A few years ago, my (now ex-)husband and I embraced the trend of having multiple relationships, but it ultimately led to the breakdown of our marriage. While I still support the idea of open relationships, our approach did not work for us. Here are the reasons why.
1. Insecurities got the better of me
My self-esteem had always been low, and it was challenging to recognize my self-worth even in our monogamous relationship. When my husband began to have other partners, my insecurities skyrocketed. I constantly compared myself to his other partners and my fears ended up consuming me, leading to the demise of our marriage. I didn't have a strong enough sense of my own value to avoid succumbing to the harmful comparisons in my head.
2. We didn't know how to communicate
It's a fact that healthy communication skills are not innate, and regrettably, most individuals don't learn them. When you bring together two individuals with intense feelings but no healthy means of expressing them, it creates a recipe for disaster. Rather than accepting accountability for our emotions and cooperating to address them, my ex-husband and I frequently blamed each other for how we felt.
3. Slut-shaming was totally a thing, and it hurt
It was a challenging experience for both of us. We were raised in environments that had a negative view of sex, and shame surrounding it was ingrained in us. Therefore, exploring multiple partners was a possible minefield. My husband, in particular, found it difficult to cope with the idea of me being sexually involved with others and struggled not to perceive me as "unclean" or "less valuable" due to casual sex with someone new. This, in turn, halted our own sexual activity for an extended period.
4. There's no guidebook on how to handle something like this
While books such as The Ethical Slut or More Than Two are excellent resources, there's a significant difference between reading about a concept and observing it in practice. We didn't have any personal experiences with polyamorous relationships, and unlike monogamy, there are no fixed guidelines. It was a sudden shift from the rules I grew up with, and we had to learn and navigate as we went along, leading to a lot of experimentation... and a lot of mistakes.
5. Polyamory is much harder without a support network
When you're at the forefront of a new idea, you're likely to be the only person in your circle who shares that perspective. This can lead to feelings of isolation and confusion when things don't go as planned, and your friends may not understand your struggles. It wasn't until much later, after my separation from my husband, that I discovered a supportive community of like-minded individuals in my city who were also practicing polyamory and had a sex-positive mindset. This made me realize how beneficial it would have been to have a network of individuals with similar relationship structures to help guide and support us.
6. There were no distractions from our situation, which meant we fixated on it
Polyamory and the challenges we faced during our journey became the focal point of our lives. We were both jobless, living in a new city, and had no other distractions, which led to an excessive amount of time spent fixating on the minutiae of our relationships. We became so absorbed in the process that we forgot to live lives outside of our relationship and beyond polyamory.
7. I was emotionally dependent on him
I frequently found myself needing to proceed at a more gradual pace, being conscious of my boundaries and what I could handle at that moment. Unfortunately, my husband didn't always grasp my limits, and I felt pressured to go beyond what felt right for me in certain circumstances. Rather than defending my boundaries, I caved in, causing significant damage to our relationship. Rapidly expanding your comfort zone is not a viable approach. Regrettably, I had to learn this lesson the hard way.
8. I was emotionally dependent on him
Before we decided to have an open relationship, I had inadvertently relinquished all control over my self-esteem to my husband. My perception of myself was entirely dependent on his opinion of me (or what I presumed his opinion to be). I could hardly envision a life without him, and the weight of this became too much for him to bear. The more I relied on him, the less he desired to be with me, and this rapidly led to our relationship's downfall.
9. The illusion of control was too tempting
In any type of relationship, be it exclusive or open, there are no certainties, but the impression of safety and command is less frequently questioned in monogamy than in polyamory. This scared me, and I expended a great deal of futile energy trying to hold on to that illusion of control after we opened our relationship. I was morbidly curious about what my husband was doing with his other partners because I believed that if I had enough knowledge, I could perhaps maintain some level of authority over the situation. Naturally, that's not how it works, and everything ended disastrously.
10. We weren't healthy to begin with but I only see that now
When opening your relationship, having a solid foundation is crucial. Although we thought our relationship was unbreakable, it turned out to be unstable from the very beginning. It's not the idea of polyamory that dismantles a relationship, but the process of opening up will uncover any pre-existing issues in the relationship. In our case, all of our unhealthy behaviors and ways of interacting with each other and ourselves were brought to the surface and ultimately led to our downfall.