It’s a month until my wedding day, and I’m very excited. I’ve got the dress, the cake, the food and the music all organised, every RSVP has been counted and my credit card is almost maxed out. Sounds like a standard wedding to me. Although my wedding day will be all white gown and bad DJ, my marriage is likely to be a little less typical.
The man that I am marrying (beautiful, wonderful man that he is), identifies as polyamorous. Ask him what that means and he will give you the simple answer “I believe it is possible to love more than one person at a time”. Sounds simple enough, and I’d be hard pressed to find someone who’d disagree with that statement. When you have a second child, you don’t stop loving the first one; you find the love you have doubles to engulf both children equally. Yet, when it comes to marriage, we stand before the most beloved people in our lives, and announced “I will love no other! Forever and ever! This one person will be the one I love!”.
How the hell did we get to this point? To understand that, you first need to know the history of our relationship and our particular brand of polyamory. However, I don’t intend to speak for Mr Jezebella (as he very soon will be known), so this is our relationship through my eyes.
He told me he was poly on our second date. We’d had no sexual contact yet, and I think he was right to talk to about it before we got intimate. He was nervous, almost physically shaking, and it took him a long time to spit out. I know he is secure in his beliefs, but he is also aware that many people would run for the hills if they thought they had to share their partner, and he liked me. He really liked me, and he didn’t want to scare me off. He was kind of shocked dumbstruck when I was cool about it. Not only that, I took a real interest in it and asked him lots of questions so I could get to the core of his opinions. He waited until the third date to tell me he was in a committed relationship with another woman.
I went away and thought about it lots. He wanted to lend me books like The Ethical Slut, but I wasn’t having it. I wanted to figure out my own thoughts and feeling about being in polyamorous relationships without being influenced by persuasive literature. I loved his enthusiasm and passion about the topic, as much as he loved my keen interest and willingness to explore, but I had to question him carefully to get to his real feelings and steer him away from repeating the rhetoric of books he’d read.
A revealing question was when I asked him why being poly appealed to him in the first place. The answer may surprise you; rather than saying he was attracted to more than one person, or that he enjoyed fucking around, he said almost the complete opposite. He told me he used to have a problem with being possessive of his partner and jealous of her having contact with other men. Embracing polyamory as a relationship style helped him to overcome these issues: by accepting he could have loving intimate relationships with more than one person he allowed himself to release his hold over the people he loved and to give them the freedom to explore other relationships too.
A person who isn’t jealous or possessive and who loves and respects me is exactly the kind of human being I would like to have a long term relationship with. My own past is a little different, and perhaps more stereotypical of what people think non-monogamous people are like. I cheated on people, in a very particular way. I didn’t go out on the pull looking to have one night stands, neither did I mislead people by pretending I was single to get them to be into me. I just had a few close friends who I happened to have sexual relationships with.
I was very good at cheating on my partners, I never got caught, and (as far I am aware) I never upset any of the other people I was sleeping with. I haven’t had a single long term (over 6 months) relationship where I didn’t at least once have sex with someone else. It’s difficult for me to try and explain these extra relationships I had on the side. It’s wasn’t just casual sex, but neither was it romantic love. They were my friends, and I loved them as such, and part of how I expressed that love was sexual.
There have been three main people consistently in my life. One, my best friend, lived in the same city as me. We helped each other through some of the most difficult times in each others lives, through depression and addiction and loss. We’d met at university and our first interactions were sexual, and that just became incorporated into the very thread of our relationship. As our friendship developed over the years emotional support was always far more important than sex, but the sexual undertone was always there. We also happily did intimate things like sleep in the same bed, without there being sex involved. I continued to have regular sex with this person throughout a three year long distance relationship with someone else.
The second person I have been friends with since we were teenagers. We have never lived in the same place, and we used to meet up at music festivals and gigs a couple of times a year, and talk online fairly often. He was fun, and we always were in fun settings together. We can go a year without seeing one another, yet quickly lapse back into a close relationship as if we were horny teenagers again. As we became adults our relationship became more adult, I actually visited his home a few times and we one stayed in a hotel together. I think we make each other feel fun and young, and I loved hanging out (and making out) with him. Our relationship has been consistent throughout me having many relationships with other people, including with the man I am about to marry.
Finally, there is one almostly purely sexual relationship. This is with a person I went to school with, although we didn’t have sex until a month or so before I left to go to university. He was the most explorative, kinky person I ever had sex with. Every time we got together (which wasn’t often once I had left) there was something new and exciting involved. We don’t maintain a relationship at all really, but when we run into one another it’s like a deep animal instinct takes over for both of us, and it’s not long before we’re arranging a sex date. I also think he is a truly wonderful human being, with a lot of love and kindness for the world and great insight into other people’s actions.
Along the way there have also been a few women, some who were exploring their own sexuality and saw me as a safe playmate, others who were going through tough times and used me for sexual comfort (which I was more than happy to provide). These women come and go from my life without forming a romantic attachment, and the sexual relationship has never carried on past a few months. I think I was a stop gap for some women along their own journey towards a more fulfilling relationship. I was never what they were looking for.
My point out of all this is that I am not an inherently monogamous person, remember throughout all of these relationships I also had long-term committed partners who had no idea I didn’t save my sex just for them, and I have cheated on pretty much every person who called me “girlfriend”. My second point is that all the relationships I described were very different in nature and I got different things out of them, be it emotional support, fun and stress relief, or sexual exploration. I also love all of these people, and they have a lot of love for me; I really treasure my relationships. I’m so glad I have had these wonderful people in my life that I have shared intimacy with, both sexual and emotional, and I wouldn’t change them for the world.
So when my now financé introduced me to polyamory as a concept, it was almost a relief. Having heard my story, he likes to think I was poly all along but I just didn’t know the word for it. I wouldn’t describe it like that. I think words like polyamory are useful broad terms, but relationships and people’s lives in general are so unique and diverse that simple terms don’t really capture them.
Some people might think I’m a horrible, selfish person, who has no self restraint and an over active libido. I’d like to convince you otherwise. I feel very deeply, and I have a lot of love and compassion for people I have a connection with. It feels the most natural thing in the world to me that I display some of that love as sexual intimacy. I feel no guilt about enjoying my relationships on the side, although perhaps it would’ve been different if I had got caught. I didn’t tell my previous partners about it, because I knew it would hurt them and make them feel threatened, and I hate to make other people feel any sadness. I was being dishonest, but at the same time I always felt fully committed to the relationship I was in at the time. Not even once did any of my friends with benefits (for want of a better term) interfere with or contribute towards the ending of another relationship. That might be hard to believe, but they really didn’t. Think about your closest friends, perhaps you meet up a few times a week, or maybe only a few times a month or year, but I’d bet you have a lot to talk about, a lot of fun and a lot of shared emotion support. You would never even consider that this intimate relationship with another human being would be a threat to your committed romantic relationship. That’s exactly how it was for me, except sex was involved.
Going forward into this marriage I have a number of great benefits to look forward to. I can look forward to an intimate relationship with my partner where we talk often about our emotions, sexual and romantic needs without judgement. I can look forward to being 100% honest with the person I love more than anything throughout our whole marriage, and letting him in to know every part of me, including the parts I’m not proud of. I will be able to maintain and explore new honest, close and sexual relationships with people outside of my marriage. Most importantly of all, I can look forward to a marriage where we discuss everything openly, and where a sexual interaction with another person won’t lead to extreme feelings of hurt and betrayal and the end of a relationship.
Saying that, I know it won’t be all rainbows and butterflies. Legally, in the UK, you can only be married to one person at a time. For us, this means that no future partner can gain the same level of legal rights and recognition, without us first divorcing. This could become a problem for a theoretical new partner. My finacé doesn’t like to rank his relationships; each is as important as all the others to him. Us being married ultimately changes this dynamic, and I will need to be mindful of how our marriage could make someone feel insecure or like their relationship with my husband is not as valid as mine is. This is theoretical at the moment, but my partner’s particular brand of polyamory is to have romantic and sexual committed relationships with more than one person, so it is a real possibility that it will come up.
What I realistically hope for is a long and happy marriage. I think there will be times in our lives when we are close just to one another, and times when other people are involved to different degrees. Whatever happens, I’m thrilled that I have finally found someone I can be fully myself with and that we are standing up together and announcing we will love, respect and cherish each other for as long as we can. I truly believe in that.