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I was never that great at monogamy. I loved people, intensely, passionately, sometimes painfully, but in the back of my head there was always an expiration date. It didn’t matter how attractive or intelligent or kind the guy that I was dating was; I always kind of knew that there would be a point where I was just tired of him, and that’d be it.
I am also bi, with a preference for men but a strong attraction to women, and the guys that I dated were only cool with me exploring that aspect of my sexuality if they were also invited.
It always seemed to follow the same path. I would meet a guy and fall for him; we’d be happy for a little while. I’d get bored with our sex life and start looking around for another option. I’d break up with him. In between, I’d fantasize hopelessly about women that I knew, or threesomes, or bondage, or any of the other kinks that I was interested in exploring but never really got a chance to.
When I was 23, I broke up with a long-term boyfriend and, for the first time in my adult life, found myself really alone. I was living with a roommate in one of the busiest neighborhoods in Chicago, working a job that encouraged social behavior, and I was really, truly single, with no dating prospects on the horizon.
I’d been doing what some people call serial monogamy for years, and I knew that it wasn’t good for me. I decided that I would see what it was like to actually date people, rather than immediately settling into a kind of pseudo-marriage with one man.
It wasn’t too long after that that a friend of mine, a girl I’d had a crush on for years, told me that she was in a polyamorous relationship with a couple. I’d heard the term polyamorous before, but I wasn’t super familiar with the concept. Once she explained it to me, though, I was pretty intrigued -– I can date people? More than one? And I don’t have to choose which one I like best at some point, leaving me regretting the road not taken? Win.
She ended up becoming my first girlfriend. We were hanging out at a friend’s place, spooning on a couch, when I turned around and told her that I wanted to kiss her. It was the first time I’d ever had sex with a woman, and I was lucky it was someone like her. It was beautiful and easy and joyous, everything that I’d built it up in my head to be.
I dated her, as well as a couple of guys, and wasn’t shy about hooking up with other people on the side. And man, I loved it. I felt beautiful, desirable, intelligent, and interesting, like a French courtesan taking lovers at will. Only, perhaps, with more whiskey and karaoke, and fewer diamonds and champagne.
I became very active in the poly community, helping to run and organize events. I made a lot of friends through that, some of whom I’m still really close with. I was dating a man and a woman, both fairly seriously, when I met the man I can only describe as my soul mate. I know that terms like that are cheesy as hell, and I’m sorry to use it, but how else do you describe the person that, after two dates, you want to tell all of your darkest, most painful secrets to? Whom you trust absolutely? Who seems to understand you in a way that is completely unexpected, and just as completely wonderful? Seriously, I’m asking.
When we started dating, I immediately felt like he was something that had been missing from my life. He was gorgeous, smart, sensitive, and open-minded, and not only listened to me talk about things like intersectional feminism, but asked insightful questions and formed opinions based on my answers. I wanted to be around him all the time, and I just felt happy and at ease with myself when I was. We talked about how we felt and what we wanted, and he was right there with me.
Now, I don’t want this to come across as some kind of critique of polyamory. It’s something that works for some people, and frankly, it was really good for me to experience that relationship style. It made me more open about my needs and a better communicator. It also helped me get over my lingering social anxiety. I’m still a fairly introverted person, but I’m not scared of social situations the way that I used to be, and I can only be grateful about that. I’m also really grateful to the people within that community, who are, by and large, friendly, thoughtful, engaging, and generous with their time and advice.
Although I quickly realized the depth of my feelings for my current partner, I didn’t immediately want to be monogamous with him. I loved him and knew that I wanted to be with him, but I also had very strong feelings for some of the other people that I was with. I think if he’d asked me to choose between him and them, I probably would have chosen differently.
Ultimately, though, there was no real conflict between my relationship with him and my polyamorous ways; I just felt like I needed to nurture my relationship with him, to help make it as strong as it could be before trying to negotiate the waters of non-monogamy with him.
There is a certain sense of scorn in the poly community for the knights, the (usually) men who think that the (usually) women in the community are just waiting for the right guy to come along and rescue them. That’s a sentiment that I still agree with, to a certain extent. Polyamory is a totally valid choice, and to assume that someone is only practicing it because they haven’t met the right person yet is, frankly, wrongheaded.
On the other hand, sometimes I wonder if maybe I wasn’t waiting for that very thing. Not consciously -– I was very happy with my partners, and hadn’t really thought about giving them up -– but I did have a certain desire for a deeper connection, which might have planted the seed in my mind.
Once I started seeing him, I broke up with first my male partner, and then, with a lot of sadness, my female partner. It’s hard when you love good people, but just know that it’s not the right relationship for you. I’m lucky that they were interested in staying friends with me. It makes things awkward sometimes because it can be difficult to learn how to relate to someone after that kind of a shift in your relationship, but I don’t think I would have been OK with not having them in my life.
I feel like I should offer some kind of summary or conclusion, but honestly, I don’t really have one. I don’t think poly is just a phase, but it might have been for me, kind of. I think poly is great for some people, and can be an opportunity for personal growth, but I know other people that would just be terrible with it. Maybe all I can really take away from my experience is that you just never know what’s going to stumble into your life and change it completely. I never expected to become this conventional, but I also never expected to be this happy.