"Ask Amy" tangles with polyamory again, and other advice columns
Old-school newspaper advice columnists usually take readers' polyamory questions seriously now, though they're sometimes skeptical of the concept. This even includes Ask Amy (Amy Dickinson), who once was openly hostile and dismissive. Her latest appears in many papers this week:
Ask Amy: My husband gets nervous about our loving threesome (among other titles, which are written by each newspaper)
My husband "Thomas" and I, both 67-year-old retirees, have been together for 39 years and married for four (we're in a same-sex marriage).
About three years ago, Thomas met "Ray," who is 13 years younger and in a fulfilling and demanding career with irregular hours.
After a couple of years of one-on-one dates, through mutual agreement a year ago, the three of us now spend a couple evenings together each week. We have all come to have a deep love for one another.
...When a day or more passes without a text from Ray, Thomas becomes more apprehensive that Ray is pulling out of the relationship. By the third day, Thomas is beside himself, and his fears begin to undermine my equilibrium.
This has happened several times, and each ends undramatically when Ray texts that he's been overwhelmed with work and that he does indeed love us.
Could you advise me on ways to help Thomas cope with Ray's occasional silences with more equanimity?
—Sometimes a Teenager
I infer that you two are in an “open marriage,” and now a polyamorous relationship with “Ray.” One hazard of allowing a third person into your marriage is that you have created a triangle, and relationship triangles are notoriously unstable. [Nothing in the letter suggests this problem here. –Ed.]
People are seldom exactly the same when it comes to managing anxiety. ... Your job is not to manage your partner’s feelings or reactions, but to manage your own. How do you feel when your husband expresses such an extreme reaction? You should be honest with him about the impact of his behavior on you.
Otherwise, you could point to patterns to help your husband recognize and perhaps better manage his own fears: “Every time Ray behaves this way, you are sent into a tailspin. Can you look at this pattern and trust the process so that you might not always be put through the wringer?”
Riding the emotional roller coaster is potentially damaging to his health, as well as being destructive to your relationship with each other.
One original of many (week of May 23, 2019).
This is better than four years ago when Amy was saying flat out, "Open marriages don’t work, because the 'openness' more or less negates the 'marriage.' " A few months before that she had merely ridiculed a different question asker. Quite a few of you bombarded her with letters after those, prompting her to respond to me and my "little newsletter" that "I am tickled to have pissed-off the pollies."
But a year later, she was at least giving a straight answer to a broken-poly question rather than an "I told you so." So perhaps you made her a little more circumspect.
Here's a sample of other mainstream advice columnists fielding poly questions nowadays:
● Dear Prudence (Mallory Ortberg, now Daniel Mallory Ortberg), hosted at Slate: a polyamorous neighbor.
Reading my next-door neighbor’s blog, I learned that, while married to one man, she is also polyamorous. She told me that her live-in boyfriend is their nanny, but her blog paints a different picture. Does it make me intolerant if I do not agree with raising children in this lifestyle?
—That’s No Nanny
You can disagree with it as much as you like. You are not obligated to approve of your neighbor’s choices. This won’t change their situation one whit, of course, but you are free to disagree and to raise your own children however you see fit in the privacy of your own home. I would recommend that you no longer read her blog, as it will only continue to provoke you, but I know how hard it is to resist the temptation of reading about someone else’s business, especially when it’s accompanied by the thrill of disapproval.
● From Alaska, My best friend and her husband are in an open relationship – and it’s making me question some things.
Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My husband and I do almost everything with our best friends, also a married couple. I am extremely close to the wife – I would consider her my best friend. And my husband is close to her spouse as well. I thought I pretty much knew all about them and their marriage but it turns out, I didn't; she recently told me she and her husband have an open marriage.
She said they have ground rules and so far it has really livened up their marriage and made them both happier. They are allowed to separately be with other people, or sometimes they jointly "see" someone.
I didn't even know what to say. ... The fact that they are having bisexual experiences through threesomes makes me incredibly nervous. Could her husband be interested in me or my husband? Could she?
My husband could tell something was up so I told him everything. His reaction was not what I expected. He doesn't seem freaked out at all. If anything, he's fascinated ... now he keeps bringing it up, cracking jokes about it, calling his buddy "lucky."
I feel very strange about us even hanging out with them, like will it be a matter of time before they suggest a foursome? And to add to that, now I'm afraid my husband is going to want to do this too. What can I do?
(From Wanda:) First, you can take a deep breath and relax. Just because your friends sleep with other people doesn't mean they want to or are trying to sleep with you – or your husband, for that matter. ... It means a lot that she trusted and confided in you, so rather than slamming the door on her, perhaps try to understand their situation.
(From Wayne:) ...And your husband? Oh, he's harmless. This is how bros typically react when they can't handle a topic — sex being one of the most complicated. Instead of having a grown-up talk about it, they joke and make fun to deflect their embarrassment/ fear/ insecurities. He's talking a big game to you, but he sure as heck won't make jokes about it in front of your friends. ...
● In Canada, My wife wants to sleep with multiple people but I only want her, what do I do?: Ask Ellie.
My wife of 12 years recently said that she wants to pursue a polyamorous lifestyle – i.e. a desire for multiple concurrent relationships.
We’ve been in a monogamous union, except for her brief affair nine years ago.
It left me with distrust and resentment that took years to move beyond.
... I’m now grappling with my emotional maturity. ... I’m unsure whether I can live with the likely resultant jealousy and loneliness involved if I stay in my marriage. ...
She says she wants me to be her primary partner (we have two children, ages 17 and 12), with freedom to come and go with these other satellite partners she wants to cultivate. ...
–Unsure Primary Partner
Despite my anticipating a rush of readers’ feedback emails explaining the benefits of multiple-partner relationships, I’m cutting to the chase regarding your personal dilemma with it.
Past jealousy and anticipated new “trauma” make it clear: Polyamory is not for you.
Your wife’s desire in that direction is part of who she is and how she wants to live. That’s her reality, not a judgment.
But your feelings cannot be labelled as “emotional immaturity.” Your maturity means knowing who you are, what you can accept for yourself, and choosing to live accordingly.
If you need to think this through more, go for counselling – individually and together, too.
But I’m betting the final answer for you is obvious: You want, and are only comfortable with, sharing love and intimacy with one person who loves you and wants that same kind of relationship with you.
● Also by the same columnist, Polyamory can be an alternative to cheating: Ellie.
I’d like to present an option to cheating: polyamory — having more than one romantic relationship with the full knowledge of all involved.
I’ve been married for 10 years to a wonderful woman. We have two kids and have been polyamorous for five years.
The idea that one person can fill all the needs of another is one that I find ludicrous.
My wife had wants and needs that I can’t and don’t want to fulfill.
She gets those needs fulfilled by her boyfriend. I get some things from my girlfriend that my wife can’t or is unwilling to provide. Everyone’s happy!
I believe that you’re happy. And it may well be that your wife, her boyfriend, and your girlfriend are all happy too.
You didn’t ask for advice, but you clearly seek a reaction.
To me, polyamory requires even more skill than a one-couple relationship. ...
● Not bad for the UK's awful Mirror: Dear Coleen: I want a polyamorous relationship – how do I reassure my partner?
I’ve been thinking a more polyamorous lifestyle would suit me better. My partner and I have both considered it, but I’m concerned she might be moving too fast.
We’ve both agreed that it’s something we would like to introduce into our relationship, but I suppose I’m worried she might have reservations she can’t quite voice. ... How can I reassure and encourage her to find out how she feels about us forming relationships with other people?
My first bit of advice is, while you have any questions hanging over it or any concerns at all, don’t even go there.
You have to be 100% sure that this polyamorous lifestyle is something you both want and that your partner isn’t going along with it because it’s what you want and she doesn’t want to risk losing you. ...
Do some reading online – there are polyamorous organisations and societies, as well as books and articles. Discuss what you’ve read.
Labels: advice columns