There are two main reasons why people in monogamous relationships decide they are polyamorous:
Some critical component is missing in their relationship and they are [subconsciously] trying to find a more compatible partner
Their primary relationship is very secure with crucial needs met, and they have an ability and desire to give love to and connect with others, in addition to their primary partner.
When my husband and I decided to open up our marriage, I truly believed that this decision was coming from a place of abundance of love. I thought I had so much of it that it would be enough to share with more than one person. I thought my marriage was absolutely solid and new relationships would not have any effect on it whatsoever.
Turns out I was wrong.
I am still processing what happened. I feel the urge to explain it to anyone who is considering opening up their relationship, to my husband, and to myself.
Deciding to open up our marriage was like taking the red pill. We had no idea what we were doing, we didn’t know if we could go back to life as we knew it, and yet we were willing to see how deep the rabbit hole went. Staying monogamous would have been like taking the blue pill — we’d continue waking up in our bed and living our “normal” lives.
This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
— Morpheus “The Matrix”
Once we took the red pill, my husband started dating first. I thought I’d feel jealous, but I didn’t. All I felt was curiosity and excitement that we were trying something new. I have an anxious attachment style and tend to feel insecure in relationships, especially early on. So, perhaps the lack of jealousy could have been an indicator of the state of my marriage. In the moment, though, I was just happy and excited for my husband.
This state of blissful compersion lasted a couple of years. We both had other relationships that didn’t intervene much with our own. We loved our other partners to a degree, but those feelings were never more important than our marriage. We would tell each other about our dates, be each other’s shoulder to cry on when dates didn’t go as planned, and occasionally would hang out with each other’s “plus ones”.
Coincidentally, I’ve been working with a therapist for the last few years. I was learning what self-acceptance and self love meant for me. I figured out how to set boundaries and express my needs in a way that they’d be heard. I started practicing my newly found boundary-setting skills in all of my relationships, including my marriage. As I did that, I understood that I had been compromising so much for no good reason that I’d stayed with my husband not because I was in love with him, but because I wanted to accommodate him and the children. I was scared to admit to myself that I no longer wanted to be with him. I didn’t feel accepted by my husband nor I could accept all of him. We wanted to change each other and kept getting more and more frustrated by one another’s unwillingness to change.
As I was contemplating what being married meant for me and whether my happiness was important, I started dating someone new. This new relationship was surprisingly easy from the very first interaction and it just kept getting better. I felt seen and accepted. Any time something really good happened — deep conversations, alignment on critical issues like politics, positive, non-threatening reactions to each other’s differences — I would think “Wow! I didn’t realize this was possible”. These awesome moments just kept piling on. It eventually became so fulfilling and wonderful that I didn’t want to date anyone else. All of my needs were being met with that one person and all I wanted to do was share my love only with him.
Finally, I admitted to myself that I no longer needed multiple relationships. It was a tough pill to swallow, given that I write about polyamory… It was even tougher to realize I was not interested in staying with my husband anymore. When I told him I was going to move out, he felt betrayed. When we opened our marriage we thought other relationships would come and go, but we would stay together forever. Yet there I was, not wanting to live with him anymore. Would I have moved out if I didn’t have that new relationship? Yes, I would have, but it likely would have taken more time to admit that our marriage wasn’t working. I’ve had other new relationships before but didn’t want to move out, so starting a new relationship wasn’t the reason for the separation. Feeling seen and accepted definitely was a catalyst.
So here is my word of caution to all of you, couples, contemplating whether or not to open up. If you decide to do it, chances are you will have a lot more joy in your life. You also might gain a new perspective in your relationship with your partner. By connecting with multiple people you might discover needs and boundaries you didn’t know you had. You might discover that your “primary” relationship is no longer what you truly need. And you might discover a deep sense of self-love, self-respect, and acceptance that will force you to reprioritize yourself and your own happiness.