“The cultural ban on having sex with your friends is an inevitable offshoot of a societal belief that the only acceptable reason to have sex is to lead to a monogamous marriage like relationship,” writes Dossie Easton in the
As a writer, what I publicize is forever. Each sentence, verb, comma, and hyphen are credited to my name and live in the corners of the internet. Sometimes, I regret not employing a pseudonym. But as an IRL over sharer, I feel like my graphic writing and my raw approach to taboo topics are what drive my work to be the most me it can be. While writing’s permanence cements my voice, I am also human. My opinions waver, my emotions shift, and my ideas oscillate. I am still figuring out love, coupling, and resistance and what it signifies to me as a queer femme navigating my pursuit of happiness.
From 2013 until 2016, I rallied for polyamory. I wrote about it, I documented it. I interviewed my live-in partner and I exposed our issues. His words were suddenly mine for the grabbing — I took our tumultuous life together and romanticized it. But, isn’t that what writers do? I would say to myself as I would try to justify certain scenarios. I would write through my extreme stress, jealousy, and insecurity as if it did not exist. I made it seem as if polyamory was the best decision in my life when in fact, it was a manipulative, emotional tolling, and abusive purgatory.
Now, into 2017, I am retracting some of my statements for what I once believed polyamory to be. If done right, as I see so many of my peers and friends doing, it can be incredible. But for me, hingeless in a quad, I suffered.
In my HelloFlo article, “3 Important Tips for Opening Up a Dialogue for A Polyamorous Relationship,” I ate my own words. I think it is important to recognize my mishaps, and to not just blame myself, but my situation and my partnership. “When I met my partner, we immediately decided to begin with an open relationship,” I write in the 2016 piece. This, in hindsight, was my first mistake, while many more followed.
Of course, I am not fixating all of the blame on to polyamory. I am not attacking this approach to dating whatsoever. Eventually, with open arms, I will make my way back towards it, as I see it as the answer for many of my personal and romantic questions. Nevertheless, for my experience with polyamory, it was non-consensual. My voice and my opinion were ignored and I found myself committing to a new love while only being confronted with manipulation. As more people become interested in poly relationships, I want individuals to recognize the issues that can arise if done incorrectly. I brushed off these emotions as a submissive weakness that I attributed to societies standards. While nodding and agreeing to my partners pitch on why we should be open, I felt a deep sadness inside. I ignored that sadness and what I agreed to was distrust and betrayal.
Writing this is very particularly difficult. I still support and praise polyamory. I feel like a fraud, as I have conceded to a somewhat monogamous lifestyle. I surrendered to the hum drum partnership that I had scoffed at in the past. But maybe that’s where my mistake lies. Polyamory seemed like a romantic adventure to me, something fresh and shiny, instead of an idea that I felt wholly in my heart.
In The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures, Easton writes, “The moral: be clear, be specific, and above all negotiate in good faith; this is not about cheating anymore.”
Poly life is meant to be negotiated and discussed. It’s a more truthful and understanding relationship than a monogamous one. For me, a child of an intense and unfaithful divorce, polyamory is the land of enchantment. I know that “the one” does not exist and that a singular union between two people will eventually confront adultery or outside desires. This is a normal reality for me. However, since negotiation is key, communication is pushed towards the center. That’s where the key to success rests. So what happens when your partner lies and withholds communicative efforts? A miserably failed, and disastrous poly ordeal.
“The single most important thing to remember about agreement making is that the purpose of an agreement is to find a way in which everybody can win,” advises Easton.
I was not winning in my partnership. It was one-sided, elusive, and emotional scarring.
In short, my three polyamory mistakes are as follows:
- No consent
- Being left in the dark
- Ignored opinions and emotions
I still stand by my tips in my original HelloFlo article but unfortunately, I did not enforce my practice. What caused a great implode in my partnership was the pressure to commit to a poly life, being left in the dark about outside conquests (my mental and physical health being put at risk), and my emotional responses being ignored and tossed aside.
In the article, “Everything You Need to Know About Polyamory,” by Hannah Rimm, she interviews her friend Audrey who writes, “People often assume that poly equals promiscuous. It doesn’t. If I wanted to have casual sex that would be something I would have to discuss with my partners as part of the rules of our relationships. If I had casual sex without consulting them first, that would be cheating just as it would be in a monogamous setting.”
For poly to work for me, I needed to know all of the details. Moreover, I wanted to know. Not for insecure reasons, but because I was more turned on when I knew about who, what, where, when. It’s how I would handle a poly relationship if I was in one currently — that standard does not change. However, my partner refused to inform me of any outside conquests, resulting in me discovering the truth from others. Talk about damaging and downright wrong, am I right?
I finally found someone, in late 2016, that I believed could be my secondary partner. Finally, I had done it and I was over-the-moon excited to tell my cohabiting partner about it. However, the news was not reciprocated and my partner demanded that we were now in a “closed relationship.” And just like that, with no feeling of regret, I exited promptly and swiftly. I realized that my primary partner, for three years, was more interested in getting laid by whoever he wanted, while I sat at home having minor panic attacks. My imagination would run wild, my jealousy consumed me.
I do, despite my long explanation, see the positives in my experience. I now know how to handle my future poly agreement. I now know that manipulation and control are not at the core of that agreement. I also know what manipulation and control look like. It is not always as obvious as it may seem but I understand those signs now. And while I’m enjoying time with my secondary, who turned into my only primary, I do think about how to navigate natural emotions like jealousy, insecurity, and trust. Whether it’s monogamous or not, those possessive and unhealthy characteristics exist. We are only human.
This also does not suggest that I am choosing monogamy. The word still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when I spit it out. It does not seem cohesive to my identity, and it does not fit into my particular life style. But more on that later.
Easton leaves me with a future relationship that I envision with wide eyes — a goal I hope to attain and still strive for.
“How many times have you rejected the possibility of love because it didn’t look the way you wanted it to? Perhaps some characteristic was missing you were sure you must have, some other trait was present that you never dreamed of accepting. What happens when you throw away your expectations and open your eyes to the fabulous love that is shining right in front of you, holding out its hand? Clean love: love without expectations.”
Clean love. A love that exists without pressure, but welcomes understanding, communication, and intimacy. Whether it occurs with three poly partners, or one, clean love is the ultimate prize.
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