Sunday, January 24, 2016

1-24-2016 Entry: Polyamory 102, a Continuing Journey Into Non-Monogamy

Hello my darlings. I know it has been a while since I checked in but life has been both busy and yet, pretty uneventful. Compared to the festivities of last weekend and the potentialities of new romance, this weekend has been somewhat of a drag. Don’t get me wrong, there was still fun socializing but nothing quite as exciting as the topless hot-tub adventure of last week, although I suppose it would be unreasonable to expect that every weekend.

You may recall that I said this past Friday would be my first trip to a swinger “play party” with my poly girlfriend but unfortunately Rose was mistaken about the day of the party, which isn’t until this coming Friday. I was a bit sad to hear that I’d have to wait another week to have this experience, but such is life. I am still just as eager, if not more eager, thanks to the added anticipation to go to this queer-friendly play party.

The extra week also gave me the opportunity to truly reflect on whether or not I wanted to actually do this, or if I was jumping into something I wasn’t ready for simply because the opportunity presented itself. I believe that I am ready for this, even if I feel a bit nervous about it. I’m hoping having Rose there to sort of take care of me will make this experience a really good one.

But enough about that, I’m sure I will have plenty to talk about once that has actually happened, so definitely be sure to check in next weekend for my report about the party. Today, however, I want to talk more about polyamory and my experience of it thus far.

As with any new experience there are sure to be ups and downs, excitements and disappointments, victories and setbacks, and the general anxiety of the unknown. Rose and I have been seeing each other for about a month and a half. I believe our first date was in the early part of December or the end of November (I cannot recall) and she has stayed the night with me twice. I did not get to see her this weekend because she and her husband had some family duties to attend to, but I will be seeing her tomorrow morning (and this coming Friday, of course).

Although we do not get to see one another super often, we definitely talk every day. Every morning she sends me a message like “Good morning beautiful” or “Good morning sexy woman” and every night she tells me goodnight in a similar fashion. We talk on the phone probably 3 or 4 times a week and our conversations are always interesting. They are not always good or even great, which is where the downs, disappointments, and setbacks start to come into play.

The first negative to this whole situation is simply that I do not get to see or talk to my girlfriend as much as I would honestly like. I’m not sure if this is just a consequence of having been in a relationship for 6 years where we spent maybe 10 days away from one another in that entire time, or if I just legitimately feel like we don’t spend enough time together. I know that she misses me and that she gives me about as much time as she honestly can, but there are lonely days/nights/moments where I wish she was around when she isn’t or can’t be.

The second negative to this situation is that the primary partner always comes before me, the secondary partner. I know you are probably thinking that jealousy is an issue here, but that’s only a very small piece of the puzzle. Yes, there is a tinge of jealousy at times when she talks to me about her sex-life with her husband. She never goes into super inappropriate details so that I am uncomfortable, but knowing that they have spent the morning together doing dom/sub play or rope-play makes me feel a bit jealous that I wasn’t a part of it or that the so-called play wasn’t with me instead. The jealousy is honestly fleeting and rarely sticks around for very long. It, thus far, has not created a problem for me or made me feel so uncomfortable that I want to end the relationship.

This dynamic of the primary coming before the secondary is also problematic in other ways outside of jealousy. To put it simply, if there is drama in the relationship between my g/f and her primary (an argument, a disagreement, family issues with the kids), that drama inevitably spills over into our relationship. If there is drama between her primary and one of his secondary partners, that inevitably spills over into their relationship, which then spills into Rose and I’s relationship. This is not to say that this spilling over has become a huge problem, but I have had to set some boundaries on this subject. When the conversation between Rose and I becomes too much like a marriage therapy session where I’m acting as a marriage counselor or confidant, things become problematic for me.

As I had to tell Rose, and as I would suggest to anyone out there thinking about polyamory, the secondary partner should not be the shoulder to always cry on when things with the primary partner don’t go well. It’s unreasonable to think that there won’t be at least some inevitable spillover when issues arise, but there is a difference between being spilled on and becoming a dumping ground for unresolved feelings. I have been happy to be a friend and to share the intimacy of such deep and private feelings, but there is a certain point when things go too far. For me, it’s when the conversation becomes about nothing besides her marital woes instead of us connecting about how much we like one another, mutual interests/experiences, or desires for the future. For you, that line might come sooner or later, but the key to navigating this issue is to set boundaries and to speak up for yourself when you feel uncomfortable. If you are fortunate like I am to have a mature and balanced partner, then this shouldn’t be a problem. If it is a problem to set boundaries or to speak up when you are uncomfortable, then I would advise taking a good, hard look at whether or not the relationship is worth the trouble.

The final issue I’ve run into since I began this journey into polyamory is the limitations it places upon you should you desire to add another relationship to your life. Not everyone is okay with sharing, and not everyone is even okay with someone who is okay with sharing. Polyamory is a lifestyle that few people truly understand and even fewer actively engage in, so unless you get in with a community of poly people (which tends to happen; birds of a feather flock together, as the saying goes) your pool of potential romantic partners becomes smaller; especially if you are hoping to maintain that initial poly relationship.

What this means is that should you begin to see someone that you really like and they tell you that they do not want to share you, you must make a difficult decision. Ideally you were open about your poly life from the beginning (seriously, be open, nobody likes a player) so you’ve hopefully had some time to consider this possible outcome, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. What happens if you are a secondary partner and it’s going really well, but you start seeing someone who you like a lot, but maybe not as much as your first poly-partner, and they want you to become exclusive? If you are their primary/solo partner, then a monogamous relationship could be possible whereas with your first poly-partner it will never be possible because you are a secondary. What do you do? Do you stick with your poly-partner knowing that it will never become more than it is already, or do you give that up to be monogamous with your other less-desired partner where things could eventually end up in marriage/kids/etc.?

Only you can know the answer to that question but the important thing is to consider this crossroads before you get to it. Obviously none of us have a crystal ball that prepares us for every twist in the road of life, but it’s really important to have a basic contingency plan should you be placed in this situation. For me, the answer is relatively easy. I would go with the monogamous relationship over the poly relationship simply because of the potentials it offers that the poly relationship doesn’t. This contingency, should also be discussed with your poly-partner as well so they know that it is a possibility. Thankfully Rose and I have had this discussion and we are both on the same page that eventually, I will likely find someone who doesn’t want to share me and if that happens I will likely break things off with her for that monogamous relationship. We have both accepted the ramifications of that contingency and have decided to move forward despite them.

But polyamory is not all thorns. There are roses to this situation as well, and often they are positive aspects of the very same vine. Not getting to see my poly g/f all the time means I have plenty of time to do the things I want while not having to worry about constantly attending to her needs. My marriage was unbelievably codependent, and oftentimes detrimentally so. My ex and I were both very codependent people. She constantly needed someone to rescue her or to clean up her messes and I was constantly looking for opportunities to be her knight in shining armor. In bigger ways this played out with me working a job I detested to help her pay for her massive student loan bills, or by me taking care of financial situations that she was too overwhelmed to deal with. In smaller ways this played out with me going out of my way to do small favors for her like picking her up from work when she could have taken the bus home, or by me saving her from her often overpowering emotions. I cannot count the number of times I had to calm her down or soothe her rampant anxiety when she got herself worked up. I don’t have to do that with this poly-relationship, and I never really will.

Sure, sometimes Rose has a shitty day and needs someone to talk to in order to feel better, but that’s not the same thing as becoming so overwhelmed that she requires me to comfort her by saying that everything will be okay and that things aren’t as bad as they seem. Rose doesn’t *depend* on me to comfort her or to rescue her when things become too difficult to handle emotionally. She will never ask me to deal with the bank because she’s too anxious to talk to them. If she is going to do that, it will be her primary partner who must carry that burden. She might hope that I can comfort her or that I will be there when she needs me to be, but it’s not a dependency thing as much as a mature relationship dynamic of mutual respect and mutual desire to be a good partner.

Not having Rose around all the time also allows me to continue to date and to have a social life that my marriage never did. Just as polyamory can be detrimental to dating potential by shrinking the pool of available prospects, it also increases the potential to meet more people you may like. Rose doesn’t require me to see her and only her, and so I am not prevented from dating other people I might be interested in. Just because I have a relationship doesn’t mean I must turn away every girl who flirts with me and it certainly doesn’t mean I can only have sex with one person.

Although polyamory can shrink the pool of potential romantic partners, it also opens up access to a pool of other partners that would have been previously off limits. Rose is the perfect example of this. She is married and without polyamory I could never date her, but because of this mutually agreed upon dynamic we get to date one another regardless of that marriage. Other people who are in open relationships also become available as partners as well. There is a beautiful transwoman I’ve been talking with who is poly, and although we have not moved beyond just getting to know one another, there is dating potential there that wouldn’t be otherwise. Jane and Kate, from my previous entry, were both potential partners because of poly/non-monogamy when they wouldn’t have been otherwise (and I’m sad to report that they aren’t anymore; it has become somewhat obvious that one is strictly friendship and the other is going nowhere)

Going to this play party this coming Friday is another way that polyamory is a benefit. There are people who will be at this party that could be potential romantic partners (if not just sexual partners) and I would have never met them had I not decided to become actively poly. There are also people out there who are specifically looking for other poly people. Okcupid is littered with people searching for secondary partners and triads (not to mention FWB’s), so being in a poly relationship already makes me more appealing to them (and them to me, if I’m honest).

Lastly, being in a polyamorous relationship (at least for me) has been really satisfying because it has offered me the opportunity to have many of my needs met and at the same time given me the freedom I need after my divorce. Jumping into a serious monogamous relationship right away would have been disastrous if I’m honest. I’m fairly certain my ex is doing just that herself and while she probably thinks it’s a good idea, I have discovered just how bad of an idea it really is to rush into something new without properly unpacking the baggage of a divorce. True, she left me so maybe she was more ready for something serious than I was, but one does not simply leave a 7 year relationship and process it overnight. Then again, she has turned out to be far more coldhearted and cruel than I ever imagined she could be, so perhaps I am wrong; maybe she CAN process it overnight.

For me, though, polyamory suits my needs at this point in my life. While there are drawbacks, the pros outweigh the cons. It’s rather amazing to be with someone who is happy that I’m part of their life, but doesn’t need me to be their entire world. It’s amazing to have someone eager to be part of my life but who is mature enough to know that even if I see someone else, it doesn’t diminish our relationship. In the phone conversation I literally just finished having with Rose we talked about how many of her friends who could never make a monogamous relationship work were able to finally maintain relationships for far longer because they started living a poly lifestyle. I’m not saying poly is perfect and I’m not saying it is for everyone, but it does enable people to have all of their needs met without jeopardizing their relationships.

During my marriage, I never thought I’d be able to handle sharing my wife, and perhaps I truly couldn’t, but being on the other side of my experiences with poly, I have to wonder if being in an open relationship wouldn’t have been the answer to our struggles. She said she was worried she’d end up just wanting to marry someone else when I last proposed the idea, so perhaps this speculation is pointless, but hindsight has granted me the clarity to see that poly was a much more viable option than I assumed it would be. I will never know because the divorce is final and she has ruined our friendship almost beyond repair, but a piece of me regrets not giving poly a shot before everything fell apart. It would have been difficult for me to watch my wife date a man, but if I’m honest, I think sharing her with another person would have been far more preferable than having her run off into a one-night stand that lit the fuse to a powder keg of pain and betrayal.

Regardless, what is done is done and cannot be undone. All I can do now is continue to expand my horizons and continue to explore this thing called polyamory. I suspect that my trip into this realm is far from over and perhaps the true relationship happiness I’ve been seeking for so long is hidden within it, or maybe it isn’t; only time will tell. I’ve broken out of the gender binary. I’ve started to break out of the sexuality binary (again we will discuss this in greater detail when I have enough to write a full entry on it) and now I’m breaking out of the monogamy binary of having to choose between being single and being in a single relationship. If nothing else, I hope my experiences make me grow as a person and I hope relating them to you will enable you to see the world in a different light; perhaps even a better or more well-rounded light.

Well, my darlings, that is all I have for now. I wish you all well and I will try to write again before the play party on Friday if I can. Until then, stay fabulous and always remember you are amazing just the way you are.


-Emma

No comments:

Post a Comment