On our third date, I met my new beau’s family, or most of it at least. His two kids (both under three, and adorable), his husband, one of his other partners and his kids–and that’s not even to mention the dogs. You could hardly accuse these people of a lack of love. There was plenty to go around.
My beau jokingly said to me that if I wanted to run away screaming, now would be the time. I’ll admit, part of me wanted to run away, but it wasn’t the poly family: it was me. It was that feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when I know I’m horribly out of place. All of these people had found their domestic bliss: partners (plural), kids, pets… things I have apparently sacrificed for the sake of a career, minus some cats. Not that the opportunity for settling down and starting a family has ever exactly come a-knockin’. So I said to him what I thinking, “I’m just not sure what I bring to the table.”
I guess that’s always been my concern with poly partners. What could I possible have to offer that you’re not already getting from your other partners? I know that’s my quirkyalone insecurity speaking; that in some ways being a quirkyalone is the exact opposite of being polyamorous. My natural state is singledom, and because of that how one even accomplishes polyamory is completely baffling to me. I have a hard enough time finding one person to date…
I guess the irony is I think I’d have more luck romantically if I were polyamorous. The traits I’m most concerned with in a sexual/romantic partner (queerness, kink level, fat-acceptance, etc.) all do intersect… but I’ve almost always found that when all those things do show up simultaneously, so does polyamory. And it’s not like I haven’t tried.
My first encounter with polyamory was with a girl I met in college. I’d recently come out and gotten dumped by my first girlfriend after just a few short weeks when I met this girl. We started hanging out, a lot, and it wasn’t long until she was hanging on my arm every time we went out. I knew she had a boyfriend, so as far as I was concerned she was off limits. Then she told me she was “polyamorous.” It was the first time I’d ever heard the term, and she was adamant that it wasn’t about sex, but about having “many loves.” (My critical opinion many years later: it’s definitely about both.)
Anyhow, under her direction, we started something up because she told me her boyfriends (there were two) were fine with it. Well, I came to find out that her primary partner did not know about me, and then it became this waiting game where I asked her when she was going to tell him, and got a less realistic answer each time. “I’ll tell him tomorrow… next week really is better… I’m going to wait until spring break… You know, maybe I’ll just tell him over the summer.” You can see the writing on the wall. Without getting too much into the mucky details, he did eventually find out, lots of promises of “never again” were made, and everything went to hell in a hand basket. Years later I heard through the grapevine that she married someone who doesn’t believe cheating is possible, since he didn’t believe in monogamy.
Lesson I learned from this: Always tell the truth. No, SERIOUSLY.
My second dance with polyamory was a much better of example of how to successfully maintain multiple relationships at once. I’d been out of college about six months at this point, living in a new city, and was at a party specifically for queer women. I didn’t expect anything special to happen (you know, in effort to save myself the disappointment when nothing does happen). Well, not only did I meet someone that night, but I got in touch with my inner exhibitionist too. The woman I met that night became my first Mistress, and she taught me much about the kink scene, playing safely, and Top/bottom psychology. She believed in a discipline model wherein you ignore the behavior you dislike, and reinforce the one you like. I can’t say this works 100% of the time, in my experience, but I do like the model, especially when dealing with adults.
That relationship eventually ended because of a miscommunication (boy, did I ever feel disposable after that), but she had the poly thing down. She had her primary partner (who she lived with, but maintained her own bedroom), a girlfriend, a house girl, and whomever else came along that she wanted to play with. For about six months, I was her “boi.” But she was open with everyone involved about her relationships, and her consistent partners were part of her “tribe,” as she put it. I got invited to a tribe brunch once or twice, but I couldn’t help feeling like a bit of a fifth wheel.
Lesson I learned from this (besides the invaluable knowledge about myself as a kinkster and smart/safe play practices): When in doubt, it’s better to communicate too much than not enough.
After Mistress, I did date another poly person, but it was so short-lived that it never became an issue.
So here I am, after several years, venturing into poly world again. Sometimes I think I ought to try harder. I seem to love, well, harder than some, and many of my exes have not been able to handle it. Poly folk, though, are used to a lot of love. I don’t seem to scare them the same way. But I’ve never felt drawn to polyamory. Like, when I heard the term “quirkyalone” or “genderqueer” for the first time, there was something in me that lit up with recognition. This has never happened with polyamory. It’s always been something I’ve admired in people who can manage it, but nothing I ever saw as applicable to me. Since I’ve known about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that some people are just wired for polyamory, just as some are wired for monogamy.
This isn’t to say I don’t believe in open-minded relationships. If I was with someone and they really wanted to fuck someone else, I would absolutely want them to come talk to me. And hey, if you’re back in my bed at the end of the night and you’re safe about it, it’s all fine by me. I do realize there’s more to a relationship than committing to be sexual with only one person. People have needs, I get it. And really, my issue with cheating is that it’s LYING, and also that you’re putting your fluid-bound partner at risk without their knowledge or consent, which is pretty damn screwed up in my book.
So how can I fault the polyamorous? Sure, there are a few bad eggs, some folks who say they’re poly because it’s easier than trying to get out of an unhappy relationship all together, but they’re the outliers. Because the whole lifestyle is based on honestly, I’ve generally found that the polyamorous have a much easier time with honesty and open, direct communication than many monogamous couples I know. (Just as I’ve found kinksters have a much more vibrant and active dialogue around consent than vanilla folks do, since playing requires it. Sadly, I have many vanilla friends who’ve never even had a conversation about consent with their partner… it’s just assumed… which, at this point in my life, I consider downright disrespectful. There’s really nothing sexier than asking, in my opinion, at least with a new partner.)
Anyhow… I worry that I’m not going to fit into his family very well. His day to day life is kids, animals and school. Mine is work, work and more work. But I really like him… so it seems worth trying.
He came over later that night. I made dinner, we cuddled and watched The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and eventually commenced with the oodles of kissing. He definitely makes me feel special when we’re together, and isn’t that all a girl could want? It’s all I want, really. Someone who will accept my love, and make me feel special to them. The rest is all gravy.