anything worse than being touched, manhandled and fucked by a guy who doesn’t care at all about me, who may not even like me as a person. I think it is a very vulnerable position to be, physically and mentally.

        Let’s also pause here for a second to think about STIs and how promiscuity of all kinds contributes to the pandemic.

        Let’s spare a thought as well for the children born of parents whose time, emotional energy and loyalty are spread too thinly in all sorts of directions — rules or no rules. There is a conflict of interest here.

        My last thought on the polyamory and open relationship thing is that I agree with the people who say that there is usually a partner who coerces the other into accepting the arrangement. And of course, there is no changing one’s mind with this, it’s a one-way ticket.


        1. Callie

          Oh my goodness yes, I have no idea how people who live in such relationships have the time to nurture them, especially the poly relationships. But that being said, they do and succeed (not all, of course, but not all mono marriages work out either). I think we have to keep in mind that who we are is not who everyone else is. And while you may personally have your sexual preferences others have theirs. You certainly would not wish to be judged for not enjoying sex for sex sake, so one would hope that despite it not being your preferred way of being you don’t judge others who do.

          There are of course risks with opening up a marriage, but one would hope that the couple involved have discussed them and made plans: safe sex, regular STI check-ups etc. I also think that while you might think there’s a conflict of interest in the energy direction and that children could suffer from lack of attention which is a totally legitimate concern, some poly families would say that with more people comes MORE attention for the children and that, quite frankly, considering the current work ethic in at least Western society, there are mono-based families where parents rarely spend time with their kids either, handing them over to nannies while the parents work 12 hour days.

          There are benefits and drawbacks to all kinds of relationships. The important thing to my mind is not to judge. If something works then it works. If it doesn’t then the people within that relationship need to solve their own issues.

          As for the coercion thing, absolutely. I have seen many an open relationship specifically (less poly but it does happen), where they exist primarily because one partner wants it and the other does not. That’s not healthy. I have also seen poly relationships that exist more as a fantasy idea of being modern and oh so open minded when really the couple works better and would prefer mono. Then again, there are plenty of examples in mono relationships too of one partner wanting something where the other does not. And heck even examples of forced or pressured mono relationships especially in cultures/reilgions that forbid sex before marriage. So yes, totally agree, “open” can just be a manipulative tactic for sure. But I think it has less to do with the nature of the relationship than human nature.

        2. Katie

          Maria says “I don’t see how anyone could uphold the stringent competent communication standards often ascribed to polyamory or open relationships unless the parties involved are not doing much with their lives other than manage the arrangement.”

          So many assumptions. Has it occurred to you that some other people may have more energy to spend than you do? Everyone does NOT come with the same amount of expendable energy as you do. Or that perhaps some people are able to make the QUALITY of the time they do spend together valuable, even if there is less QUANTITY of time together?


        3. Maria Almudena

          Callie, the issue of “judgment”, being accused of being judgmental comes up a lot with this topic. I see it more as a question of discernment than of judgment. I think there are very serious issues of divided loyalties in these types of relationships, and endless potential for conflict of interest.

          I am well aware, Katie, that people come with different energy levels — within limits. We are all human, right? Vulnerable to disease, stress, exhaustion. One of the problems with open or polyamory relationships is the potential for one partner to be left behind (emotionally AND sexually) as soon as they’re no longer in the tip-top shape that allowed them, for a time, to meet so many competing demands.

          Quality time versus quantity, you say? HA! See, spending quality time with another person relies on our ability to be present for that person, forsaking all the rest. You are not really present if you are anticipating your 5 o’clock shag with someone else.



        4. Callie

          The thing is Maria, not everyone wants the same thing. What you see as divided loyalties, others see as a bigger happier family.

          Case in point: I’m an only child. As such I truly cannot  fathom what it’s like to have my parents love another child along with me. I know it’s illogical, as most of my friends have siblings and I’ve seen them with their parents and they all have love from them, but I find it hard to believe sometimes that a parent can love  all children equally and devote the same amount of care and attention to  multiple kids as they do to one. But. I also know that big families exist, and that if asked most parents will say very honestly they love all their children. That love is not finite, but rather expands and embraces all the more. They also speak to the love their children have for each other and how only children are losing out on that.

          So a larger poly family made up of   multiple people to some looks like divided loyalty/love, but to others looks like more love and more loyalty to go around.

          Just because you or I would prefer it one way (just as I would hate to have a sibling),   doesn’t mean that for others  the other way isn’t the better way for them. I really think you need to stop looking at things as how YOU would do it, and how YOU personally feel on the subject,  and rather have some empathy about how it works for others. How THEY feel.

          Have you read any articles about people in open or poly relationships? Do you know any? Have you had conversations with them? I have. I’ve never been one to assume I had all the answers and knew the right way to live life in the first place, but after really doing research and talking with people who live like this I’ve learned so much and have come to truly think that poly and open can and does work for certain people (I have also come to think it’s quite challenging and only works for a very specific kind of person). It doesn’t work for me, but mono doesn’t work for them. Why should either side have an opinion as to  what is best for each individual?

          Also, you want to talk time consuming? To me it takes far more energy and effort to dissect the relationships of others, than to just let people do what they want to do (with the caveat it’s all consensual) and focus on mine.

        5. Maria Almudena

          And regarding your argument about love’s expansive nature, Katie, this is certainly true of the love we have for children or friends. But to most of us, erotic love is of a different nature and it requires exclusivity and reciprocity.

          I have found the polyamory people I know to be very judgmental of monogamous people — so much so that it led me away from the pagan circles that I used to frequent. Once, I literally heard someone say, referring to a person who had decided to leave the polyamory lifestyle that the person had “gone to the dark side”.

          So I think it is important that we all defend our values and that is what I am determined to do here. Underlying your comments there is this assumption of ignorance on my part, and you are incorrect about that. I know too much about this topic not to have formed an opinion about it. Over the years I have come to try to avoid members of the polyamory community but I still run into them from time to time or hear about them, or find out that a friend or acquaintance is dabbling in the lifestyle.

          If I had to think of a common denominator for this community as I know it is that they all suffer to some degree of the Peter Pan syndrome: immaturity, reluctance to assume the responsibilities of adulthood, lots of growing up to do.

          I am prepared to accept that there are exceptions to this, somewhere. But not that I have seen.

        6. Maria Almudena

          Katie, my two comments above (below?) are more for you than for Callie. I hope they help you.


        7. Clare



          I think your point is absolutely fair. It always amazes me how people have such strong opinions on the relationships of others. I have opinions, but I try to suspend judgment because it’s not actually happening to me.


          I used to ask my family and friends for advice on my love life A LOT. I’d discuss every minor detail with them and ask their thoughts. Recently I made a decision to stop doing that because their advice is so coloured by their own prejudices, preferences and experiences, and all their advice to me would be based on  their  feelings, not mine. They would tell me what I should do based on the experiences they have had and the fears and scars they have picked up along the way. I would get myself all twisted in knots and forget that I’m a unique and unusual person who is actually quite capable of determining what works for me. I think it was Evan who said that when it comes to relationships, our family and friends are experts in nothing but their own experiences.


          Anyway, all this was to say that the idea of an open or polyamorous relationship is incomprehensible to me. But I would never dream of thinking I had the answers for someone else who felt like it might be right for them, because there are   as many different ways of being in a relationship as there are people.

        8. Maria Almudena

          Callie, I began one of my answers with your name by error instead of Katie’s, so I am the one who must apologize for this. I corrected my error in a different post but maybe you missed that one — that’s why it seems like I am putting words in your mouth.

          The layout of these comments is somewhat confusing too, as we are all forced by the forum’s structure to reply to your original post rather than to other commenters.

          There is no need for you to apologize at all, I just wanted to point out what you have already agreed to: that judgment around this topic goes both ways. From the mono to the poly and from the poly to the mono. From the exclusive to the open and from the open to the exclusive.

          I am also prepared to agree with you that all situations are individual, however with so many people in the world (most of whom we don’t know) the most common way we think of other people is by generalization. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as we understand that the member of a group we have in front of us may not fit the stereotype in our head, or our previous experience with this category of people.

          I think you have done a great job of outlining important distinctions within this topic, so thank you for that.

      2. 6.1.2
        Maria Almudena

        Callie, I hope this helps you: We ALL filter reality through our own experiences. It’s not just me. You are idealizing polyamory as a big happy family deal because you feel there was something missing from your experience in a small nuclear family.

        Whereas I wonder what happens when one partner is in the hospital and unable to perform sexually, and the other partner is running around chasing extra dick or pussy to make up the sudden shortfall.

        You tell nice stories of people you say you know, and I am sure they are true from your limited perspective but again: what I know to be true is very different. I have many acquaintances in the polyamory scene and, as much as they try to justify their lifestyle (rather vociferously at times), their relationships are not happy or stable or fulfilling. Some of them have ended up with their   children in different countries after their partner leaves, so by not means an “it takes a village” scenario in the end. They don’t even get that much sexual variety, because of people’s natural reluctance to get involved in this type of arrangement.

        I don’t spend time dissecting these people’s relationships but I hear about their exploits and difficulties from time to time — sometimes from them themselves, other times through friends. These people ain’t happy

        You like to think of yourself as modern and open-minded and non-judgmental. Meanwhile, you are judging me.You think you are more objective than me. You are not.

        There is more to human existence than “live and let live”. There is also thinking about what kind of world we want to live in, and trying to influence things to go in that direction. I cannot forbid polyamory or open relationships, nor would I do this if it were in my power to do so, but I know that children (and adults too!) need stability to thrive emotionally — and a romantic triangle is not a stable structure.

        1. Callie

          You are certainly putting so many words in my mouth. I have never idealized poly or open relationships. I believe in almost all my posts I offer examples where it didn’t work in fact. However in case they weren’t as clear as I thought they were let me state very clearly that while yes I have seen examples where both work very well I’ve also seen people try to manipulate others into an open situation that the other person didn’t want by telling them they weren’t open minded enough or cool enough. I have cautioned friends whose partners have been pushing them, to only do what they feel is right and comfortable, and I am currently dating someone who had an open relationship and would never do it again because it went so horribly wrong and quite frankly he hated it. I have seen poly situations where one person is dictating all the rules, or where one secondary partner gets jealous and petty.

          I have never held it up as any kind of beautiful utopia. I only ever answered a person’s question as to how this could possibly work and why anyone would want to do it in the first place.

          Poly and open relationships are hard. Quite frankly I have no interest in them myself for that reason. You were the one who came along and with your own personal filter as you describe it decided that people who wanted to do these relationships were wrong. You say you’ve heard about how these people “ain’t happy”. How many tales of mono relationships have you heard likewise about? Just here alone on Evan’s site? I postulate it’s not the kind of relationship necessarily that causes the strife, but the individuals within it. You postulate the nature of the relationship itself doesn’t work. Considering it does and has for many, I’m not sure how you can just claim the opposite  and have determined what’s best for “the world we live in”. You call mine a limited perspective and yet consider yours not.

          I am not judging you though. With all that, I really still have very little opinion of you though you in turn evidently think I think I am generally superior to you (which I don’t, I’m not really the person who looks at the world by who holds the higher status though). I have never claimed objectivity, though it is ironic as since I am quite old fashioned, a fan of monogamy and marriage once would think my subjectivity would be in that direction. And it was for a long time, until I stopped and listened and learned from others. I in turn am simply explaining a different perspective. Not agreeing with someone doesn’t mean they judge that someone or think they are superior. I know nothing about you, I am not about to draw conclusions about you. Unlike  what you have done about me.

          Anyway, clearly my attempts at explaining and offering a different perspective have made you think I was personally attacking you and your beliefs, so I think it best we stop. I don’t want to upset you further, and  it is not my intention at all to make you feel judged. I’m sorry I did. This truly I think is one of those agree to disagree situations. Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

        2. Callie

          Sigh this is what I get for not reading all replies to all people on a specific conversation.

          Maria – I just read your reply to Katie and now understand far better where you are coming from. Believe it or not, I totally understand what you mean by that kind of judgment that some poly people have for mono relationships. I have personally experienced it and seen it myself. I find it a toxic superior attitude  and now that I have that context for your experience I can understand better why you assumed I had a similar one. I think you associated me with those people who in the past were unkind and judgmental towards you and that makes a lot of sense. It makes sense you’d read my comments defending poly with their attitude in your head.

          But I do need you to know that I am not like those people. I am just tired of judgment all around. I am tired of being judged as closed minded for liking monogamy, but I am also tired of others judging people who  are poly or open. I personally approach it as a case by case basis, looking at individuals, not the group. And when someone says that something across the board is wrong and doesn’t work (be it someone poly saying that about my lifestyle, or someone mono saying it about someone poly) I like to offer an insight into why it actually can.

          That is all.

          Sincere apologies that I came across as someone who was putting you or the way you live your life down. I hate to think I was similar to those people you’ve spent your time around. And I am sorry you had to deal with them. I know it doesn’t make it any better but the poly people in my life who aren’t judgmental and are my friends really really dislike the kinds of poly people who hold themselves above others because it makes them look bad and makes it harder for them to be accepted.

          Jerks ruin it for us all, don’t they?

          Anyway, apologies again.

          And NOW I’ll go 🙂 .

    2. 6.2

      I get the point, it’s a classic case of having your cake and eating it too. There is that comfort and familiarity of suburban family life you can come back to, and when you need/want to there’s that thrill of banging somebody who’s completely unsuitable for marriage but is exciting otherwise. I don’t know if I’d be able to do it, but definitely have seen couples for whom this worked, and they are as solid as hey get.

      1. 6.2.1
        Emily, the original


        I get the point, it’s a classic case of having your cake and eating it too.  

        As a hypothetical, I’m wondering if women who didn’t enjoy casual sex due to the lack of emotional connection could enjoy it with a side dude if they had another full-time relationship providing them with the emotional component. Then if Side Dude disappears … it’s not a trauma.

        1. Katherine

          I can speak to this, for myself. I was one of those who was pressured into a poly and bi lifestyle by a significant other. I did it to be accepted, liked, loved, cool, different. I thought I was enlightened and superior to the monogamous, and so did virtually everyone else I knew in those circles.

          However, it felt gross, degrading, and wrong. My self esteem got even worse, and I ended up viewing most of the people involved (including myself) and their actions with disgust. I am not poly and not bi, and having a primary emotional relationship did not make the ‘trauma’ any less. In fact, it was worse, because I felt on top of the rest of it like I was cheating.

        2. Emily, the original


          I did it to be accepted, liked, loved, cool, different. I thought I was enlightened and superior to the monogamous, and so did virtually everyone else I knew in those circles.

          I didn’t mean being pressured into a lifestyle you didn’t want. I should have been clearer. I meant that a woman is in a committed relationship and meets another guy who really turns her on and she agrees to a hookup but, had she been single, she would have said no because she’d be hoping for more than something casual. She’s willing to take the emotional risk because she’s getting those needs met from someone else.

  7. 7


    That’s the problem: I don’t believe two people can be monogamous yet sleep with other people.

    mo ·nog ·a ·mous


    adjective: monogamous

    involving marriage to one person at a time.
    “under Canadian law all marriages must be monogamous”

    having a sexual relationship with only one partner at a time.
    “she admits that she has never been strictly monogamous”

    having only one mate at a time.

    1. 7.1

      Right that’s fair.  Hence why technically the relationship is not considered monogamous but either open or poly. I was just explaining that an open relationship has the benefit of having that teammate for life, that one partner vibe, while still having the ability to have sexual uniqueness etc as part of the experience. The benefit, since you asked above,  is for some who really want to just have one romantic life partner but who loves variety with sex. This works best for people who separate their feelings from the sexual act, who see act as a simple physical pleasure nothing more. Believe it or not such people do exist, especially if they are getting their emotional and romantic needs met in a longterm stable relationship.

      Also there are some people who’s kink is knowing their partner was with someone else. So for some open relationships, having sex with other people actually makes the sex life between the two in the couple even better.

      I’m not saying this is you or me for that matter, that anyone should do this if they don’t want to. I’m just explaining why it DOES work for some people who aren’t us 🙂 .

      1. 7.1.1


        You sound like someone has brainwashed you into being the spokeswoman for this type of lifestyle. Your commitment to what you perceive as political correctness does not make you superior to others. Please get off your high horse.

        1. Callie

          What? How is me saying that some people like something me being brainwashed? How is me answering Stacy’s question saying I’m superior to others? I’m serious, show me where I say that. Heck show me even where I imply it?

          I literally said several times that it is not the lifestyle for me. I also said “But sometimes one partner has more partners than the other and there is jealousy. Or one of the secondary partners gets jealous of the primary one” and “The problem with open marriages is that often a couple will agree to do it as a way of saving a marriage that was not going to be saved through opening it up. Or one partner will coerce the other to do it, when the other partner really doesn’t want to.” Like, I’ve actually pointed out the drawbacks too.  And  I’ve even said multiple times that poly/open so is not for me and I’m a strictly one person only gal.

          I’m quite stunned by your response. All I did was answer the question that Stacy posed (it’s above this one, this one was a continuation of our conversation): “Why get married if you choose not to only be with that person?”

          That’s all.

          Never advocated for it. Never said it was better. Never tried to be correct, just illuminating the motivations behind a different lifestyle it seemed Stacy was unfamiliar with. And I certainly never said I was better. Not once.

  8. 8

    I watched a friend of mine destroy his marriage when he insisted that he was being “stifled” by monogamy. He used the biology argument with me. I told him that it was his own selfish need to bed other women. He justified his need to explore other women and destroyed his marriage. His two daughters lost all respect for him. It was sad to see his wife and kids leave him because his wife did not want to share her husband with other women.   I do not blame her.

    This idea of “open marriage” is just another fringe idea pushed on our society as something good.


    1. 8.1

      It is called the divorce-industrial complex. A lot of money is being made and lost when people are “encouraged” to be dissatisfied with their marriages

    2. 8.2

      My response to that would be, well I’m biologically wired to get free stuff from men for having sex with them. So I want to have sex with as many men as I want and get gifts, favors, money, and anything else I can get. Because that’s just biology. To hell with what you think, right? Ha.

    3. 8.3
      Tron Swanson

      I’ve watched many men I know destroy their lives because of monogamy. They were fine when they were single, but, once they became monogamous with a woman? They ended up losing money and/or other property, wasting years of their lives, undergoing serious stress that sometimes even impacted their physical health…

      Monogamy may not be a fringe idea, but it’s definitely artificial (as opposed to natural), and it doesn’t have the best track-record. Forget divorce statistics; every relationship a person has had in their life–prior to their current one–has failed, and the current one has a good chance of failing, too.

      1. 8.3.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        I am a happily married man helping other people get happily married. Why rain on my parade every day?

        1. Tron Swanson

          This entry and thread are discussing monogamy versus other arrangements, so I made a few posts on the topic. I spoke up about what I think doesn’t work, just as you did.

      2. 8.3.2

        Nah Tron,

        You’re selecting based on the dependent variable, miserable marriages, and then using that to disparage monogamy. You’re also conflating two different factors. It’s not monogamy per se that destroyed those men’s lives, it’s the fact that they married entitled gold diggers (assuming what you’re saying is true). Studies show that men in happy ltrs have better long term health markers than their single counterparts. And just to counter your anecdotal experience with my own: every male friend I have who is married feels happy and fulfilled.

        1. Marika

          Loving you more and more, S (virtually, anyway). 😉

        2. Tron Swanson

          I never said they were “entitled gold diggers.” If the most saintly woman on the planet got angry or bored with her current husband and divorced him, he’d still lose money and other property. To tweak a popular saying, it isn’t about the player, it’s about the game.

          I have the exact opposite anecdotal experience as you, obviously. When I look at my family, and the other people around me…yeah, it just makes me want to run even further away from marriage. Maybe it’s a cultural and/or class difference?

          Yes, men in happy long-term relationships are happy. In other news, people who start successful business are successful. If it works, great; if it doesn’t, you’re screwed. I’d rather not take the risk.

          As time goes on, it’ll be easy to see if marriage makes sense for men. If it has all the benefits that you say, men will prioritize it more, right? Men will see other men in happy marriages, and they’ll want to get married themselves. Movements like MGTOW will shrivel up and die, and we won’t see as many articles about women not being able to get men to marry them.

          But, if I’m right…we’ll see a growing number of single men, and those men will say that marriage isn’t really a priority in their lives. (There was a survey that said exactly that, but my Google skills are failing me, at the moment.) Men may pursue women for sex, but their true focus will be on other things. Video games and porn will continue to become more popular.

          I’m confident in my beliefs, and I’m content to let the situation play out. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

        3. Evan Marc Katz

          All those risk-averse men are doing is capping their own happiness at video and porn. It doesn’t surprise me. Most people are risk-averse, just like most people are middle-class. There’s no judgment. I am a coach for people who don’t want to settle for being alone, who believe in being in the top third of happiness. You are more than entitled to your feelings; I just don’t understand your presence here. Once upon a time – in the late 90’s – I was an atheist who went into Christian chat rooms to have theological arguments. You can imagine how that went. I probably did it 5 times and realized that it would be better to live and let live. Why not let other men and women aspire to their own happiness and, in your parlance, “go your own way”?

        4. Tron Swanson

          …are most people really in the middle class? If I ever get there, it’ll be a minor miracle.

          I personally feel that “You say you want to go your own way, so go away!” arguments are just used to silence disagreement. I can go my own way and still interact with the rest of my species.

      3. 8.3.3

        A few points Tron,

        First, you’re now talking about marriage as an institution, and the laws surrounding it, as opposed to monogamy as an arrangement. I’m not one of those people who believe that two individuals who are in an ltr should have marriage as an ultimate goal. Living together in perpetuity is just fine in my books.   I also have absolutely nothing against polymorous relationships or open marriages.

        Regarding my experiences, the male friends and family members I know who are happy in ltrs run the gamut from working to upper middle class. Of course, I’ve also met several people, and have some family members, who have had disastrous marriages. I find it hard to believe that you’ve only met people from the latter category, but it’s certainly not my place to question your experiences or observations.

        I’m familiar with the MGTOW philosophy, and I’ve said that I find a lot of the red pill stuff useful. However, from what I’ve seen, most of the people in the MGTOW category aren’t there because they performed some cost benefit analysis of the risk to reward ratio of marriage; rather, they just can’t get laid.

        Finally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your chosen approach. I’ve done it in the past, but I found that going out two to three nights a week to bars to pull randos gets exhausting.

        1. Tron Swanson

          MGTOW is hardly monolithic…there are guys who were successful with women, guys who weren’t, and all points in-between. In my own case, I’m simply not the type of man that most women are attracted to: the odds were never in my favor, so I’m doing this for my own well-being.

          Some men use MGTOW as a sort of power fantasy–“They’ll miss me when I’m gone!”–and I think that’s unhealthy and usually untrue. (Collectively, it might eventually become true, as more and more men drop out of society and it causes problems, but I’ll be an old man by then.) Women have so many options that they don’t even notice 80% of men. When I stopped making effort, the women in my life didn’t notice or care, they were too busy swimming in attention from other men.

          Also, I’ve never been to a bar in my life, so I don’t know anything about this “chosen approach” that you’re referring to. Do you think I’m a PUA?

      4. 8.3.4

        Also, I’ve never been to a bar in my life, so I don’t know anything about this “chosen approach” that you’re referring to. Do you think I’m a PUA?

        Sorry, I remember you stated that you only interact with women for sex, and so I drew an inference based on what I used to do when that was my goal. You’ve never been to a bar? May I ask then how you meet women for NSA sex? Online or Tinder I suppose? Also, how do you expect women to notice you then if you make zero effort?

        1. Tron Swanson

          I’ve been meeting women online since the late ’90s. I’ve never used Tinder.

          I very quickly learned that, whether I made a lot of effort or zero effort, my chances with women are roughly the same. Ergo, I make zero effort and focus my energies on more productive things.

    4. 8.4

      All people I knew who had open marriages are divorced now. In most cases it was men’s justification for cheating, nothing else. A woman usually had to take care of their kids and a house and didn’t have much time to go out and find partners, her husband perfectly slept with other women and had a good time. If you don’t want to be monogamous, why to get married? I assume people can realize if they can be monogamous or like Tron are incapable of and then just don’t get married.

      I had a period in my life when I visited some swinger events and it can be fun sometimes but it is not for everyone and it is usually men who are getting more from all that and a lot of women in that community are miserable and with low self esteem and disgusted that they have to sleep with some ugly old dudes because their husbands want to bang their young trophy wives.

  9. 9

    No, Tron.

    Evan writes information and advice on useful ideas for relationship-oriented people. You write negative, fatalistic, poor-me comments on a blog that is not designed for people who live your chosen lifestyle, and which you’ve been asked to leave. There’s no ‘just as you did’ about it.

  10. 10

    This is obviously anecdotal, but I know a few couples who are officially in an open marriage, sort of swinger lifestyle arrangements (officially in the sense that they let all their friends know about it) . They are some of the most boring, yawn-inducing people I know. My conclusion knowing this limited sample is that “We are poly” is a fashionable way to signal that you are interesting, exciÈ›ing and attractive, when everybody can see that you are not.

  11. 11
    Sum Guy

    What Evan said.

    I’ve never seen polyamory really work  in what I would call a relationship, seems to be a way to prevent closeness but with ten times the work to prevent jealously.     Frankly, it seems to correlate to people who need the new all the time sexually to get there.       I can only imagine it works if you are really wired that way.   I’d never imagine it as a thing to “just try” as it is a relationship destroyer.

  12. 12

    I   mentioned to The Boss that it might be fun to jazz things up a bit, and perhaps give this open marriage lark a whirl. Her eyes instantly flashed with her special laser-like stare. That’s the especially scary one she reserves for occasions when she thinks I am being particularly disruptive.

    She explained in no uncertain terms that she had spent   ages getting me reasonably well house-trained and she didn’t want me picking up any nasty habits. She added that she probably wouldn’t enjoy it much anyway because she would almost certainly find other blokes to be even grubbier and more annoying than she finds me.

    So I guess that’s a “no” then… 😉

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