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Is Polyamory an Alternative to Cheating?

Polyamory can be a way to stave off boring sex. But can it actually save a relationship? O.M. Grey explores the common pitfalls of a long-term relationship and how sexual relationships with other people may be just the thing to draw you and your partner closer together.

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“That doesn’t work.” No doubt, if you have heard someone talk about polyamory, or any of the terms describing open marriage or non-monogamous relationships, and especially if you have suggested it to your spouse or significant other, you likely heard those words.

What if monogamy doesn't work?

The harsh truth about marriages in today’s society is that nearly 50% of them end in divorce, largely due to infidelity. Second marriages, in which one would think they had avoided the pitfalls that ended their first marriage, have a 60% divorce rate. Third marriages? 75% divorce rate. Perhaps it is monogamy that doesn’t work. That said, alternative lifestyles like polyamory don’t work for everyone either. Couples are like snowflakes; no two are alike. What works for one couple may not work for another. There is not a magic tool that will fix all marriages, but it helps to have as many tools in your toolbox as possible.

Redefining "family values"

As a society, we pride ourselves on our “family values.” We fall in love and get married. We buy a house. We have kids. We build our career. We join a church or social group. We are living the American dream. Until it turns into a nightmare.

“Love,” that euphoric feeling and rush of desire so common at the beginning of a new relationship, always fades. It. Always. Fades. There are no exceptions to this. You may be reading this saying to yourself, “Not my marriage, because I still feel a rush when my wife kisses me! Not my relationship! It won’t fade.” It will.

The average length of time for that “in love” feeling to last in a primary relationship is two years. Which means you may be in your fifth year of wedded bliss, still getting excited watching your wife get dressed in the morning, but someone else has lost it in their first year. Perhaps even before their first year.

It fades. It’s a fact of life. That feeling of euphoria fades, and there is nothing wrong with that. Too many couples think that the honeymoon is over when that fades or that it must not have been true love, but that is not the case. It was very real, but it was just the first step. A deeper connection and a more beautiful love come after that. Something real. Something that lasts. Something that is not just based on brain chemicals and hormones. True intimacy is what comes next, if you are willing to do the work to establish that.

Recently, when discussing polyamory with a friend, he said to me, “But it’s just so much easier to cheat and lie about it.” We had had a conversation about polyamory years ago when my husband and I first were experimenting with an open marriage. This friend said his wife would never go for it, but he did bring it up in passing one day. Her response? “That doesn’t work.”

Two years later, he had an affair. His wife is blissfully ignorant of it, but if and when she finds out--and let’s face it, they usually do--she will feel devastated and betrayed. And she should, because he betrayed her trust. He betrayed their vows. He lied to her, and the greatest pain is in the deception, not the sex. He adores his wife. I know it doesn’t seem like it, because he did cheat on her, but he does adore her.

The recipe for infidelity

Perhaps the greatest problem with the monogamy model is that it does not leave room for personal growth and personal satisfaction. The monogamy model shows us that once you are married you stay married. Or you get divorced. Or, of course, you cheat. But then, you are no longer monogamous.

Desire happens. Even love sometimes just happens. Usually when you least expect it and even if you don’t want it. We are sexual beings. Sex to most men and many, many women (more than you’d think!) is as essential a need as food, water, and shelter. Sex, after several years of marriage, can fall to the wayside because the comfort and security are there. The kids. PTA meetings. Career. Daycare. Housekeeping. After all the maintenance of life, sex falls to the side. Where once you had sex daily or at least weekly, now weeks or even months may go by without sex.

Then one day it happens. You’re off on a business trip, or at the office and you notice someone. S/he notices you, too. You feel seen. You feel attractive and interesting and desirable--all those things that your spouse truly knows but no longer seems to notice. Is this person better? Younger? Sexier? More beautiful than your spouse? Not necessarily. In fact, unlikely. S/he’s merely different. New.

So. What are your choices? Deny your own desires, or worse, your heart, if you’ve fallen “in love”? Your other choice, the one that has become far too common in our society, is to cheat on your spouse, jeopardizing your marriage and family, if you have children. All for what? To feel good. Not attractive options. Especially because this new “in love” euphoria, too, will fade over time. As many people find out in their second and third marriages, it always does. It is biology.

Is there another way?

Here is a third option: polyamory. Polyamory is many things, but it is not a license to have sex with whomever or whenever you want. Not necessarily. Not unless that is what you and your spouse decide. Polyamory cannot really be defined, as it means different things to different people. In fact, polyamory might not mean having sex with anyone but your spouse.

Polyamory is about open and honest relationships, which first and foremost must happen in your primary relationship. For starters, you can use this new office attraction as “borrowed desire,” sparking things at home, but not deceptively. Tell your spouse about it. I know this sounds terrifying, but this is how one develops true intimacy and a deeper relationship with one’s spouse: by sharing fears.

You must start and end the conversation with reassurances on how much you love him/her and how you would never leave him/her. Tell them that revealing this is scary to you because you are afraid s/he will think something is going on, but that is precisely why you are telling them; to reassure them that there isn’t. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be telling them.

This conversation can be extremely powerful. By telling them about this attraction you are at least partially diffusing the office attraction. By hiding it, you’re only fueling the excitement and the desire for this new person, and, worse, deceiving your spouse. Secondly, you are making yourself vulnerable before your spouse. Tell them that you don’t want to feel this attraction, but you do. Tell them that you aren’t going to act on it, but it feels great to be seen again. Tell them that it has inspired you to want to make them feel desired and loved and cherished again, because you would never do anything to hurt him/her or your family.

Ask if your spouse feels threatened. If they do, then address that by reassuring them again. There is no place for anger here. If s/he get’s angry, then it is likely because s/he is scared of abandonment, too. Listen to your spouse’s fears. Likely, their fear is that you are going to leave them. Abandonment is one of the greatest fears in any marriage, in any relationship. The tragedy is that this overwhelming fear of abandonment keeps couples from opening up to each other, which ironically and ultimately pushes them further and further apart making an indiscretion, separation, or divorce all that more likely.

This was a post by O.M. Grey. It was originally posted on her blog here.

Nestled in the mountains of Northern California, Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist. She dreams of the dark streets of London and the decadent deeds that occur after sunset. As an author of Steamy Steampunk, as well as a poet, blogger, podcaster, and speaker, Olivia focuses both her poetry and prose on alternative relationship lifestyles and deliciously dark matters of the heart and soul.

Her work has been published in various anthologies and magazines like Stories in the Ether, Steampunk Adventures, SNM Horror Magazine and How The West Was Wicked. Her premier Steampunk BDSM erotica novel, Avalon Revisited, is an Gothic Romance bestseller. She loves to host tea parties, and she runs a delightful game of charades, Victorian style. Follow her on Twitter @omgrey and subscribe to her on Facebook.
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