The Other Orientation Issue: Poly and Mono

In every mixed-orientation marriage, there’s comes a moment, or many, many moments, when an open marriage is considered, discussed, maybe even tried on for size. It only makes sense. If a gay or bisexual person is going to be married to a straight person, the only other option is stuffing the same-sex desire. Forever. That’s pretty bleak prospect, and one a loving person would never want to impose on another. This, ultimately, became one of the big questions in my marriage: Could I live in an open marriage or in a marriage where my partner had to deny half (or more) of herself?


My poly family (not). Actually this is an abbreviated version of what the back of my minivan would have looked like with a woman I dated, who happens to have a gay husband.

My wife was very effective at keeping it on lock-down. She is supremely self-disciplined, and even ‘proper.’ She had a deep religious belief in the sanctity of marriage. And yet she was in frequent and obvious torment. The early signs that this would be a very, very difficult life were everywhere: She admitted to being bisexual shortly after we met, her only sexual love affair had been with a woman, and she admired and identified with a couple she knew who had had ‘married’ a second woman. Yet we naively thought it wouldn’t matter, that love would conquer all. For my part I thought bisexuality was like a switch, I suppose, and that monogamy was just as possible for her as for me. (As for the poly wedding, I just didn’t even understand what that was supposed to be about; it never dawned on me that that would have been her ideal situation until after we were married.

Of course the trouble started within six months of being married. I won’t go into the long story, but the short version is that she frequently and consistently fell in love with women she knew, sometimes only with a physical attraction, but more than a few times with a deep, emotional love – a true emotional affair. And as I pulled back from her to protect myself from these wounds, the idea of an open marriage was always there.

Now, there was a long period when our four children were young when this issue seemed to fade, and if our sex life didn’t get much better, things settled into what I can only now describe as a don’t-ask, don’t-tell rut. But inevitably it returned. As it always would.

And this time when it returned I really had to deeply consider whether an open marriage was the right thing. I tried and tried to wrap my mind around the idea of her having a lover, and possibly me having one, too. But that made no sense to me. I’ve always been a one-woman man. I’ve never cheated. (I’ve been cheated on, but that’s a different story.) I want someone who wants me and me alone as a lover and partner. I know we can’t be all things to all people, but in my partner, I need that sense of completeness to go both ways. Always have, always will.

There are people out there who make statements like: “People who can’t embrace polyamory are unevolved.” That makes me angry. I do not judge or dismiss the practice, if everyone is honest and on board. It just isn’t for me. I’m not orientated that way.

Because I do believe this is part of our orientation – whether we’re wired to be monogamous or not, whether we’re able to give and receive everything we need from one love partner. Me? I want and need that. My wife? She wanted me and a woman. She would have been willing to forgo it to stay married, but the stark reality was that she was not and never was satisfied with me. She couldn’t be. We were just oriented differently – both our sexual orientation and our, if you will, numerical orientation. And in the end, that was too big a difference.


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One response to “The Other Orientation Issue: Poly and Mono

  1. Glad I found this writing! On my own blog, I sometimes try to address this very same issue for new bi folks and their straight partners – and, as you’ve discovered, it’s a mess and a half. On the one hand, there’s the sanctity of marriage… on the other your love for your wife and your duty to handle all of her needs and keep her happy… except you don’t have all that she needs. Being monogamous isn’t ever going to compensate or set aside the fact that if she wants and needs a woman’s touch, you could never, ever, provide that for her.

    Sucks, doesn’t it? It’s no reflection on you – just something that bisexuals have to deal with.

    My own marriage went through this – we eventually wound up being poly and having two poly “wives” just so that my wife could have the womanly touch she so very much required: She was made happy and that’s all that really mattered; that I benefitted from this eventual arrangement (as did all of our kids) was just as much gravy as it was a headache being the only husband.

    Some people do think you can just turn it off like a light and while some folks can ignore their feelings, eventually, they’re gonna come home to roost and now you’re faced with a problem – a lot of people in this situation cheat, which ruins the marriage but some do what I did: Open it up and with the focus that our marriage – and its survival – is more important than what anyone else thinks about how we’re keeping each other happy.

    Of course, for you, it becomes a question of, “If you could change, would you?” Without any offense meant, I know that most people in your situation would say no because it doesn’t fit their idea of marital bliss; it offends their sensibilities too much. Then, depending on your love for her and the strength of your devotion to her, the next question is, “What are you willing to do in this and simply because you love her?”

    Most people would say, “nothing” for the same reasons why they wouldn’t change. If it means anything to you, what I learned is that if I loved her as much as I say I did and that if I were as committed to the success of our marriage as I said I was, I learned to change – I did change – because our marriage was about US and not just us as individuals.

    So we did what was best for US and the rest is history…

    Thanks for letting me comment; I’ll be following you from now on!

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