When Polyamory Isn’t For You

November 14th, 2014

poly-friendly therapyThere’s been an interesting shift in a segment of society. Many people who are liberal and open minded have come to see polyamory as a more enlightened form of relationship – somehow more evolved than monogamy. They often think that it takes more work, requires better communication, and demands more self-awareness than monogamy.  I don’t think there’s any scientific basis for this statement, though, to be sure, polyamory is quite different than monogamy in practice and relationship dynamics.  I have nothing against polyamory – or monogamy. My stance is that people need to be in relationships that are right for them. However, this belief that polyamory is more enlightened can cause psychic pain to the person who’s not wired to be poly.

I have seen multiple couples where, later in the relationship, one of the partners finally understands themselves differently and feels safe enough to tell their partner that they’d like to open up the relationship.  This is definetly an act of courage and I applaud people who realize who they are and then try to actualize it.  Often times, the other partner is open to the idea of polyamory, open relationships, or even “monogamish” partnerships. However, sometimes a partner wants to be open, but finds that they just can’t make themselves comfortable with it.

The partner will try to make it work, go through all kinds of difficult emotions and feelings, and even beat themselves up psychically for not being more evolved. It’s difficult to watch this process, as it’s always hard to see someone beat themselves up simply for who they are.  What I try to tell people is that monogamy and polyamory are mutually exclusive – one is not compatible with the other.  And just because you’re “wired” to be monogamous (or polyamorous) – that says nothing about your character or your worth as a human being. It just “is.” Couples can go through months or even years of agony trying to come to this conclusion, battering themselves up in the process.

If you find yourself in a relationship that sounds reminiscent to this, there is help. Kathy Labriola’s workbook “The Jealousy Workbook” has an excellent chapter titled “Is an open relationship right for you?”. You can also talk with a poly-friendly and poly-aware therapist about your situation. Whatever you do, please don’t continue to beat yourself up for not being who you think you should be. Self-love and self-acceptance are critical no matter what your relationship orientation.

If you’re looking for a poly-friendly therapist or poly-aware therapist in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC, feel free to contact Mike Giordano, LICSW at 202-460-6384 or Mike.Giordano.MSW@gmail.com.

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