Do Polyamorous People Process Attachment Differently?

Updated April 20, 2016 8:39pm PDT
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How do we navigate this frontier of non-exclusive fornication with compassion and grace? How do we resolve relationship conflicts in a way de-centered from heteronormativity? 

For these questions and more, polyamory pundit Andre Shakti is here for you.

What's about to follow may well sound stupid, if so I apologize. Firstly, what are your thoughts on the idea that people who are poly process feelings/attachments/relationships for others different than people who are mono?

And secondly, any advice for someone in an amazing relationship who recently realized she may be more poly-minded then she had ever previously thought...but who's wife is now comfortable in their monogamous relationship and who no longer has interest in opening it up (something we'd hypothetically talked about when we started going out and at the time felt like, if it was something the other someday wanted, we'd both be open to trying it)?

Thanks for your time.

Regards,
Catherine


There are no stupid questions, Catherine–only stupid answers. Here’s hoping I don’t give you any!

Human nature is to create hierarchies, even inside marginalized communities. Somehow, even in the midst of facilitating delicious, supportive community with the intention of lifting each other up, we can’t help but throw others under us to gain height. 

A school of thought that has been making its rounds through the alternative relationship communities for some time now dictates that not only is non-monogamy a legitimate dating option, but that it’s the better dating option. Non-monogamy practitioners who boast this are prone to referring to those who prefer monogamy as archaic, less evolved, and doomed to fail. None of these things are true. I often call non-monogamy “Relationships 401” because it does intrinsically necessitate consenting to much more frequent and complex communication around your relationship(s) with your partner(s), but that doesn’t by definition mean that those who are communicating more frequently are more successful at it. 

While there is a correlation between constant, honest communication and healthy, sustainable relationships, we need to be very cautious about seeing non-monogamy as some kind of superior, enlightened state. I know many happy long term monogamous couples who are excellent communicators, just as I know many self-identified non-monogamous couples (or triads...or contingents…) who are absolutely awful at it.

Let’s move on to your question about the incompatibility between your current desires and your wife’s level of comfortability with anything but a monogamous relationship. Issues of incompatibility related to sex and intimacy are tricky; so tricky, in fact, that I can’t help but offer up the possibility that you and your wife, regardless of your love for each other, may have transitioned into a period of time where you can’t fulfill each other sexually. 

Sometimes it really is only a “period of time”–temporary, based on present life experiences, opportunities, emotions, insecurities, the changing of the seasons, etc. And sometimes the incompatibility is here to stay.

If we could chat face-to-face, I’d ask you if you and your wife had ever been non-monogamous in the past, either separately or together. I’d also ask how your sex life is with each other, as well as inquire about the “catalyst” (if there was one) for your new, more flexible feelings. Perhaps you hadn’t been getting your sexual needs met for a while, were feeling bored, or met a specific individual who sparked your interest and made you reconsider your monogamous state. 

Perhaps none of those are true, and you and your wife are deeply connected and you’re feeling very secure and safe; the feelings just grew organically. The latter circumstances bode better than the former ones for the “opening up” of a relationship–the healthier the relationship climate is to start, the better a chance it has of succeeding as it transitions.

I would recommend reading Tristan Taormino’s book “Opening Up” as a resource. I would also recommend talking to your wife with compassion, patience, and transparency about your desires if you haven’t already. Put the focus of the conversation on how fulfilling and beautiful you find your relationship with her to be (reassurance is NEVER a bad thing!) in addition to emphasizing how committed you are to a mutual, collaborative effort in evolving your relationship. 

If you decide to move forward with opening up, give her permission to “pull the plug” at any time. Your personal mantra is going to be “Baby steps, with no expectations”. If you’re both open to it, I would recommend exploring non-monogamy together as a couple first, before either one of you strike out on your own. Flirt with potential beaus as a couple, and talk about having a threesome–you can all be active participants, or one of you can voyeur, OR the third party can voyeur on you and your wife getting it on! There are unlimited configurations. 

Rooting for you!

Have a question you want to ask Andre? Email us at dirtiestwellknownsecret at gmail.

Polyandre

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Andre Shakti is a Bay Area educator, producer, activist, and professional slut devoted to normalizing alternative desires, de-stigmatizing sex workers and their clients, and not taking herself too seriously. She can frequently be found marathoning Law & Order: SVU under a chaotic pile of partners and pitbulls.