My spouse and partner of seven years is poly. I guess she’s held it in for years because it hasn’t been much of an issue or a subject of the relationship until she has fallen in love, or at least a strong crush, on another individual. Now she wants to redraw the relationship. I’m mono. Not just that, I have trouble viewing sex casually, or as anything but a deeply emotional and relationship enriching thing. We want to stay together, but it seems untenable. I suppose I’m looking for advice.

It sounds as if you’ve already pretty much made up your mind that you two can’t stay together, and want someone to try to talk you into staying. I can’t do that for you, because only you know what the best and healthiest choice is for you. All I can advise you to do is be honest with yourself about your needs and to talk openly with your partner about those needs, look for potential compromises, and be gentle with yourself and each other through the process.

The only other thing I can tell you is this: polyamory does not mean “viewing sex casually.” We do not cheapen or devalue sex as something that can be “deeply emotional and relationship enriching.” Polyamory does not mean sleeping around, not taking sex seriously, or being immature or irresponsible with our sexual and emotional health. The difference between poly and mono attitudes toward sex is not how flippantly and casually we view sex, but our conception of sex as an exclusive and possessive reflection of a relationship.

If you decide you really want to make this work, you need to re-frame your understanding of polyamorous sex - and polyamorous love, because it’s not all about sex! Your partner is not telling you that she doesn’t see sex as something special and important, but rather that she is capable of having that deep sexual connection with more than one person. Think about the love you have in your life that isn’t exclusive or zero-sum - your love for both of your parents, or all of your siblings, or your multiple close friends - and try to re-frame your model of sexual exclusivity and possessiveness.¬†

Good luck! You may never identify as polyamorous, or completely identify with your partner’s polyamorous feelings, but you can go a long way toward compromise if you work towards understanding the polyamorous experience of sexuality and do your best to re-frame the¬†preconceived¬†notions you’re bringing to the table. You don’t need to “view sex casually” to be okay in a polyamorous relationship - you just need to view sex as something that isn’t exclusive, possessive, or a zero-sum game.