Advice – Husband wants to go back to monogamy.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

/u/kirannui on /r/nonmonogamy writes…

“We opened up our marriage recently after fifteen years together because my husband wanted to explore something with a female friend. I said, great, I’m bi so I’ll date women. He was good with that.

It wasn’t long before I realized that it can be really difficult to meet women who are OK with married bi women, and also, I am equally attracted to men, so I started dating them as well. My husband was super not OK with this. Neither of us handled this part very well – my husband flipping his shit over the idea of another man touching “his” woman, and me totally disregarding his feelings because I was pissed off at what I saw as cliche and patriarchal bullshit.

As of right now, my husband is no longer seeing the woman he initially wanted to date, and now wants to go back to being mono. He also wants me to stop seeing the man I’ve been dating indefinitely while we work things out, possibly to reopen after rebuilding trust, possibly not. I’m agreeing to it because as of right now I feel like the worst person in the world, and like I need to do something to repent. Also, he won’t kiss or have sex with me because he’s repulsed.

I know I fucked up by not taking his feelings into account when I decided to start dating men. But am I really that awful?”

Dear Kirannui,

Let’s start with this. You did mess up, but not for the reasons you think.

Your mistake wasn’t pursuing your attraction to both genders. No. Your mistake was in blaming yourself for your husband’s insecurities.

I want to make sure I am reading this correctly. Your husband had someone specific in mind when y’all decided to open up. You weren’t opposed to the idea, and to appease your husband’s insecurity, you pursued other women as well. You inadvertently agreed to his proposal of the One Penis Policy (OPP). However, you quickly discovered that the pool of available bi/lesbian nonmono women is a lot smaller than the pool of available bi/straight nonmono men. And when he got upset about how another man was touching “his” woman (barf) you internalized his insecurity. And now he wants to stop dating the girl he opened your marriage for, so that you can continue to be “his” woman (barf). You feel like you need to repent because you hurt his feelings.

I talked a bit about this in a column I wrote recently, but the most difficult aspect of ethical non-monogamy isn’t in dating others; the most difficult aspect of ENM is in accepting that your partners will also see others. Being comfortable with your partner dating others arguably makes you more ethically non-monogamous than a person who dates others but is not okay with others dating themselves.

Your husband’s lack of willingness to do his own half of the emotional labor to accept a bilaterally open relationship with you is unacceptable. It’s funny that you also recognized OPP as a patriarchal bullshit, but you still end up blaming yourself for your husband’s hurt feelings. He is wielding his insecurity to threaten you into submission. His jealousy is apparent in his behavior to withhold sex from you. How does he expect to deal with his insecurity and jealousy regarding other men?

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And let’s talk a bit about that pesky One Penis Policy.

One Penis Policy here is defined as an agreement or an established rule between an existing heterosexual couple where the female-half of a couple can only be with the existing male-bodied partner while the male-half is free to pursue other heterosexual relationships. Here is why OPP is generally considered unethical.

  1. OPP passively discredits same sex relationships as illegitimate by claiming that only heterosexual relationships will threaten the existing couple.
  2. OPP is grossly unfair to the female-half of the couple as it more than halves the pool of available dateable people. According to this quick survey from earlier this month, 24.9% of the survey responders were cis female while 54.4% were cis males. Majority of those cis female folks are straight (42.9% were straight, 42.7% were bi, and 7.3% were gay). For the sake of this arithmetic, let’s assume that you are also attracted to all transfolks and that the distribution of sexuality was uniform across all gender identities. That means the OPP effectively reduced your available pool from 72.04% of the population to 19.05%.
  3. Main motivation behind OPP is usually in the male-half’s inability or lack of desire to commit emotional labor to address their insecurities that they might have regarding sexual exclusivity.

So yes. OPP is usually pretty sexist. You were right to feel upset about this unfair agreement.

But I want to go back to the core issue at hand here. Why is it your responsibility to take his feelings into consideration when you date? Why is it your responsibility to scoop up the ice cream that he dropped while roughhousing with his brother? I encourage you to be a bit more courageous and face this unfairness head-on. It is your husband’s responsibility to do his own emotional labor here. It is your own prerogative to go slow to be compassionate for your spouse. But you absolutely do not have to agree to anything you don’t feel is fair. And if you feel like you realized something new, it is also your prerogative to initiate and negotiate changes in your existing agreements. It is not your responsibility to feel bad on his behalf for his patriarchal bullshit he deliberately did not work through.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

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2 thoughts on “Advice – Husband wants to go back to monogamy.

  1. Hey! Author of the survey here. My survey is not at all a representative sample of poly people, and it draws from a demographic– the rationalist community– that we know from other sources to be very very disproportionately male. In fact, my survey suggests that cis men are far *less* common among poly rationalists than among rationalists in general. I know it’s hard to find reliable demographic data about poly people, but I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that the gender ratio for poly people in general is imbalanced. 🙂
    Sorry for the confusion! Is there a way I could have edited my post that prevented this misunderstanding, do you think?


    • Thanks for the feedback! I actually participated in your survey and was really curious about the results. I was actually really, really surprised to see that gender imbalance in your survey. I agree with you that the selection was probably biased toward one gender due to the platform.

      I dont remember if I saw sample size for the overall study. How many people responded?


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