Polyamory & Managing Attachment

I received this message through my contact page and since it’s the kind of question a lot of people have, I thought I’d turn it into a blog post.

I am 31, married, and working as expatriate away from my husband. Not only that I have an extremely high libido but also I am using sex as stress relief, so we have an understanding that we can have an open marriage as long as it doesn’t complicate matters.

My issue here is how to ask men for sex without engaging into a relationship. I am very communicative and emphatic, so men easily fall for me. This I have no nerves, energy or wish to deal with. I am interested only in sex. What should I do? How to approach them?

It’s amazing how often this kind of thing comes up. Lots of women who are looking for partners say that the men they meet don’t want to get tied down, while the ones who are looking for a non-exclusive lover often run across guys who want to turn it into a relationship. It probably says something interesting about people (or at least, men who have sex with women). In any case, there are a few things you might try to increase the odds of finding someone compatible with your needs.

First off, are you looking for men who are already familiar with open relationships/polyamory? Although the overall pool is smaller, it’s worth starting with men who are in that world because they’re more likely to understand what you want and be on board with the idea. In fact, you might even find a guy who’s looking for a lover while his partner is out of town or something similar. If you’re not sure where to look, check out polyamory.com. And depending on where you are, there might be a local poly organization you could connect with. In my experience, you’re more likely to find success if you can find partners who understand what you’re looking for and are seeking something similar.

Whether you go that route or not, I think that one of the less recognized skills of open relationships is managing attachment. I’m talking about attachment as bonding, not attachment in the Buddhist sense of the word. For example, my partner and I are in an open relationship and one of the ways that we manage that is that we don’t do sleepovers. After a date, we go home, take a shower, and sleep in our bed. That’s because sleeping with someone (and I’m using that word in the literal sense, not as a euphemism for sex) is usually very bonding, especially after having sex with them. Scents and pheromones have a way of increasing connection, so limiting that can keep things from getting entangled.

Other people have guidelines like limiting how often they get together with someone, or how often they talk on the phone/email/text, or what kinds of sex they have. I know people who will get together with a lover for drinks, but not dinner. Or who will split the cost of dinner, rather than letting the other person pay for it. Or who might get dinner with a lover, but not do more “date-like” things such as going to a movie.

Since there are different approaches, I definitely suggest reading Tristan Taormino’s book Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. While there are other great books on the topic, Opening Up has a lot of info gleaned from the author’s survey of over 120 people in different open relationships, so you’ll have more ideas to work with. The book also has lots of resources and community groups, so that will probably help you find like-minded people.

Another way you can maintain some distance, as well as your safety, is to have a very frank and honest discussion with each potential partner about your safer sex limits. I’m a big fan of Reid Mihalko’s safer sex elevator pitch as a really useful model. And stick to your boundaries- sometimes, we want to shift them as we get to know someone and feel more comfortable, but it’s important to keep them consistent. Not only does that protect you, it also keeps your sexual relationship from drifting in the direction of a romantic relationship.

Some people also maintain some distance in their sexual relationships by making their other lovers topics for conversation. I’m not suggesting that you gossip about your partners or turn dinner into a processing session. Instead, if you say things like “I got an email from a lover of mine about this issue that I know you’re interested in…” or “I was talking with my husband on the phone and…” That can help keep the person you’re with from forgetting about your husband or pretending that he doesn’t exist. If a guy can’t handle that, then odds are he can’t handle what you want, anyway.

On the flip side, how much do you tell your husband? I know that a lot of people have “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies, especially if it’s happening at a distance. But I’ve seen that lead to even more complications in the long run. In any case, if you do tell your husband about your other relationships, it doesn’t have to be in detail. And simply telling a potential lover that your husband knows what you’re up to can help keep things transparent. It also reduces the chances that your lover will think that he can get you to break up with your husband.

It’s probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with New Relationship Energy. NRE is that feeling at the beginning of a relationship when we often become a bit obsessed with someone, we have difficulty seeing their flaws, and we want to spend a lot of time with them. It’s part of the bonding/attachment process and often lasts about six months, give or take. It can be a lot of fun, but it can also lead us into deepening a connection more than is good for us. It takes some practice to ride it without letting it ride you, which is why I suggested seeking men who are familiar with open relationships and creating some boundaries to maintain some distance.

I hope that helps and that you find the fun and pleasure you’re looking for!

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2 Responses so far.

  1. John Ullman says:

    One possible way to get as much sex as you want without attachments is to become a sex worker. Your SO would have to be OK with it, and you’d have to figure our what to do with all the money, but it does get you what you want: sex on your terms, when you want, and they go away afterward.

    Just sayin’…


  2. Omorka says:

    It can also help to talk about what exactly everyone involved means by “relationship.”  I’m personally not interested in having a second primary partner right now, but I’m also not interested in having sex with people who aren’t close friends or at least interested in becoming such. This means I’ve had to turn down people who were otherwise compatible but looking for either no-strings-attached sex, on the one hand, or a cohabiting triad, on the other.

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