Polyamory Loves New Frontier or Relationship Suicide?

Polyamory Loves New Frontier or Relationship Suicide?

Those that believe in polyamory refer to it as the new frontier for love, which I find completely irritating as a marriage expert as I see how this is destructive to marriages. To send a message to a marriage that is in a weak condition, to the troubled marriage that there is an option; to help save them from their pain and the option is polyamory is deeply concerning to me. If a couple that is currently in distress receives the message that utilizing the external (other intimate relationships) as a solution to feeling incomplete to complete, unfulfilled to fulfillment, unsatisfied to satisfied, etc., they are receiving the wrong message. I believe polyamory is relationship suicide!

To be in a committed relationship, the person you allege you want to spend the rest of your life with, but then you decide that is simply not enough for you and for it to be a plan, a way of life to be with others is an outrageous concept, and that concept is the belief of polyamory. I say this is outrageous because to come to the conclusion that we as humans are never quite satisfied, never quite fulfilled, and there is just not enough to eat on our plate so we must order more is a sad commentary of humans. It is interesting how so many have come to the point to say: gosh darn it well, we have to always get what we want right now, we need immediate gratification and must fill every need all of the time because otherwise we do not feel whole – well then golly lets certainly jump on that need and therefore fulfill all needs all the time. (Notice my sarcasm). This notion of polyamory suggests that to go without complete fulfillment is not acceptable, and we must feel fulfilled and since one person cannot do that for another, let us just acknowledge it, and rather than accept or think of healthy ways of working with one’s needs, we must have an additional relationship/relationships.

Upon researching polyamory among many ridiculous points that are made in favor of polyamory, one of them is that it is not just about the sexual relationship. Come on now, who are we kidding here? Ok, agreed, yes, it is not just about the sexual relationship, indeed a poly person gets more then just sex from the relationship, but, yes, but, without the sex it would not be polyamory it would be just friendship!

I specialize in solution focused treatment that has positive effects and true individual and relational growth and enhancement for the short term and long term. I am here to offer the “other side”. Polyamory is not love’s new frontier. It is not the answer. Polyamory is relational suicide! It does not work for most for the long term. When I researched different authors that wrote about how to make polyamory work for couples, I found my eyebrows squashed together as I read about that there are agreed upon “guidelines” for polyamory. I am here to inform that the guidelines typically end up becoming a major problem in relationships. It is those very guidelines that I have seen time and time again that at some point one person in the relationship wants to change the guidelines while the other has a different opinion. This is what I have seen over my 18 years as a marriage therapist. It is in that moment that trust becomes challenged and a slew of other problems occur. I have seen time and time again when the inclusion of another/others in the relationship occurs that the onset of more problems in the relationship eventually surface and that piles on top of what the problems were that never were attended to. Not unlike the marriage where both started out as drinkers and one no longer drinks alcohol and the other does, the impact on the relationship is severe and system wide.

It is my opinion that polyamory is not a solution it is an escape for the person that wants to avoid conflict, is feeling unfilled/has a void and is looking for the external to fulfill it. Yet that void is within so can never be fulfilled fully which is why that person is always seeking for more, needs attention, affection, and reinforcement when they want it. It is this type of  person that does not want to commit and give of one’s self fully.

Those that believe in living a life of polyamory suggest that it allows for “adventures in sexuality” inferring that a monogamous marriage implies boring, substandard, dull sexual relations. A couple that wants to enhance their sexual relationship needs to communicate this desire and challenge their relationship as an interactive dynamic of two, without the inclusion of others. Themes of; jealousy, trust issues, change of what one wants out of the experience comes to play with polyamory. It is human nature to want to be special, to be a duo. Once you introduce other people into the duo mix you become less special and additional conflicts arise.

Those that are pro polyamory seem to suggest that a life of polyamory indicates validation of and acceptance of being with another as healthy. The inference is rather than addressing what can be worked on in a marriage, instead, have someone else in your life to spend time with so you don’t have to address the problem at all. In my opinion, we have already become such a society of the utilization of the external as coping with life. We have become such a throw away generation of our relationships, be it a spouse, a sibling, a parent. Look around you at how many people are either divorced, married but living like roommates rather then attending to the problems that exist, adults not speaking with their adult siblings, lacking a relationship with one’s own adult parents. So many exist in a lifestyle of conflict avoidance rather than trying to conflict resolve through focusing on what the actual problem is.

It is my clinical opinion that polyamory is simply one more technique of conflict avoidance and problem escapism to the external.

The notion that it is “acceptable” to live this lifestyle of polyamory rather than giving of one’s self fully in a relationship, by not having to be responsible to another, commit to another because you have others in your life to “fill” one’s self is living a life where we always feel there is an “out”. Have we become such a society of claustrophobics that we are so trapped and experience such anxiety and panic if we cannot constantly be pacified by our spouse so we need someone else to do that for us? Is it possible that those that choose a life of polyamory have decided that a close friend, a therapist, reading a good book, expressing one’s feelings to one’s spouse, joining a sports team, spending more fun quality time with our spouse is no longer methods of choice? It is with consistency that when I see people think being with another in addition to their spouse is going to work for them positively, if you follow these couples long enough, it always ends badly.

It pains me what the generation of children that grow up in polyamory as an acceptable life choice experience and shall become. Those that believe in polyamory suggest the importance of helping one’s children to see this as normal. I am here to say; do we really need a long term study to know that this is trouble waiting to happen? How do we as rationale people really think children will be affected? Try this idea on for size, perhaps children may develop even less of a responsibility for others then so many kids are already since their parents’ role model such a lack of responsibility that cannot not effect children. Specifically, polyamory adds to the concept of a throw away society, throw away relationships. There is such a lack of stability in our world already such as: job insecurity, death, friends moving away, extended family geographical distance and thus not developing strong relations and/or not a close relationship due to fighting and distancing issues, that to provide one more aspect of a child’s life that lacks in stability is ludicrous.

To have significant others in a child’s life that are important relationships to one’s parents, and then they are disposable once a parent no longer has a relationship with that person will absolutely impact the child. In polyamory people are disposable when you are done with them, when they no longer fulfill what you want to be fulfilled within. How can a child learn long-term stability of relationships if what they experience is short term relationships? The development of healthy attachments for children is very important. Just as many the adopted child longs for connection to the biological mother, the child of a parent that has ended a relationship while married longs for that person in one’s life. If the child experiences several losses in one’s life and time and time again just has to put up with this because who is in his life and important, and then out of his life and no longer important is based on the emotions of one’s parent, then the child eventually either has to learn to not develop healthy attachments and thus becomes detached emotionally or can become quite depressed with all of the grieving he will do each time he looses a person, or can become quite angry and resentful. The child may also question why just his mother is not enough of a woman for one’s father, or why his father is not enough of a man for his mother. This then in turn leads the child to question if he/she is enough in many areas of his/her life. In essence themes of self concept and self worth emerge. This is just but a few brief mentions of the potential impact on one’s children.

In conclusion, it is my opinion that polyamory is a detrimental non-solution for marriages, it is relationship suicide and a problem just waiting to negatively impact the emotional welfare of children.


24 thoughts on “Polyamory Loves New Frontier or Relationship Suicide?”

  1. > To send a message to a marriage that is in a weak condition… that there is an
    > option to help save them from their pain and the option is polyamory….

    Excuuuuuse me, but you seem to be so unaware of the polyamory world that you don’t know what a snarky eye-roller it is in the community to say “Marriage in trouble? Add more people.” This is even a square on the Poly Snark Bingo card.

    The standard conventional wisdom — repeated over and over on poly sites, newbie advice lists, and in Poly 101 talks everywhere — is that if you’re currently in a marriage or a relationship, work together on getting the existing relationship into tip-top condition before considering venturing into polyamory. A standard spiel: “All of the communication and relationship skills that you develop in doing this will be called upon to make poly work in a group larger than two. Poly shines a bright light into every moldy dark corner of your relationship that the two of you have been ignoring by unspoken consent. Go after those corners with a scrub brush and cleaner before you invite guests in.”

    And good luck trying to get dates in the poly world if your partner is not fully on board. Many people will ask to meet your partner or at least chat on the phone before things get serious, and if you show any hesitation about this, they’re gone. Partly for ethical reasons, and partly for self preservation to be out of the blast zone when the explosion happens.

    Karen, has it ever occurred to you that as a therapist for people with problems, you see only people with problems? The happy ones don’t call you. They taught about sampling bias in your statistics class, duhh.

    I suggest that you download and read the booklet What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory:

    (P.S.: The more common version of “Marriage in trouble? Add more people” is to add a baby. That doesn’t work either.)

    1. In response to a comment on my post from Alan I shall state the following:

      Indeed I expressed my concern that polyamory offers marriages in trouble the sense that there is an option to utilize the external as a means for fulfillment. Albeit an “eye-roller” as you refer to it, I have never been one not to say something just because it is an “eye-roller” in the polyamory community or in any other group if I have a difference of opinion. I do speak my mind. Note for educational purposes: just because a person states something you do not agree with does not in any way infer that they are “unfamiliar” with the topic of discussion. The fact is that couples that are in a weakened condition consider this as an option whether you and those that agree with your perspective like it or not, and whether they can get dates in the poly world or not. It is the consideration of the external rather than confronting the problem that is a problem in and of itself, not only if they were to enter into this world. Thus one of my goals of my blog on this topic was to make it clear that polyamory is relationship suicide, it was not to sell polyamory as though it was a product. I do not see it as an enhancement as I see it as a bomb that destroys.

      Although your writing was arrogant in its style with regards to referring to sampling bias, there are others that may consider this notion and thus I am interested in attending to it by sharing that marriage is a journey. All marriages go through times where there are problems. I do not just “see only people with problems” I see beyond what presents in the presenting problem of therapy. To suggest that a marriage needs to be in “tip-top condition before considering venturing into polyamory” remains to be a no-no from my perspective still yet. All healthy marriages, even when they are in “tip-top condition” go through challenges. It is my professional recommendation that it is the relationship that receives nurturing, friendship, time, energy, and attention, especially when there are children involved rather than using your efforts to have another that thrives, expands, and enhances. I believe in enjoying what one has and finding fulfillment and then even more fulfillment in the marital relationship journey in and of itself, and have observed this as the best option for marital stability and family security.

      As far as your download recommendation, there are always going to be 2 sides to every coin. Just because there is someone that disagrees does not mean that by reading someone else’s thoughts that person is going to agree.

  2. Every how-to book on polyamory on the market cautions against going into a second relationship if the first is in trouble. Polyamory is all about expanding beyond what’s already good–not trying to flee that which isn’t.

    As a marriage counselor, you regularly see relationships that are in trouble and labor to help repair them. That’s a most fine and noble profession. Like a friend of mine who’s a nurse and only sees sick people, however, you seem to suffer from a kind of tunnel vision having not had any contact with healthy polyamorous relationships. Those are not “cheating” situations. Neither are they swinging in which recreational sex outside of the relationship is the primary goal.

    You write that we have friendships WITH sex. Exactly right! We don’t pretend otherwise, and human beings may be wired for such relationships from our very origins. I suggest the book “Sex at Dawn” by two of your fellow mental health professionals who provide ample proof from evolutionary biology and psychology.

    And let me know if you want to meet some people in healthy polyamorous relationships. I think the exposure would do you good and broaden your professional horizons.
    Jim Catano

    PS–Your piece has a typo–“ployamory.” You may have inadvertently coined a very useful word. All too often monogamy devolves into loss of affection and cheating. “Ployamory” could be applied to all the mind-gaming and lying that goes on around them. Serious polyamorists have eliminated the need to engage in such ploys. We maintain our good relationships and find additional emotional and romantic fulfillment with others without the need to scuttle our exiting relationships in order to embark on a new one.

    1. In response to a comment on my blog from Jim I shall state the following:

      You refer to a book, although I do agree that our biology and psychology does guide many to desire outside of one’s marriage, I do believe that people can choose to expand beyond what is already good in one’s already existing relationship within the relationship and grow as a couple as well as grow as individuals. A person as an individual, nor a relationship as an entity, needs polyamory to do so. Actually, I do believe that many feel the instinct and crave to be with others and yet can choose to hold onto one’s main relationship and find peace, joy, and fulfillment in that if you make the time and take the time to do so, and want to do so.

      Humans do not need to fulfill every desire with the external, or do we? We have become such a world of me, me, me, and I want ‘this and that and the other’ to feel whole and fulfilled and therefore I have to have it. I am interested in helping people to help themselves find the joy in what they do have and expanding that joy within, and yes marriage takes effort. Marriage is a wonderful journey! It is beautiful for couples when they find joy within the internal system in place (current couple) and expand on that couple hood, not utilizing the external as the expansion means (additional lovers).

      Taking on additional love relationships leads to true attachment for many, and that is not an expansion. Over time when living a poly lifestyle choice, who is to say then which relationship is the main relationship and which is the expansion and/or addition to the relationship? Eventually one person, or both people, or the children, will get hurt. I hear you that your experience is one where there are those in what you refer to as “healthy polyamorous relationships” and yet, I shall confidently state that too many times that is short lived as it is in any additional inclusion beyond the monogamy of the couple unit within the nuclear family dynamic.

      Indeed I understand your goal to offer polyamory 101 lessons to my readers. I am sharing that my statements are not from a lack of understanding they are from a true clinical understanding and thus I felt it important to voice my perspective. I am sharing from a stand of knowledge not lack of and thus although this is not labeled as “cheating”, I still know it is a problem as I have seen the outcome many times over, and yes, I do see the problem outcomes of course. Which again is why I warn against polyamory as the results are very damaging for far too many.

      I do not make choices for people. It is up to people to make their own choices. With that said, I can offer the knowledge I have to help people to help themselves make healthy choices. The choices people make not only impacts one’s own self it impacts the most important people in their lives.

  3. I wish back in 2011 that I had read your article. My wife and I did enter a quad relationship with another couple in 2011. It lasted almost 3 years, now my wife continues to see the husband and I broke up with his wife a year ago.

    Many of the warnings you give in the article are true. It messes up the kids, my two oldest kids are the ones I’m most worried about now. My wife and I have been close to a divorce now for over a year. The drama and stress of that other relationship consumes everyone now in our home. We had an agreement going in that if one of us had a problem with this lifestyle then we would both come out together. Well that didn’t happen. My wife when she realized that my relationship with her boyfriends spouse was unraveling, she began throwing up emotional walls with me out of fear she’d have to breakup.

    She recently admitted to sexual abuse at the hands of her older brother when she was a child. She admitted it wasn’t me that was the real issue though she had acted like it for over a year. She finally agreed to see a therapist. She admitted she couldn’t give it up because it was an escape from her reality and our family temporarily. She knows the relationship with him is shallow, but he’s very passive and she’s developed a sexual bond, which I know from personal experience is not easy to let go.

    I’ve been told by several licensed and professional therapists that polyamory is a sham in one respect. Not one of the two I’ve spoken to have ever met anyone capable of romantically attaching to more then one partner. Always someone is neglected in a triad and quads work for a while but are even more complicated and difficult to maintain. Polyamory should only be practiced by those without children in my opinion. Yes, I agree with Dr Karen, polyamory is relationship suicide, take it from someone who’s done it and is now living that Hell!

    1. Dear ‘Bad Situation’,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with my readers. Telling your story I am sure will help those who are either contemplating polyamory, or are currently struggling while engaging in a poly lifestyle. The points you described, sadly, are each far too common for those of whom engage in polyamory.

      I am sorry for your pain. I am glad that you have spoke with therapists regarding the matter. I am hopeful you have a therapist to speak with post this trauma, so that you can heal from this relational tragedy and personal pain to be able to move forward into the next phase and stage of your life not just surviving, rather thriving.

      Thanks again for sharing your story.
      Dr. Karen

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your careful and educated perspective on this issue. There are so many websites out there purporting that polyamory is harmless and acceptable and it deeply saddens me that this could be the future for our children. My only question is, do you feel that this “lifestyle” choice could lead to increased risk of child predators involving themselves with families with children?
    My husband and I are currently involved in a custody dispute where this issue is a grave concern for us and any information you could provide me with on the effects this has on children, or even other works by professionals such as yourself on the topic, would be greatly appreciated. I found your post regarding the effects of polyamory on children to be spot-on and we have seen many of these emotions reflected in the children’s behavior after this change in their household occurred. We have been trying throughout this process to share our concerns with their mother but with so much information on the internet putting a positive spin on this behavior it has been difficult to explain to her our perspective.
    Thank you again for your hard work and for speaking out against this current relationship trend. I hope in time individuals can see the harm of polyamory and abandon such practices before long-term damage occurs to our society and children involved in such households.

    1. My pleasure Robin.

      As a society the more accepting we become of non monogamy, the more accepting we become. And thus, that becomes our culture’s included reality, even though it has negative effects. This very concept can be displayed in many other examples in our society as well. For example, the more accepting we become of marijuana use, the more accepting we become. Look at where we are in our culture with the legalization of it to the point where we have “bakeshops”- literally shops (like we would a bakery, or a toy store) to purchase marijuana. What’s cropped up in our culture when it comes to shops for relationship non monogamy? We have many sites now that promote the opportunity for a person to be with someone in addition to their mate thereby further promoting and leading to further acceptance of this behavior. We have people who want to promote their lifestyle so it is accepted, which helps them feel validated for their choice.

      As far as your question as to whether this “lifestyle choice could lead to increased risk of child predators” – let’s look at it like this. If a parent is trusting of all of the men and/or women they bring in and out of their life and their home, is there a possibility that someone you trust to spend time with your child will sexually molest them? Sure, there’s a possibility. To deny that is ignorant whether the person lives a lifestyle of polyamory or monogamy. Whether a parent is married and chooses to be with other lovers, or a parent is not married and chooses to have various mates that comes in an out of one’s child’s life as one is on a journey of deciding who one’s ultimate mate is – having children experience their parent in that way, is not healthy for the child. There are no positive messages in that for the child, it is stressful and upsetting. Having many loves in and out of a parent’s life, thus having many connections in and out of a child’s life that they connect with and then once their parent is no longer with that love to be no more, is extremely emotionally upsetting for the child. Damaging. The child experiences a grieving process, often enters into mourning. A loss, like a death. Stability is very important for a child’s mental wellness. A stable home life with a stable parental system makes all the difference in the world for a child’s mental wellness and personal, relational, and academic success. Which is why parents should choose not to bring a lover into a child’s life not until much later down the road when it seems like that person is really there to stay.

      As to the odds of whether we can announce with certainty the correlation of an increased risk of child predators, of course there is an increased risk if you are inviting people into your life, into your home, without getting to know them for an extended period of time first BEFORE you even consider having your child meet these people. But with certainty- no one would be willing to say as such as there are not research studies to date as far as I know that has connected polyamory to this. Though, no one researching as such does not infer it’s lack of possibility. When men or women are not married but do value monogamous relationships, and have various mates in and out of their home either who are lovers, or have a large network of “friends” of whom they have watch their children, painfully, they may increase the chances of a child predator. Thus, of course the same concept holds true with polyamory. It is important to note that it is indeed more common that a child is molested by a person in their inner circle then a stranger- that is a researched fact. So, can one extrapolate from that? One could. In addition, could one suggest that a lack of relational boundaries and free love mentality possibly invite some who are child predators into the polyamorous community? Sure, that could be, I have seen that scenario. Though, are there child predators not into the polyamory lifestyle? Yes as well. Thus, “could” and “maybe” is not a sure thing.

      Though, why would any parent put one’s child in potentially harms way? Those who live a polyamorous lifestyle do not view it through the same lens though. They see it as more love, rather than as hurtful to those in their nuclear family, and in some cases extended family. In fact, there are many in the polyamory community who would be very upset by the very notion that you are even asking such a question, for they are people who truly wish to give love and receive love. Though, just because they would be upset by such a question and horrified in fact because they themselves would never wish to harm a child, should not prevent you from asking the question.

      A child deserves to be with his/her parent, and it’s the parent’s right to have their child live with them. It is sad that some parents’ decisions do not offer the best opportunities for their children. It is sad that some parents’ decisions negatively affect the child’s health and wellness. It is sad that some decisions some parents make put their children in harms way, even if the parent does not view it from that lens. But, does anyone else really have the control or say over what a parent does when it comes to their lifestyle choice and their children? It saddens me that there are parents who put their own interests before their children rather than just looking at common sense. At what point does a parent not get to choose? Parents have rights.

      Of course there are so many articles out there putting a positive spin on polyamory- for it gives permission to cheat, so it is no longer considered cheating. It gives permission to not have to take the time and the effort to focus on growing one’s relationship and confronting the actions that one needs to take to be a better mate. Polyamory allows one to fill voids, escape problems, look outside of one’s relationship and outside of one’s self, and polyamory validates the theme of entitlement to have whatever we want when we want it.

      I am not a judge nor jury. I am simply a regular every day therapist of whom has been working with couples, families, and individuals (adults and children) for over 20 years. It is with this experience in hearing about real people’s feelings and thoughts, it is through real life reports of people, real people, that I share my insights from. It is from my educational background as a Psychotherapist, as a Marriage and Family Therapist – of my understanding of the human mind, human behavior, and relationships that I articulate my thoughts. Some will agree and some will disagree. Freedom of speech at its finest.

      I will continue to speak out where I see problems, though as you can see it is difficult for there are those who promote polyamory. That does not mean I should ignore the problems I see. Thank you for your commentary.

      Dr. Ruskin

  5. After years of watching a wide variety of poly relationships in action (from my teens, onwards), I’ve reached the conclusion that polyamorists are actually ‘closet sociopaths’ – terrified of deeply intimate relationships (because they’re incapable of feeling anything for anyone except the act of raw sex) and terrified that someone might expect things from them.

    Polyamory is the ‘cop out’ that provides an escape from all that.

    They’re afraid of the effort involved in commitment, afraid of deep, one-on-one intimacy, and prefer to take the easy way out, which is to direct attention away from their massive personal issues (and failings), avoid any spiritual and emotional responsibilty, and dive into bed with a change of partner or three.

    To them, it’s like changing the sheets – launder them when they get dirty, or throw them out and replace them with new ones. Definitely sociopathic.

    For the most part, those I’ve known are hollow, empty, shells, with no sense of joy.

  6. Thank you for this article. As someone whose husband recently confessed to having poly amorous thoughts and feelings, I have been questioning the topic for the past week. I have been feeling incredibly uncomfortable and pretty hurt by my husbands viewpoint. Almost all of the content on the internet is very biased and almost all pro poly. Sometimes it seems like the poly amorous community is protesting a bit too much. It was very refreshing to read an opposing viewpoint. Thank you.

    1. Hi Jess,
      Thank you so much for letting me know that you found this article helpful. You are very welcome, it is my sincere pleasure. I cannot begin to tell you how many people share with me how helpful they find this article, as they find what you have found; many article written in pro. I am not afraid to say what some are afraid to say, as I believe it is important to speak out when you see something before your eyes time and time again.
      Dr. Ruskin

  7. Hi Dr Karen,

    Thank you for this article. I’m finding so many ‘scenes’ and ‘communities’ being uncritically accepting of poly relationships.
    This bothers me to no end. I’m a sex therapist and couples counsellor and I’m seeing more and more clients where accepting poly into a relationship is; a defense mechanism, a way of keeping a wall up to intimacy and commitment, a way of ‘getting’ and validating oneself from others instead of working on self love, self compassion and self esteem, a way of maintaining sexual addictions and compulsions, a way of not having to let go of an old partner because of the security they get from them (when they actually want to end the relationship) but welcoming in a new “toyboy” or “toygirl” as a legitimate affair.
    I’m also seeing huge gendered power imbalances which trouble me muchly and I’m so glad you brought up the topic of children.
    You offer up some very valuable points and have really got me thinking.
    I agree that so many of the “how to ” poly relationship websites out there are very troubling and problematic.

    I haven’t had as much clinical experience as you and have only been practicising for a few years so I’m as yet not decided as to whether poly relationships can’t work at all but I’m not seeing many positive results. And this is coming from my own personal experience in both poly and monogomous relationships and having many friends in similar situations.

    I have a lot of clients that are in a long term committed relationship and then the male partner just -decides- he wants a poly relationship much to the woman’s utter disappointment and dismay.

    Thank you for a refreshing different point of view.
    I do think poly relationships are romanticised and glamourised too much and it takes guts to speak up about the problems.


    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      I do believe that it is important to say what other people are afraid to say. For if as therapists we don’t have the courage to speak up and share what we are seeing before us, who is going to? Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, I sincerely appreciate it.

      You mentioned that you are glad I brought up the topic of children. In case if you did not read my other blog article entitled: Polyamory – Not Healthy For Children, here’s the link: https://www.drkarenruskin.com/polyamory-not-healthy-for-children/
      Dr. Karen

  8. Hi Dr Karen. I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for two years. For the last two years he has constant struggles about being in a monogamy relationship. He wants to be in a relationship where he has the freedom to see other people. He wants to have that freedom to see people once every two or three weeks (but no more than that). He doesn’t want to find a replacement for me but he wants to sleep with people outside of our relationship. This is a first for me since I have always been in closed relationship I have always had concerns about polyamory. I don’t know what to expect from doing this polyamory for my boyfriend. I guess I can say I feel bad for him that he tried for two years. He told me that it’s weird for him to be in monogamy and he feels like his life is missing something important. As we were discussing about this polyamory he wants to have one special person and friendship (with sex) on the side and that I would always come first. He doesn’t have a single jealously in his bone. And I bought up this topic “what if” what if I ended up wanting to hang out with someone more than you and he said he wouldn’t be jealous but he would be concern. He would be concerned that that someone would replace me. I been trying to tell him that my concern and he doesn’t get it. He believes that he wants friends and it would be more than that. Lastly, I said you can have friends over but you cannot have sex with other people in your apartment but only me and he was not able to compromise on that. Just yesterday he said as much as I love you I cannot expect you to compromise because compromising for me was hell for two years. He also said that the whole point is he wants to sleep with other people and like that. As a person encountering this. What should I do should I try this polyamory or should I walk away. He says all these hurtful things but there are the truth. I know I can’t change him obviously to his core and this is not a phrase he believes in polyamory. He believes that people in monogamy relationship people leaves their partners all the time once they find someone better. He believes that in polyamory people are unlikely to leave their partner because they have the freedom to have that freedom. I honestly do not know what to do.

    1. Hi Cyndi,
      You are not alone with this question. I have clients near and far that contact me for 1 or more consultation appointments to discuss this very topic whether via phone or in person. I hope that helps you just knowing that. So, I will answer this in brief, but I suggest with all sincerity, that if you wish to talk about this matter, beyond what this public response can provide, that you email me directly to inquire about scheduling a phone consultation or an appointment in the office, or if you wish to speak with someone else, that you take the step to talk to someone. Because… it sounds like you are in a lot of pain, and that you are considering doing something that is against your core, your gut, your desire for a relationship, your values, your morals.

      So, here’s what I have to say. If you desire monogamy, then you get to have a monogamous relationship. Being with someone who is making it clear to you that he desires to live a life of polyamory, even though you want to live a life of monogamy, will not work in the long run. This is two completely different relationship emotional desires, sexual desires and behavioral decisions. It is a completely different lifestyle. Be glad he is being honest with you instead of you finding out after getting married and having children, for that sadly happens to people.

      As far as his argument that monogamy relationships result in one person always leaving in contrast to polyamory is not accurate. There are many couples in monogamous relationship that remain together. I see couples all around me like that from clients, to friends to family. Heck, I am an example of a monogamous relationship having met my mate in college at age 18, married at age 23, and my husband and I are still married and I am 44. My parents are in their 80’s and they are still together in monogamy. I have couples that I socialize with who have all been together for many years. I don’t typically get personal, I wanted to, to make a point to you, to give you hope. But, let’s get back to my professional hat, and so I will tell you from a clinical perspective his statement is not accurate that “always” one person leaves, if that were the case, the divorce rate or affair rate would be 100% and that’s not the case. Relationships require effort, and I am happy to report to you that there are many couples who are happy in monogamy. Just as there are couples who live a lifestyle of polyamory who do not remain together, so are there in monogamous relationships. But, polyamory doesn’t guarantee longevity of a relationship, that sales pitch is not accurate for there are couples who live a lifestyle of polyamory and their main relationship is no longer, either to leave for the #2 or #3 mate, or simply to leave due to dissatisfaction or other relationship problems. Polyamory does not prevent relationship loss.

      Bottom line: you know what you want, he knows what he wants, and you both do not want the same thing. You and he each need to come to terms that you do not want the same thing in a relationship. Thus, you need to make a decision as to whether you determine you deserve to be with someone who wants what you want or not.

      I hope this helps.
      Dr. Karen

  9. Thank you Karen for your critical analysis. As others have said it’s refreshing to hear another perspective when so much pro-poly media exists. Never good to be flooded by one standpoint. I have deduced that polyamory is ultimately unhealthy as you have, but I think that it can be hard to concretely state exactly how, I wanted to take a shot at it and get your feedback.
    Basically, everyone who wants a relationship wants to feel cherished, that is, attractive, beautiful, special, intelligent, and in everyone’s unique way, they are these things. While a poly will argue that no one person will fulfill all your needs, they often fail to say how some individuals will fulfill more of your needs than others. This will lead to a form of favoritism, someone will be more cherished than another. I am pretty confident that no one, no one, wants to be the less cherished partner when they are emotionally attached. Hurt will come from this. The only love that is truly equal is a love that expects no desires being met, which is not romantic love.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. You asked for my feedback, and I say: well written. Thank you for expressing yourself in such a thoughtful way.
      Dr. Karen

  10. Thanks for writing this. I have mixed views on the matter, and so many other issues come at play than most people can think of.

    I don’t personally know anyone who is openly polyamorous, but I have read several testimonies of polyamorous people, some of whom seem to radiate an energy of love, which confuses me. Anexample that has been spread by the media are a Californian triad/throuple who have created a website, “looks like love to me”. Two women had been in a relationship for a few years until one day, one told her partner that she needed aman in her life and wanted a family. They found a man with whom they now form a triad and got pregnant almost at the sametime, giving birth just 5 weeks apart. As much as they seem to be filled with love, I can’t help but wonder what about family and specifically, what does family mean and what does “mother” and “father” mean? Both women in the triad consider themselves to be the mother of both children, even though biologically, there,s one child whom they’re related to, and one child whom they don’t share any genetic link with.

    This, as well as other tentatives to “reform” the familial structure reminds me of the book Brave New World which I had to read in my second language English classes in high school, in which “mother” and “father” are blasphemous words, babies are all created artificially and conditioned to their specific social class and their specific career that was pre-chosen for them, etc. It is not to be forgotten that some legislations in the US, in Canada and in Europe have modified their official forms to change mother and father in favor of “Parent 1” and “Parent 2”. Also, “reproductive technologies” are widely spread and many same-sex couples (especially if they are “married”) are asking for the “right” to have kids too, trough sperm and eggs “donors” (which would more appropriately be called sperm “seller” and eggs “sellers”, as they sell, not donate, their genetic material). There is also surrogacy. All of this makes children to be a commodity or a “right” for people to have. I don’t think they are. They are a blessing, and no one has a “right” to them, not even a heterosexual couple in which one is sterile. Adoption should made easier for such couples. “Reproductive technologies” shouldn’t be available to anyone. As for same-sex couples who ask for the “right” to have children because they “can’t procreate”, this is non-sense. Their sterility as a couple, and not as an individual, is due to their union, not to an abnormality of their body. In other words, a same-sex couple who pretends they “can’t procreate” even though both individuals are fertile is like a man who sits on a chair all day and pretend that he “can’t walk”, even though he has two functional legs, and then ask that the State subsidizes a wheelchair for him. Just as such a man IS able to walk, but doesn’t use this ability, so both partners in a same-sex couple are able to procreate, but simply don’t use their procreative ability as the type of relation they choose are inherently un-procreative; as opposed to a man-woman union that is inherently procreative, any sterility within such an union deriving not from the union itself but becauseof a body abnormality/malfunction.

    It might not seem like this has anything to do with polyamory but it does. In the case of the triad I mentioned earlier, instead of doing what most same-sex couples do to have a “family” (using medical assistance), they added a man so that procreation could become a part of the relationship.

    There is another element that seems to be a very important thing for most people practicing polyamory and it is “safe sex” (I don’t really like that term as it is often tied to unplanned or unwanted pregnancies and implies that growing, giving and nurturing Life is “unsafe”). Contraceptives have become widely accepted in our society; but I also oppose them. Contraceptives perpetuate a culture that totally disconnects a sexual relation from its potential to give Life. They aren’t 100% efficient either, in which case abortion is seen as an easy way out…I am pro-life. A culture in which sex isn’t linked to the powerful procreation potential sex has, encourages abortion. Many people will say that the use of contraceptives reduces the odds of abortion, but this isn’t true. Most abortions are a result of a failed contraceptive. That’s not to mention that the birth control pill is destructive to women’s health and hormones ends up in our water supply. In other words, contraceptives are a denaturation of sex and aren’t without health consequences. It is not “empowering” for a woman to kill her unborn offspring. What is trully empowering for a woman is to get to know her own body, her cycle, when she is fertile…and use that knowledge accordingly. I wish this was taught in school, instead of all this “sex ed”that focuses on a vision of sex that is based on personal gratification in the moment and pleasure rather than intimate bonding and procreation. I have an hint that, perhaps, sex is bonding because it allows the future mother and father of a child to stick together in order to raise that child.

    Another thing with polyamory is that one of the things that contributes to it is how we view relationships and marriage in general. As you mention, Karen, we live in a throw-away culture and that includes relationships. That is because they, as well as marriage, are viewed as something that is about romantic love between two adults (and maybe more, to some people). However, marriage wasn’t intended to, shouldn’t be, and isn’t based on “love”. This notion, to me, is insane. The kind of love that ought to exist within a marriage is unconditional love, not romantic love (although this can also be a part of it). Marriage is intended for Family, and for protecting and bounding a child with both their biological parent. You don’t need to “love” someone to get married to them; marriage is a contract and I’m pretty sure it isn’t written anywhere in the law that a to-be married couple has to “love” each other!!! I’ve also never seen any wedding officiant or judge say “do you love so and so?” as a condition to be married. No, in order to be married, you need to promise respect and support. A good marriage partner is someone with whom you share the same goals in life and similar values. Love can be constructed over time; it can also be spontaneous but as I said this isn’t necessary. I have read my fair share of studies an articles on marriage and have thought about it, and it turns out, marriage that have a specific goal (family, companionship, etc). tend to be more successful than marriages based on romance. Perhaps this explain the high divorce rate, as we have shifted from a conjugal view of marriage to another view of marriage that makes it to be about “love”. Then what happens when you don’t love your spouse anymore? You divorce, because it is now permitted, legal and socially accepted since the introduction of the no-fault divorce, which opened the door to same-sex marriage which follows the same social and general narrative that marriage is “about love”.

    It is critical to understand how marriage has changed in the eyes of our Western society, in order to understand polyamory: after all, polyamourous use the same narrative, that we ought to form a relationship based on love, that if we love someone we must pursue them. The main difference is that polyamourous form more than one relationships, because they “love more than one person”. Many polyamourous also deny the “myth of the soul mate” or of “the one true love”; they deny that only one person is the One we’re meant to be with. Polyamory means “many loves”. Well, if we stick to that definition, I am polyamourous as well, because I am able to love more than one person at once (romantically). But just because you love someone, that doesn’t mean you have to have a relationship with them or marry them! Why? Because that’s not what marriage is about! And that’s not what having kids and a family is about! It never was intended to! Well, that is, until we introduced the no-fault divorce and redefined it, at least philosophically.

    I am myself married, and I’m 20 years old, which, according to many people is ridiculous, because I’m too young, how do I know, I should explore, etc. I also live in Canada — where marriage is even less of a deal now than it is in the US, where co-habitation is higher, where same-sex marriage was legalized before, where abortion is an “acquired right” and “women’s reproductive freedom”, all of which are linked to polyamory as it is all part of another paradigm regarding sex, marriage, family, and relationships. I also never was in any relationship prior to my husband, because I didn’t see the point of it if it wasn’t serious and aimed to a family from the very beginning. Unfortunately, my husband is a US citizen citizen living in the US and I am a Canadian citizen living in Canada. Now that in itself wouldn’t be so much of an issue, if we weren’t WAY below the middle-class and weren’t able to begin the immigration process in either country because we don’t meet the immigration criteria regarding the minimum annual income as of yet. This is painful, and if gays were “discriminated against because they couldn’t marry”, then not being able to even live with my husband is an even worse discrimination which is based on our social class. What’s ridiculous is that gays, lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, have had the right to marry all along, but the kind of relationship they CHOSE just wasn’t fit for what a marriage stands for…or used to stand for anyways. Marrying “whom we love” is not a “right”; if it is, then polyamourous people ought to have that “right to marry whom they love” as well, which is more than one person. In fact, some are advocating for the “right to marry” as not having it would be a “discrimination” (even though they, as LGBT, have the right to marry, but hoose relations that don’t fit the definition of marriage for what it was intended for). I warned people 4 YEARS AGO that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to an acceptance of, and later on a legalization of the marriage of, more than two people. I was then deemed a crazy bigot homophobic fool person and told that it would “never happen”. I guess the homophobic bigot was right, because it’s happening and the people who deemed me to be a crazy fool for believing it would happen, are now the same people who are advocating for it (the acceptance of polyamory and, unfortunately soon, the legalization of poly marriages). But if all kinds of relationships can be marriage, then marriage doesn’t mean anything anymore. Sad.

    Another thing to remember is that the whole Western sexual revolution is based on the work of Alfred Kinsey, who was himself perverted and, if not a pedophile himself, he worked closely with pedophiles. Kinsey condoned the rape of children and used it as “scientific data”, describing situations in which the young kids (sometimes even babies, as young as 4 months old!) cried and tried to get away as “orgasms”. This led to his “scientific” conclusion that we are sexual from birth, therefore we must have sex education in school and at a young age… and thus the Sex ed was born, and a new sets of laws and attitudes towards sex which led us to where we are today. The documentary “The Kinsey Syndrome” was very informative regarding Kinsey, pornography, the link with children rapes and kidnappings, sex ed, and the beginnings of the “gay rights movements”, its founder having ties to a pedophile association named NAMBLA. Oh, and not forgetting that some pedophiles are trying to redefine their sexual inclinations as a sexual orientation (“minor attracted person”) and to get it removed from the DSM, much as homosexual activists have done in the past, and much as some polyamourous activists are doing now (at least for defining it as a sexual orientation). I do not oppose homosexuality (and I’m not religious), but its lobby and the origin of its propaganda aren’t anything to be proud about (no pun intended).

    As a side note, Karen, I would say that in your profession, it’s normal that you would meet many people who fail in their relationships (whether married or not, mono or poly), and that many mono relationships and marriages fail as well, but contrary to what many poly people think, it has nothing to do with monogamy being inherently a failure or unpractical, but rather, with our own views of relationships and marriages as something in which we should seek love and happiness and that a marriage is about romantic love.

    I am still confused regarding polyamory, I’m not quite sure if it’s a good or bad thing (or a morally neutral one), but I’m a truth seeker and I have felt drawn to research the suject, and have mostly found overly positive opinions, without putting it in its global context, beyond the personal/individual level. Something’s also telling me that it is very much linked to other things which I mention in this comment and which I don’t view favorably. Does that mean that it is intrinsically bad? I don’t know but I’m trying to find out. There are many forms of polyamory in practice, and it seems to me that *if* poyamory is bad, then perhaps it’s God’s or the Universe’s way of showing us what we need to go back to, that is, to consider the importance of extended families and of Community. You’ll see a lot of polyamourous people talking about how having a “network” of adults to care for their children is beneficial to them, but if multi-generational household, extended family, clans, and tribes were still a thing, we wouldn’t need polyamory to achieve this.

    I know I often tend to write a lot — too much, maybe. But I sometimes feel the need to express myself, especially as a 20-year-old with views that are far from mainstream in society in general, but with people of my generation even more specifically. I’m thinking of starting a blog that would talk about such issues — the meaning of marriage, abortion, contraception, etc. as well as maybe my experiences trough my travels, talking with people, observing and (most of all) THINKING and SEEKING everyday. I’m somewhat of an outcast, I have unusual views and insights and very few friends (none of whom live in my city), but in school I’ve always been perceived as the smart one. As long as I can remember, I’ve felt like I had a special mission in life. I never was quite able to identify it, but I just felt it. Perhaps my mission is to promote marriage and/or to talk about the ugly truths behind the sexual revolution. At least, it seems consistent with my background and my experience in life. I had a somewhat difficult one, my parents have lost custody of me when I was 11 trough a corrupted process (the decision was taken in advance, even before we stepped foot in the court) and I lived in a foster family for 11 months trough the Canadian/Quebec social services (equivalent of CPS in the USA), after which my parents were forced to separate or else the foster family, after 12 months, could’ve permanently adopted me. So they separated and a social worker pretended to be my mom’s partner in order to “prove” that my dad was the problem in the family (which he wasn’t). Two years later I lived with my great-aunt and her husband and when I turned 18 I had to find myself another place to stay and sustain myself alone. Shortly after, I went traveling (I didn’t have to pay for foods or rent as I gave a few hours of work per day instead) and met my now husband in the USA. Sometimes it almost feels like I shouldn’t be here today, or be where I am now, but a series of events coordinated themselves perfectly in my life and I feel that I am protected by guardian angels, if not by God Itself. In a way, my own experiences in life allowed me to question the “New Morality”, especially in regard to marriage, family, relationships, and sexuality, and I feel stronger about it than I do with other issues that I care about, which makes me think that maybe my mission in life has to do with it.

    That’s all for now. I didn’t intent to write such a long comment, but some truths have to be told whenever we feel like telling them.

  11. I feel absolutely disgusted with this. I am hurt by my child’s desire to live this kind of life. We paid for an extravagant wedding that she, and her husband insisted on. I was disappointed to find they are living this lifestyle. If they wanted to live this lifestyle, why not just live together. It makes a mockery of marriage. My husband and I have been married for 29 years. We have, like every couple, had our ups and downs. I love my husband more every day. Marriage is work, plain and simple, but the rewards, and the deep friendship and love that grow are worth it. Me, me, me, ….yes that is how I see it. To me, it is a sign of selfishness.

    1. Your scenario just happened to me June 18th. I helped arrange and pay for my daughter and son-in-law’s (I feel) pretty decent wedding affair. After my daughter dropped numerous hints in the weeks before and after her wedding, I finally discovered the truth after at first thinking that my daughter and her husbands best friend were having a fling. Wow! what a dolt I am. I wish I would have known because I would never have put in the time or effort of her sham wedding had I known the truth. I nor others really want anything to do with the relationship/lifestyle that they are now involved in . I haven’t talked to her since, I do not really know what to say to her. I love and miss my daughter but I am angry and feel betrayed.

  12. My husband just dropped the bomb that he would like to explore the option of polyamory with our marriage. Let me start off with the history – we dated for a few months and I got pregnant (not intentional) in 2011. We married in 2013. We had some major ups and downs, more downs than ups. For the last couple of years or so, we had finally gotten to a place that our marriage was based on mutual love and respect for one another and not just to remain intact for the sake of our child. Or so I thought. It was a left hook out of no where and now I’m seeing stars. He made the suggestion and I exploded. He says that if it isn’t something we could do that he would happily remain as my husband and continue to love and cherish me. But he also didn’t understand why it wasn’t a cut and dry conversation with no mess to clean up. I’ve tried phrases like “outsourcing his responsibilities of a married man” and it still isn’t computing. I am absolutely shattered. Our marriage wasn’t in a dark place anymore, but it wasn’t the best it could be either, but we were working together to better communicate and learning how to be a better spouse and set a good example for our child. I am absolutely heart broken and my trust with him went from full to scraps. How do I begin healing from this? And how do I put into words so that he understands the damage this has caused to start picking up the pieces? He wants to make it right, but he first must understand what is wrong and I’m not in a state of mind to articulate efficiently.
    I hope this all made sense. I love him, but the fact that he wants to seek companionship when he already has it has me completely lost.

    Thank you so much for this article. After he asked, I have looked up numerous things regarding polyamory and they’ve been overwhelmingly “positive” and it made me feel like I’m over reacting when I knew I wasn’t.

    1. Hi Broken, I am so glad that you have found my article helpful. You ask: “How do I begin healing from this? And how do I put into words so that he understands the damage this has caused to start picking up the pieces?” I would advise marriage counseling. It offers an environment in which both he and you can each share your thoughts and feelings so that you each feel heard by the other. The marriage therapist can help you both to confront what you are each feeling, help you both to communicate with clarity, heal, address each of your vision for the now and the future, and what options there are to take. I do not know what state you live in. If you live in Massachusetts and want marriage counseling, you are welcome to contact me directly, or I can match you up with a marriage therapist on my team in my counseling practice. If you live in a different state, contact your primary care doctor and ask for a recommendation of who he/she trusts in the area. Or, you can call your insurance for a list of marriage therapists in your town. I hope you find this helpful. FYI: if you decide to take my advice and go for marriage counseling, if he will not go, I advise for you to go by yourself. Having someone to speak with can be extremely helpful, as the marriage therapist with the individual client can help that client clarify thoughts, heal, and help with communication tools so when you leave each session you can incorporate the insights and tools you learned in session- at home, with your husband.
      Warmly, Dr. Karen Ruskin

  13. Hello Dr. Karen,
    I’m in a graduate program for Clinical Counseling. This is my last quarter, and I have a professor who is openly polyamorous. Good for her (not really). However, during class, she’s always expressing, as fact, that it’s unreasonable to ask romantic partners to never again have a sexual experience with anyone else. She seems to be on a mission to deconstruct monogamy in our society. I’m not sure what her deal is. I suspect she’s a misandrist as she slipped one day, and snapped at me with the words, “You’re a MAN!” Then realized she was teaching a class, caught herself, and stopped what she was about to say. I’m concerned because this professor is an MFT – she takes the Marriage out of MFT. lol But seriously, this is scary.

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