In January 2019, the topic of reintroducing polyamory into our relationship came up. By that, I mean I unceremoniously plopped it right between my husband and I. It went something like, “Babe, how would you feel about sleeping with other people again?”
He looked at me with wary interest; he was poly when we started dating and I was open to trying it. Due to a plethora of factors, not the least of which was drama with his partners (remember this article on being a better metamour that I wrote way back in 2016?), we became monogamous after about six months.
I attempted to bow out once I realized that not only did I love my then-boyfriend, I also loved having peace in my life. It seemed to me that the two were mutually exclusive. I chose my peace. Instead of going back to his other partners, he said he wanted to be monogamous with me. Now, if you’ve ever been in a situation like this, you can imagine how I felt at this news — skeptical and as though it would blow up in my face should he one day resent me for his decision. I was explicit in reiterating that I was not asking him to be monogamous (but, OK, yes, I’d gladly accept being his one-and-only should that be what he really wanted).
Fast forward two and a half years, my boyfriend is now my husband, and I can report that we settled into monogamy quite nicely. We even bought a house together and combined bank accounts, two things I was certain I’d never do with a partner. The security of our monogamous relationship was beautiful. I believe it allowed us both a certain level of comfort and healing that would have been difficult to find with non-monogamy.
Why Did We Return to Polyamory?
As our relationship went on, I found myself increasingly dissatisfied. Our emotional connection grew like ivy around all the other parts of our lives. This made it challenging for us to see beyond each other. I want to insist that there was no co-dependency, but I’d be lying to myself. We were co-dependent on each other emotionally because we found solace in one another. Instead of embracing the comfort and then going back into our own worlds feeling a little more secure, we latched on to each other.
I arrived at a crossroads within myself: either we split up so I could find my freedom again or we became polyamorous again so both of us could have relief from the overwhelming pressure of being someone’s only partner. To be totally transparent, when I brought up the idea of becoming poly again, I was of the mindset that he would go off and have other relationships, freeing me up to travel, write and focus on my career. The thought of dating again, of maintaining another relationship, was not appealing for me. I simply wanted more time to live my life as me.
Milestones, Experiences and Boundaries ...Oh My!
Some time has now passed, and we’ve been exploring polyamory and how it works for us within the context of our relationship. We’ve reached several milestones, had a few new experiences, and talked extensively about boundaries and expectations. Admittedly, the first time my husband kissed another woman I fell apart a little. I wanted to be happy for him, happy that he met someone he liked and wanted to kiss, but I wasn’t. I was just sad for myself.
It took every ounce of self-awareness to move through that difficult moment. When I realized I didn’t actually feel upset (it was more of a conditioned reaction than a legitimate feeling), I was able to take a step back and look at why my immediate response was to feel jealous and insecure.
When I met someone that I really liked (and yes, shared a kiss with), I better understood how my husband’s love for me and his attraction for another woman could co-exist. As I kissed this new romantic interest of mine, I checked in with myself: does this make me love him any less? The answer was a resounding no. In fact, instead of my interest in someone else decreasing my feelings for my current partner, I felt even more appreciative of all the things I loved about him.
Growing Apart ...Together
Despite each of us nearly calling off the whole agreement once, we’ve continued to make forward progress. I was the first one to sleep with someone else. I can’t say I’m not relieved that I was the first one to do that. I’m also not sure how I’ll feel when he does have sex with another person. We’ve established clear physical boundaries — using protection every time, certain sexual things we’d prefer remain sacred between us, and checking in with each other before sex happens with a new person. The emotional boundaries remain murky. How can I possibly predict what feelings will bubble up to the surface when he does find intimacy with someone else? Seeing the gentle and loving way my husband reacted to the news that I planned to have sex with another man helped me feel more secure in the new experience. It reassured me that I would be able to handle it with love and compassion, too.
It’s this part of polyamory that I find most fascinating, most liberating - while I do not know how I’ll feel as our comfort zone of each other expands to fold in other people, I do know that I have the tools for dealing with those feelings in a healthy way. Instead of falling prey to societal conditioning, I am looking at the vastness of my internal world and asking the hard questions. Why does this make you sad? What are you afraid of? Is this really how you feel? What’s underneath that feeling?
I’ve begun to experience a deeper appreciation for my husband and all the things that make him who he is. My relationship with myself blossomed in ways I couldn’t have predicted; active self-love has become a critical part of my inner work. While I know that we’ll continue to have hard conversations as we navigate the tricky world of love, I’m constantly grateful for the physical and emotional freedom we’re giving to ourselves and each other.
Being polyamorous isn’t for everyone, but neither is monogamy. I can’t promise we’ll stay poly forever, but I’m excited for this new adventure to unfold, and for you to come along on this journey with me.