The Balancing Act: ‘He Wants To Explore Polyamory; I Don’t’
Every other week, Sonali Gupta draws on more than 10 years of experience as a clinical psychologist to give advice to readers with questions about parenting, family dynamics, relationships, mental health, and more.
One Too Many: My husband and I disagree when it comes to our stance on sex outside of our marriage. He wants to explore sexual intimacy with other partners, but I don’t want to.
Sonali: Sexual fidelity and loyalty go hand-in-hand in the context of a monogamous relationship, which many of us consider marriage to be. So, when a spouse feels the need to seek sexual experiences outside of marriage, it can shake the equilibrium of the partnership and set off insecurities.
It sounds like what your husband is seeking is a polyamorous relationship. Polyamory is overwhelmingly defined by its advocacy and support groups as (i) the seeking of multiple sexual relationships with different partners, and — critically — (ii) with the consent of all the different partners involved. Keeping this in mind, it may be important that both you and your spouse discuss your value system around your marriage, as well as met and unmet sexual needs or desires. Remember, a discussion goes two ways — if you feel differently than your partner, assert your needs and champion your choices. But it may also be important to consider — first independently, and then, together — what a polyamorous relationship would mean for you, your partner, your relationship as a couple, and what its consequences could be. The ability to address this for yourself and then with your partner may be crucial in the long-term stability of the marriage.
A topic like this can overwhelm us emotionally. If both of you find it difficult to discuss as a couple the questions around monogamy versus polyamory, it may help to seek marital or relationship counselling.
Studying Up: What are some of the books you would recommend for strengthening a marriage?
Sonali: One of my all-time favourite books in marital/couples therapy is: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver. The book is built on extensive research that Dr. Gottman has done in what he calls The Love Lab. It’s a good mix of empirical scientific research, questionnaires and practical tips that pave the way for a stable marriage.
Other books I’d recommend include:
- The Relationship Cure, by Joan Declaire and John M. Gottman, which focuses on strengthening not just marriages, but friendships and family relationships
- The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, by Gary D. Chapman, which shares the author’s experiences as a marriage counsellor and his theory around five possible ‘love languages’ and how partners may be communicating their love differently