Can you turn infidelity into healthy polyamory? | I'm Poly and So Can You

For more than two years, I was seeing a married man. Several months ago, his wife figured things out. We took a break while they talked. It appears they are on the path to making things work; they are communicating and exploring their sexuality. We recently started to see each other again. The main dynamic of our relationship is BDSM. He is interested in establishing a poly-type relationship, but he is not sure his wife would be open to it. Do you think it is possible for him to establish a poly relationship out of something that started out as non-ethical non-monogamy? If so, how should he go about it?

Oof, I have so many follow-up questions about this one!

  1. Why did he cheat on his wife in the first place? Was it the result of a traumatic life event? A sexual and/or romantic incompatibility? A quid pro quo scenario? Or are there extenuating circumstances, ie the wife had/has a disability or condition that caused her to want sex less often, the wife was intentionally withholding sex, etc.

  2. While you were seeing him, were you also engaged intimately with others? If so, did they know about your relationship with this man, or were you concealing it as well?

  3. Have you and the wife had any direct communication between the two of you throughout your affair with the husband, and/or since the first affair ended?

  4. Have either you or the husband ever been involved in open and honest poly relationships in the past (with other partners)?

  5. And perhaps most importantly for where you’re at now: Does the wife know that you and her husband have re-started your relationship?

In my experience, it tends to bode well for potential poly partnerships when the catalyst for the partnership is to fill a void that one (or both) of the individuals’ other partners aren’t interested in filling. For example, you say that the main dynamic of your relationship with this man is BDSM, but you don’t mention what his newly reinvigorated sexual relationship with his wife looks like. Are they too exploring BDSM, or are her interests more of the vanilla kind? There’s an unfortunate stereotype out there about kink play: that it can’t be compared to “real sex”, that it’s somehow inferior to more conventionally-accepted ways of connecting sexually. This stereotype, as inaccurate and insulting as it can be, also has the potential to work in your favor. If the wife is thoroughly disinterested in - and perhaps even disgusted by - the idea of BDSM, then she may very well welcome a purely-BDSM outlet for her husband to have. She might be less inclined to feel threatened because your style of play with her husband would not closely mimic her own more traditional leanings.

All that being said, and despite your genuine desire to continue forward in a transparent and ethical manner, there’s no ignoring or denying that your relationship with this man began with deception. Moving forward successfully depends on a number of different variables.

Factors that bode well for a poly configuration working:

  1. You and/or the husband have had past poly experience with other partners.

  2. You and the husband are currently carrying on your BDSM relationship with the wife’s blessing.

  3. The wife has done a lot of formal forgiveness work in the interim and harbors no grudges or ill will towards both you and her husband; she is able to address your past relationship easily, without animosity, maybe even engaging conversationally with you or sharing space with you in a positive-neutral way.

  4. The wife indeed has no interest in BDSM.

  5. The present relationship between husband and wife could be described as healthy and stable.

If you can stand behind at least four of those statements, then I think there is a chance of something evolving that benefits all three parties. Otherwise, however, I’d cut your losses and GTFO.


Andre Shakti