Help! How do I let my crush know that my marriage is non-monogamous?

Louisa Leontiades Advice Column, Epic Relationships

Dear Louloria!

I live in a very happy marriage, me and my husband are deeply and passionately in love with each other and this is very evident to people who are around us. We both have a big capacity for love, and I have always been polyamorous but haven’t seen this as a life style option until a while ago when I fell in love with yet another man. That ended in heartbreak (it wasn’t mutual) but because of this my husband and I decided to open our marriage, and this has deepened our relationship even further! I´m very happy and feel much more whole, though a bit scared, naturally. None of us has had any other romantic relationship since we opened up.

Now I’m crushing yet again, on a man who I believe is a bit interested, but who is keeping his distance because, as I interpret it, of my obviously happy marriage. I can hardly eat or sleep, the thoughts of him are almost always there. We are moving in the same social circles and I can’t avoid him, should any approach end in embarrassment. I therefore would prefer if I could let him know of our open marriage so that he could make his interest more clear, before I make any move.

With the risk of sounding like a school girl, I desperately ask you this: How do I let my crush know of my interest and that my marriage is open?

– Ms. NewlyOpen

Dear Ms. NewlyOpen,

Never fear, all questions are good questions. I’m happy for you experiencing intense crushes, there really is nothing like them! But from a biological standpoint it’s a whole bunch of hormones rushing round your body… namely adrenalin and phenylethylamine which is putting you in a state which diverts your bodily functions away from those minor inconveniences like eating and sleeping. Basically, you’re high.

As with any other high, be very careful about what ‘irreversible’ decisions you make or don’t make in this period and be aware that you are likely to be attributing your high, to the presence of this new crush which will make you more desperate to keep him in your life. Try to realise, at least on an intellectual level that with or without him in your life, you will most likely experience this again. It may make you a little less desperate ;)

Here are some things to consider.

Firstly, you say that you move in the same social circles, but that he is unaware your marriage is open. This indicates to me that your social circle is also unaware that your marriage is open. So for me, the first question would be… how public are you willing to be about your life choices? Be aware that if you are not willing to be open to society, then any other relationship than the formally sanctioned one, will experience limitations and deception which may not be conducive to a long-term relationship as it will render your prospective partner to second class citizen status. This works for some people for their own reasons. But if you intend on adhering to western ideas of ethical behaviour, it is important that he be aware of what type of relationship is on the table so that he can consent to it (remembering that consent is an ongoing discussion and can change). Know then, what it is you are likely to be communicating when you tell him you’re interested in him.

Secondly, you speak of being embarrassed… and I’m guessing that this embarrassment is partly due to your fear of being judged by others in your social circle, more than simply learning that he’s not interested in any romantic relationship. If you do not have any shame around your choices, and do not fear rejection and criticism by your social circle then you would most likely realise if he is not interested, that it would simply be a matter of preference. Further than this, he may well like you well enough, but may also be facing the same issues of rejection, judgement and/or second class citizenship and be unwilling to accept these in his life. His life, his choice.

That you fear embarrassment at a social level points to a deeper issue, internalized shame… since fear of judgement hurts only because it mirrors your own judgement about yourself. I believe we can be proud of our choices to live a consensual life on your own terms, but you really have to believe it before you can discard your fear of being embarrassed. Social status, others’ opinions of us, how we present ourselves to the world – these are all things that are tied up with our own identity. Your happiness is worth more than your social status, your identity and your standing in the community. But the extent to which these largely external elements contribute to your happiness will effect your ability to be open. Obviously we spend our entire lives examining such questions.

It would also be easier if your community knew about your choice to open your marriage before you made a move. But in order to do this, you might think about equipping yourself with statistics and information for the backlash you may face, all the while properly understanding and believing that monogamy is just a valid a choice as polyamory, and that your open relationship will be perceived by others as threatening to the ‘rightness’ of their choices. These are battles that almost all of us who choose any kind of non-monogamy may have had to face at some point. The go to guide is More Than Two by Veaux and Rickert. I highly recommend it, although some have suggested (and I agree) that there is a space for a more intersectional work on the subject.

You may also fear embarrassment at a personal level. Why? Because you have made yourself vulnerable and we are both hard wired and conditioned to fear vulnerability. Luckily we have a rational mind which can help us overcome this fear. The survival mechanisms of our ancestors are not always rational in modern life. So you may choose to see vulnerability not a weakness, but as a strength. I recommend catching Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability which will help you reframe this.

Ask yourselves all these questions, examine what you would lose from your identity, reframe your perspective on vulnerability and when you feel strong enough, simply ask. I guarantee that without shame, fear of embarrassment, judgement and rejection, the question will be a whole lot easier because then it is a simple matter of preference. And yet…I am not suggesting that you must wait to ask although it may be seen as the wiser course of action, because asking in itself and putting yourself out there is all part of the journey.

I must admit, I recall with no small amount of fondness the beginnings of an open relationship and hope you can embrace the joy, pain and lessons that it will bring you.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Louisa

PS. I have written a whole lot of articles on self-esteem, identity and shame which you can find in the patron blog when you support the relationship chatline initiative for as little as $1.00 a month on patreon.