My relationship style is different than most people’s. I am married and I have long-term, stable relationships with several other people. I have the comfort and benefits of a secure relationship with my husband, and the ability to explore connections with other people. This has evolved over time, and comes from a deep sense of equality and curiosity.
When I tell people I am polyamorous (poly for short) there are a few questions that generally come up. For me being poly means:
- Being open to exploring romantic and sexual connections with other people to see how we can connect and enrich each other’s lives.
- Deeply knowing myself, my needs, and my comfort boundaries, and being able to clearly communicate them to other people.
- Being honest and communicative about how I feel and what I want, and communicating with my partners about my other partners.
- A strict adherence to STD testing for myself and my partners to ensure everyone’s sexual health and protection.
It can be hard work and requires a lot of emotional maturity and excellent communication skills to process through uncomfortable emotions. However, the diversity of relationships it has enabled is one of the great treasures of my life. I am not bound to only have one relationship with one person, or to search for “the one,” but instead have a wonderful community of people in which relationships are free to be what they can be and to change without the restriction of an external structure.
Growing up as a girl, monogamy was the only relationship model I knew. Either you were monogamous or single, and I always got the impression that being single was not good. There were also the cheaters I heard about in country songs, and they were bad people with little moral character or fortitude. I started dating in high school with these social structures deeply imprinted, but I found, much to my chagrin, that even while dating one boy I was quite capable of being attracted to and caring for a different boy at the same time.
I found it confusing and worried that I must be a bad person. I did not want to become that most reviled girl, the cheater, the slut, the one all the old movies showed would come to a bad end. So I did what so many others have done over time, I felt guilty about and ignored my feelings for people who I was not dating.
When I was 28, I found myself in the situation I had always thought I wanted. I had been dating a fellow engineer for many years, we had a nice place to live, a dog and a boat; things were perfect, and I felt trapped. After a while, I felt almost like an actor in a play reading out my lines, that did not authentically speak to whom I was or how I felt.
I wondered how long I could play the game, how long I could pretend that I didn’t have other interests, other passions and curiosities. Although I loved him very much he did not complete me in that Disney-story way, and I slowly began to think that no one person ever could. When we started talking about wedding plans I tried to resolve myself to it, thinking surely this was what I wanted, and that this was how it was supposed to go.
In the midst of this internal struggle I went to visit a college friend for the weekend and He was there, the classic sexy bad boy, and I became obsessed. He represented freedom and all the possibilities I felt like I was losing by marrying my nice guy. He ignited a fierce passion, and in my mind my very sensible nice boyfriend began to pale in comparison. Things did not go well, and I spent a year and a half being single and living alone on my parent’s ranch.
I had a lot of time to think things over, to regret and to learn. One thing became clear, I could only constrain myself to monogamy for so long before I came to resent it and that had a negative impact on my relationship. At times I thought perhaps I should just be single so that I would not break anyone’s heart, but I longed to have a stable partnership and someday have a family.
This paradox caused me a great deal of pain. But then, one day, I came across an interesting new idea: Polyamory. It seemed like such a natural fit for me. I was moving into a new social group, meeting people who were polyamorous, and reading “Opening up” and “The Ethical Slut.”
I tested the theory when I began dating a new man and told him that I still had strong feelings for another. He was kind and welcoming and accepting of it. When someone new interested either of us we would support each other in our explorations. He had been married before and was not ready to have a serious relationship, and I knew he would not be a good long-term partner, but it was a wonderful growing opportunity. I met my future husband during this relationship and he encouraged me to pursue a partner who had the same long-term goals as me.
Over time I came to develop a relationship with the sexy bad boy who started it all. We love each other deeply and have learned we are never going to make a good couple for a lot of logistical and everyday life reasons. He lives in a different state and on a day-to-day basis we have very different, and not particularly compatible, lifestyles. I want a family and he doesn’t, I want to live in the country and he is a city guy, but we love each other and see each other a few days a year, and it is sweet time.
I have developed other relationships, each one unique to the situation and the people involved. For example, another long-distance relationship is with a sailor who I met at Burning Man. I was there with my primary partner, but was interested in and attracted to him. He is rarely on land and I only see him once a year if I am lucky, but we talk and email and keep each other company. Because of his work, he struggles to have a regular relationship and I can bring him some comfort and connection. I really enjoy talking with him and seeing him when I can.
More locally, I date a fellow engineer I met while building an art project. He has been with his wife for many years and it took some time to find a way to interact with him in a way that was both satisfying and respectful to our primary partners. He and his wife are now roommates with my husband and me — which sounds potentially difficult, but it’s actually quite nice for all of us.
There have also been crushes and short-lived connections that didn’t work out. There have been some tears and hard feeling and changes, but for the most part, poly has been a deeply satisfying and enriching part of my life that I would never want to give up.
Now I am entering a new chapter in my life. In September I married my husband and we are looking forward to having a family. My husband and I are committed to having an open relationship, and neither of us feels comfortable with the idea of a strictly monogamous marriage. There are just too many experiences and interesting people to meet. We feel that not being able to explore opportunities as they come along would stifle and harm our relationship.
However, because we are trying to get our family started, it requires that I be sexually monogamous for an extended period of time. This makes me feel frustrated and vulnerable. Out of solidarity, my husband has agreed to be monogamous as well. We have found that that balance is essential for us. If he was able to be with other lovers and I was not, that would be an imbalance that could lead to hard feelings.
The other people I have relationships with have been supportive and understanding, and I have moved from a sexual relationship to a snuggly one with at least one of my lovers. It is a new chapter to be worked through with patience, communication and compassion, and I look forward to raising my children with a host of “Aunts” and “Uncles.”
Furpocalypse is a Colorado native and an engineer. She is actively building an open-minded, sustainable and supportive community near Boulder, Colorado. Her farm is home to a group of people, and is a gathering place for many more. She raises ducks and geese, and has an extensive garden. She spends her time playing outdoors, cooking, and sewing creative clothing.