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“Polyamory probably saved my marriage.”


I have heard this statement made several times, and it always refers to something different.  Sometimes it refers to a sense that things had gotten stale and polyamory put a fresh spin on the marriage.  Sometimes it’s been sexual desires or orientations.  Other times it’s been a deeper need to become closer through shared experiences.  For me it’s been about lessons.  I mentioned in a previous post that recently Hubby and I had some troubled waters.  I strongly believe that we would not have come out of them unscathed as a monogamous couple, at least not as the monogamous couple we were.  While the idea is emotionally unfathomable, realistically I don’t think we would have had the right tools to keep our marriage afloat.

Communication:  While this one seems like it should encompass everything else, there are a few key lessons in communication that come from experience with polyamory.  Most of us know how to identify communication, but many don’t know how to actually communicate.  Good communication makes the difference between an electric mixer and a wooden spoon.  Where good communication makes things smoother and easier to handle, bad communication often causes nothing but soreness and a mess.  My apologies to anyone who likes to mix things by hand.  To communicate freely requires that one eschew fear of being honest.  Oftentimes when we bring up an uncomfortable topic we try to avoid confrontation and word things to sound more innocuous.  Sometimes we even try to predict what the other person’s reaction will be and how to avoid it being negative.  The truth is, sometimes we need a negative reaction.  Sometimes Hubby needs to know things are not copacetic.  We can’t fix a problem he doesn’t know exists.  That being said, communicating dictates you be calm, concise, and factual with no emotional mudslinging or attacking.  Everyone listens instead of plotting their next move, and everyone gets to talk.  As long as this can be done in a mature manner, you’ve done it!  You’re communicating!

Dedication:  It has always been my belief that one contributing factor to our nation’s divorce rate is how easy it is to give up.  There have been moments when we may have thrown in the towel had we not been married and committed to those vows.  If in the end we agree that we’ve done everything we could to fix our problems I will fully accept that, but until then I will keep trying to make our marriage stronger and healthier.  Many people in relationships act as if a difference in opinion or beliefs is an automatic sign that the relationship is doomed.  No one is perfect, and nothing that lasts a lifetime is polished in a day.  The marriages that last are the one that are constantly maintained by people who don’t avoid or repress their problems.  Instead they work through them one at a time to nurture their bond and grow as a couple.

One Step at a Time:  Think of a math equation.  Looking at all the different functions in the equation all at once can seem daunting, but if you break it down into smaller, easier to handle parts you can focus on one function at a time.  Quite often when a relationship experiences an obstacle it seems insurmountable because it’s never made up of just one issue.  Usually by the time a marriage is in serious jeopardy the root cause is an amalgamation of smaller issues.  Trying to work on them all at once can be overwhelming and will only cause more frustration and friction.  Prioritizing and processing one problem at a time and accepting that there will be setbacks can help the healing process to not become such a burden that a couple gives up.  Poly teaches us to deal with one thing at a time as it pertains to each situation.   Just as no two partners are alike, no two problems are alike.  Still, no member of our family is alone when problems do arise.  Working on them together makes anything possible if we take it one step at a time.

Letting it Go:  Once a problem is discussed and resolved it needs to be let go, not just until the next fight, not just until you’re feeling a little neglected and need some attention, but let go for good.  There is nothing as detrimental to a relationship that’s trying to heal like bringing up old baggage that doesn’t serve the issue at hand.  Poly teaches us to deal with any possible situation then let it go, because there is no room in healthy non-monogamy for extra baggage.

Perspective:  Sometimes the way we see things is not how others see them, and either way may be a skewed version of the truth.  Polyamory has taught me not to use phrases like “you did X” but instead say things like “it seemed to me like you did XYZ”.  Blame solves nothing, and it makes you look foolish and out of control.  Instead, calmly recounting the situation from your perspective can help the other person understand why there was an emotional response, and understanding is the beginning of both of you processing.

Avoiding Scapegoats or Insults:  Blaming solves nothing, but playing dirty makes things worse.  These issues are between you and your partner, not other partners, kids, or other mitigating factors.  Accept that they didn’t cause the problems you’re having, the two of you did, even if your partner’s behaviour was based on these other things.  I had this realization not too long ago when A told me it seemed like I was mad at her.  Even to her it seemed like I was blaming her when really my real anger was towards how Hubby was treating the situation or acting because of something in their relationship.  While it all may have exacerbated our issues, it wasn’t their relationship that was responsible for it, it was his behaviour and my reaction to that behaviour that was.

Emotional Independence:  Polyamory has taught not only to be responsible for my emotions but also to handle them as much as I can on my own. There was a time when both of us where extremely needy and co-dependent on each other.  Opening our marriage and branching out forced us to be aware of that co-dependency and to become more self-reliant.  I now feel that I don’t need to run to Hubby every time I feel emotional.  This puts less stress on him and allows him to be more self-reliant as well.  It also means he’s available when I really need the support instead of being burnt out or overburdened already.  Because of this emotional independence I have been able to trust both of our emotions and have faith that he’s with me because he loves me, not because he needs something from me emotionally.  It has also given me the confidence to voice my emotional needs and know when I just can’t process certain things on my own.  When working through problems in a marriage this is all integral.  I feel less desperate for that emotional support, therefore I can be more articulate about real needs.  I feel less burnt out and more willing to be supportive when he has real needs.  Without emotional independence neither of us can be honest with ourselves or each other about emotional issues.  Without it neither of us can grow as an individual.

What Worked Before:  Marriages sometimes fall into a comfort, and resentment can build when the NRE starts to fade.  When issues arise this is the first thing that gets flung between partners. “We never do XYZ anymore!”  My first question is always, “why not?”.  I have found that polyamory has kept us fresh and inspired.  We have found new ways to keep our lives exciting, and we hold on to the memories and traditions that still serve us.  The truth is that what worked before may not work now.  This can include little things like mutual hobbies and weekly rituals to big things like relationship style and family dynamic.  You may not do those things anymore because those people are no longer who you are as individuals.  That couple may not be the couple you are now.  That marriage has grown and evolved just as the two of you have done.  Nostalgia can be a great reminder of where we come from, but it can also be a great road block to moving forward.   We hold on to thing that once felt good forgetting that as we change we can and should find new things that make us feel good, too.  Whether it’s changing how you date others or changing how you eat dinner together, don’t be afraid to re-evaluate.  Polyamory has taught me to constantly re-evaluate our needs, my needs, and the needs of our family as a whole.  If there is not growth and movement a stagnant marriage cannot thrive.

I’ll say it one more time… “Polyamory saved my marriage,” and possibly my life, or at least the quality of my life.  I’ve used these tools with friends, coworkers, children, and clients.  I feel enriched and empowered, and confident that I can tackle anything.  Having my husband and our family on board helps, too, of course.