The Bitch in the House was the first feminist book I ever bought—and it was also the first book I’ve ever thrown away.
It was recommended to me, in high school, by my first openly feminist friend, who raved highly about it, insisting it would “change me.” The first half of the book did, in fact, leave an impression on me, however, though my ideals were slowly metamorphosing into what they are today, there was a section of the book I could not even bring myself to finish: The part about polyamory.
Growing up with Disney movies and my parents’ bitter but still traditional marriage, I never imagined there was anything other than monogamy. Cheaters were cheaters (I would always be in the front of any angry anti-cheating mob) and any lustful thoughts about anyone other than your partner was a major no-no.
After having left my last very monogamous relationship, I was on the look out for something physically and emotionally committed—something closed and something, well, normal. Instead I found my current boyfriend, who, truthfully, wasn’t the ideal candidate for my traditional single self.
Our romance already started rather oddly—I met him around New Year’s and assumed he was a gay hipster who just wanted to dance to some funk. When he kissed me I was taken aback. I thought “Jackpot!” but also “Huh, he is full of surprises.”
And full of surprises he was. He told me he loved me on our third date, just moments after he asked me this question: Have I ever shared a boyfriend before?
Never have I been asked that before, much less by someone I was seriously dating months later, crafting Valentines for, shyly meeting his friends and family, hoping I’d made the right impression.
I’ve also never been told that me sleeping with other people would be fine, as long as my heart was still his. I mean, who was this guy?
These would all normally have been red flags for me, but I still couldn’t get enough of him. I tried to fight my feelings for this strange progressive individual, who not only encouraged me to date other people, but also wanted to hear about it. It’s not like he loved me any less than my previous boyfriends—in fact he treated me better than most of them—but this sense of freedom he gave me was foreign to me, and after much deliberation, and numerous break-ups and make-ups we decided to be together and leave our relationship open. It’s worked perfectly for us so far.
Though my open relationship makes it out to seem like I am a changed woman—a girl who has two, maybe three boyfriends—this is not the case, and nor do I want it to be. After giving it a lot of thought and sleepless nights, I still cannot agree with polyamory. Yes, my boyfriend and I can have multiple sexual partners outside of our relationship, but actual “relationships” or secondaries, as the poly world refers to, is just out of the question for me. That is where I draw the line.
As a woman in an open relationship, you would think I would be supportive of the polyamory community, but I just can’t be. When the Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality just last month, their decision brought me to tears. It was a day to rejoice, a moment in history. But then in the following days when I read about how the poly community also wanted to have their slice of the marriage equality cake, the cheery music in the background came to an abrupt stop and I smirked, folding my arms across my chest, letting out a big “Really?!”
Hey, at least I’m being honest here.
The physical, to me, is exactly that—only physical. Though my boyfriend and I have the freedom to do what we wish, it is not like we are out collecting wives or husbands. We’re just living out our 20s; still committed to the other emotionally, but still having our share of fun. Now, actually having more than one partner, as opposed to just physical flings, seems to me to be defeating the purpose of being in a relationship with someone.
To me, love can’t be multiplied; loving two people equally, 50/50, does not seem possible. There will always be a favorite, there will always be someone’s needs met first before the other. I can’t share my boyfriend emotionally, nor would I want my affection and devotion to be shared also. The time, energy and vulnerability I put into a relationship, I believe, is precious-tailored for only one person. I cannot divide that between other people, actually caring about how their day at work was, or making just as much of a fuss about my secondary’s birthday as my primary’s.
My disagreement with the idea of poly relationships does not mean I wouldn’t want them to enjoy perks such as marriage equality, I just don’t see the point. Life partners should really only be monogamous—yeah let's still have our share of hook-ups and adventures, but at the end of the day I know who I really want to go home back to.
Yeah, I did have a change of heart about closed and open relationships, but the poly pool isn’t anything I’d ever want to dip my toe in, and I’m perfectly fine with that. My sex life might be a head scratcher to many, but I know one thing is for certain—I am only capable of being in love with one person at a time, and I am not apologizing for this.
I am apologizing for one thing though: Author Cathi Hanauer, I’m sorry I threw your book away.