Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What do polyamorous people want monogamous people to know that would help save a marriage? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
There is no shortcut to communication. Don’t ask people “my spouse did so-and-so, what does it mean?” Don’t go on the Internet and ask “what do men want?” or “what do women like?” Don’t try to drop hints. Don’t say “well, we talk about everything, but…” That “but” means no, you don’t talk about everything.
There is no shortcut to communication. I mean it for realsies. Talk about things. Even if–especially if–it’s really really hard to talk about.
If you can’t or won’t trust your partner, it’s over. A healthy relationship can not exist without trust. Don’t snoop through your partner’s phone or email. Don’t demand access to your partner’s Facebook. And most especially, don’t say “I will trust my partner as soon as I check up on them and know I have reason to trust them.” No, checking up on them is the opposite of trust. You learn to swim by swimming. You learn to trust by trusting.
Think carefully about money. I’m told economic problems are even more toxic to relationships than infidelity. Talk about money before you get married. Keep talking about it while you’re married. Don’t assume”oh, we love each other, so it will all work out.”
Check your expectations. Different marriages look different. Don’t assume that your partner will play the role you expect once you get married just because “everybody knows” that husbands do this and wives do that. If you have an expectation, it’s your responsibility to express it. If you don’t, and your spouse doesn’t live up to it, that’s on you. Not on them.
Don’t expect your partner to change for you. Don’t expect them to stay the same, either. Going into a relationship expecting to change your partner is madness. If you think “oh, they’re perfect, I’ll just get them to change thus-and-such,” think again. That road is paved with madness and disappointment. On the other hand, human beings do grow over time, and your partner does not owe it to you to stay the same. Your partner will change–just not necessarily in ways you want or expect. So what does that mean? Be flexible. Be resilient. Pardon reciprocally one another’s flaws and failings. And build tools to keep negotiating and keep in touch when you both change, because you will.
You won’t survive without respect. A relationship can bounce back from a lot of things–stress, catastrophe, even infidelity. I have never seen a relationship survive if one of the people involved stops respecting the other.
Be open. Intimacy is the food and drink of a healthy long-term relationship. Everything you can’t or won’t share with your partner’s–past relationships, past sexual exploits, past embarrassments and mistakes–impedes intimacy. If you think you can’t tell your partner something because if they knew it, they wouldn’t love you…guess what? They don’t love you. They live a projected fantasy about you, but only as long as you agree to play along with the fantasy. That’s not love. That’s a lie dressed in fancy ball clothes. You can’t live a lie.
Don’t take ending the relationship off the table. This is really, really non-intuitive. If you say “I absolutely can never leave,” you may accept compromises that disempower you or damage your sense of self. You may make sacrifices that undermine your own self-esteem. You may even allow yourself to be abused. Look, I get it–nobody likes to think that they can walk away. We all want to be live in forever love. But believing you can never leave is disempowering, and can lead to a very dark place. If you stay, let it be because you want to stay, not because you have to stay. The word we use for someone who can never leave is “prisoner.”