Wayne and Wanda: My boyfriend wants to be polyamorous

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

My boyfriend of more than a year recently told me we should see other people. But he doesn't want to break up. In fact he said he's more in love with me than ever. But he said, fundamentally, after a lot of soul-searching and reading various books and talking to others in online forums, he has decided at heart he is a polyamorous person. As he explained it, this means we have a primary relationship but can choose to be involved with others, sexually, either individually or as a couple.

From my viewpoint, this came out of nowhere. I thought he was happy. He says he is but he believes living a "poly" lifestyle will allow him to reach a level of happiness he has never been able to experience. He said his strict religious upbringing prevented him from feeling free to explore this lifestyle but he has always felt deep down that monogamy is unnatural. He has asked me to try the "poly" lifestyle with him and said he felt like he could be honest with me about his needs and desires because I've proven to be so adventurous and open-minded.

The thing is, I am an open person and I consider myself pretty sexually liberated. I've had a couple threesomes, have dated bisexual men, and am all about kinky toys and role playing. But this feels different and I don't know if I can share the man I love with others. He's framing it as a lifestyle and spiritual choice but I can't get past the fact that it looks like pre-approved infidelity. What should I do?

Wanda says:

These days, there is an evolving spectrum of normalcy when it comes to relationships. It's true that monogamous twosomes still rule the roost, but more couples are leaning toward "monogamish" arrangements where some form of sexual activity beyond the primary couple is acceptable. This ranges from duos who have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on down to couples who have mutually agreed to take other loves either on their own, or together. These sideline, secondary relationships can be strictly sexual or also deepen to resemble more of a traditional relationship, where the pair talks, shares feelings and goes on dates, too.

These arrangements, as you can imagine, are rife with potential for hurt feelings and jealousy. Polyamory cannot succeed without open communication and total alignment between partners. Folks interested in the mechanics of polyamory can read "The Ethical Slut" by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy. It was published decades ago but remains a leading tome on twosomes becoming threesomes, foursomes and more. And for a thought-provoking case against the naturalness of monogamy, try "Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality" by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá.

But I would bet that no amount of pondering, reading and studying will make you emotionally OK with something that far outside your comfort zone. And that's OK. Your boyfriend says he's being true to himself and you need to do the same. And anyways, aren't relationships hard enough with just two people?


Wayne says:

Well, I'll give him this: At least he isn't cheating on you.

And I'll give you this: "preapproved infidelity." Now that's an awesome phrase! Too bad it's not exactly accurately used in this case.

Infidelity is cheating, betrayal, adultery, and he isn't asking for your approval on that. He's asking you to take his hand ­-- and perhaps the hand of another man and/or woman -- and go on a sexual journey with him. And it sounds like this is going to be one heck of a ride.

He's told you how he feels and what he wants. That's actually admirable and refreshing in this day of Ashley Madison, Tiger Woods and other icons of unapproved infidelity. It shows he truly cares about you and wants you in his life. But it also reveals his deepest beliefs and I don't think he's going to change his mind or let you redirect his sexual views.

So, the decision comes down to how much you can handle. You could try to revive your adventurous past and give it a run with him. Who knows? Maybe you'll enjoy it and maybe he's right and all this sex with other people will make your relationship stronger. Or maybe the whole thing will make you sad, anxious and jealous. That would be heartbreaking. So would wishing him the best of luck in life and love, then moving on. But at least you'll be true to your beliefs, as well.

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