The Truth About Open Marriage
Couples who practice ''polyamory'' say it's good for their relationships. Some therapists disagree.
Marriage and Relationship Experts Talk
Those who pursue an "open" or polyamorous relationship are obviously
not conventional types, says William Doherty, PhD, director of the marriage and
family therapy program at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. "There are
always some people who want to push the limits of their experiences -- their
joy, their ecstasy in life," he says. They feel convention and tradition
Those who pursue multiple relationships simultaneously, Doherty says, say
they are capable of many loves and passion and that "artificial cultural
constraints" tell them they should restrict their love and passion to just
Polyamorists, to their credit, are often open about it, Doherty says.
"There is a kind of idealism around these folks," he says. "They
want to be completely open and honest about it."
Louanne Cole Weston, PhD, MFT, a Fair Oaks, Calif., marriage and family
therapist and WebMD's
sex and relationships expert, agrees that the concept of open relationships
has evolved to become more idealistic. "In the '70s, there was the playing
loose around the edges idea," she says. "Poly is trying to come across
as thoughtful and considerate."
An obvious benefit, Weston says, is that sexual monotony seldom sets in.
Polys are not apt to be bored in other areas of life, either. "You always
have Plan B," she says.
Some say they learn something about relationship skills from their other
partner or partners, something that can be applied with the primary partner,
The Drawbacks of Open Marriage
Scheduling can be a hassle, polyamorists say. "When I'm actively
exploring multiple relationships, balancing my time and energy is usually the
most difficult part,'' says Cherie." It can also be particularly draining
if more than one of my partners has a crisis in their lives that they ask my
assistance with, such as supporting them through a career change, family
illness, problems in other relationships, or other challenging times." But
if the other person has multiple partners, she says, they also have the benefit
of getting multiple sources of help.
Handling the "fear response" in partners can be an issue, says
Chris. He sometimes has had to assure partners that his interest in others does
not mean his interest in them has changed or waned.
"I've also had my own feelings of envy and jealousy," he says,
"particularly when I feel that a partner is giving more time and energy to
another than they are to me."
"Where it becomes threatening is when [partners] think love implies
exclusivity," says Veaux. "It's the starvation model of love. That is,
if you love two, each gets half of the love. That's not true. Every single
person is absolutely unique. Because of that, it means my partners can never be