Leaving the Polyamory Lifestyle

Dear Jamie,

I met my wife of twenty-five years on a hippie commune where free love ruled and we grew organic food and made soap and hemp linens to sell in town. The whole nine yards. We’ve always been polyamorous. We’ve been swinging from day one. I’m just as in love with her as the day I met her, and thought I would be with her forever.

Here’s the problem: Suddenly, out of the blue, Helena announced that she is no longer interested in polyamory. While I understand that desire ebbs and flows and that changing hormones will change the way we think about sex, she says it’s not just about actually having sex right now—she doesn’t want a break from threesomes, it’s not just that keeping a younger lover is too much work right now—she wants to move into monogamy. Just us, or bust.

We communicate closely and so I asked her if something happened or she had a religious conversion or if it’s menopause changing her needs, or if she feels I betrayed her emotionally in one of my trysts or relationships. She said no to all of that, just that she’s always been polyamorous, always shared her partners and always shared me, and she wants to experience a different kind of commitment that actually means sacrificing something and belonging to one person. She says most people have played with both kinds of lifestyles in some way or another, but she hasn’t.

I don’t know how to feel, or how to respond. Thanks for any advice you can give – Bob


Wowza! Talk about being hit by lightning.

It’s an unusual situation. People do move through poly and monogamy in their lives, but it’s usually a function of the kind of relationship they’re in or not in—we might date many people at once before we find the right one to settle down with for a while, or we might date a monogamous person on our journey, or we might decide we want to try group sex with our partner. This one is a bit different.

Still, as a youngish polyamorous woman, I have thought about settling down one day. It sounds more romantic than reality might be able to deliver, of course.

Your wife’s change of heart really sounds like a personal epiphany for her. She wants to be part of something that has existed as long as polyamory has—the effort and gifts and challenges of one on one. Just as monogamous people might want to consider polyamory, she wants to consider the alternative too.

There are really only two ways this can go. One, you break up. Two, you embark on the monogamous adventure with her.

I can’t give you the answer, but here are a few questions that can help guide you to the best answer for yourself. How important is polyamory to your identity? How important is sex with other people? Do you want to be with her forever, on any terms? What kind of vows did you exchange when you married her? Do the new terms change them, or just change the kind of challenge you have in keeping them? Is her sudden change a selfish one or an easy way out meant to leave you behind, or does she want to deepen the bond in a whole new way?

Good luck to both of you on this difficult fork in the path.

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