Anonymous asked: My wife informed me she wants a polyamourous relationship. I want it to work but have no idea what to expect. I'm having the hardest time dealing with the thought of the physical part of it more than anything else. Any advice?
Ah, you’re sort of on the other end of the question I answered previously. It’s always tough when someone who has always identified as mono finds themselves in a situation where a partner is asking for a new, poly arrangement.
As far as knowing what to expect: my two best pieces of advice for you here are to ask your wife what she expects, and do some poking around online and read stories about other poly marriages to get a feel for what they’re like. Then, once you’ve read about the many different forms polyamory takes - from a three-partner household to a network of partners to a tiered system to a primary marriage with sexual openness - when you talk to your wife, ask her to describe her “best case scenario.” Does she want you to be her “primary” partner, but have the freedom to have sex with other people, or is she envisioning an arrangement where she has you, and a steady boyfriend or girlfriend (or both)? Ask her, if she could wave a magic wand and get exactly what she wants in this situation, what would that look like? Then, think about what your best-case scenario would be, and talk about that with her.
As for the physical part: we have a deeply ingrained cultural belief that sex makes a relationship exclusive. We can love all our siblings, we can have a dozen poker buddies, we can have two best friends we love in very different ways - but once we have sex with someone, they’re the only person we should be having sex with. Part of the polyamorous mindset is realizing that that’s rather arbitrary, and getting over the squicky feeling we’ve been taught to associate with our sexual partner having other sexual partners. If that is something you absolutely cannot get over, that’s fine - it’s just as ok to be mono as it is to be poly - but you and your wife will have to decide whether the marriage can survive if you cannot agree to the terms she’s asking for.
If that is something you do want to get over, you can start by having long, honest talks with your wife about your fears and concerns, and learning to trust her when she tells you about her feelings and needs. Read a lot about polyamory and jealousy, and try to sort out your own beliefs and feelings about sex, love, relationships, and exclusivity. Find new models and metaphors for thinking about sex. For example, we talk about sex in terms of a zero-sum exchange between people: we “lose” our virginity or “take” someone else’s, and women are described as “giving it up” or “giving it away” when they choose to have sex with someone. Thinking about sex as an activity that can be shared between people, rather as a tangible something that can be given, taken, and possessed, might help a lot when it comes to things like sexual jealousy.
Also, work out the specifics of why this gives you a hard time. Are you worried about being exposed to STIs? That’s a valid concern, but can be dealt with by talking to your wife about what precautions you two will take to protect yourselves and each other. Are you worried that her desire for other partners means her desire for you is or will be reduced? Are you worried that your sexual relationship with your wife will be diminished by the knowledge that she has been with other people? Getting to the root of your discomfort is the only way to address it, so when you and your wife talk, make sure you talk specifics.
Finally, a personal word of advice: I’ve found that the physical aspect - having sex with multiple people - turns out to be one of the easiest bits. It’s the other things, like time management, that get hairy. It really has no effect on me if my boyfriend sleeps with another person - he doesn’t love me any less, our sex is not any less fun, he doesn’t leave me for the new person, etc. In fact, having multiple partners has greatly improved all of our sex lives, because 1.) we learn and practice new skills with certain partners and then bring back this new stuff to other partners 2.) there is less pressure to be everything my partner needs, because if there is something I don’t like or won’t do (or something I want to do that he doesn’t), we can find someone else to fulfill that need and we can just enjoy what we have to offer each other without feeling pressured or like we’re missing out on something 3.) we don’t have to be afraid that our partner will leave us for someone else they find attractive, because they can pursue that person without bothering our relationship, and 4.) the confidence and energy you get from being with one partner carries over into your sex life with another partner! You may find that this doesn’t bother you in practice nearly as much as it does in theory. Imagining your wife with someone else is tough to deal with, but when you remove the negative association with cheating, there’s a lot less threat there.
Good luck! Ask your wife as many questions as you need to, read up on arrangements like the one she’s asking you for, and dig to the root of your feelings.