I was in a polyamorous relationship with a man and a woman, Nick and Jo. Polyamorous means the practice of having multiple partners with the consent of said partners. Conveniently enough, both of my partners were (and still are) dating each other, so in this particular situation the three of us were all dating each other. How did this happen? It began with a booze-filled night of me kissing Jo, knowing that she was dating Nick. I didn’t want to stop kissing Jo, and Jo had admitted to Nick that she didn’t want to stop kissing me either. So we reached a compromise, and I opened up to the idea of seeing both of them.
This got a lot of strange reactions from our friends, most of whom summed up the relationship as a “bad idea.” That didn’t really seem to matter, though. The only times I was truly bothered was when we were asked about how things worked sexually. As if just because our situation wasn’t “normal,” everyone was entitled to know how it worked. Never ask anyone who isn’t your partner about their sex life (unless you’re a doctor speaking with a patient); they’ll tell you about it if they want to. Any other questions, I’m open to answering.
The three of us spent several months in a surreal starstruck love fest. There is nothing more fun than having a romantic partnership with two of your best friends. When I was with them, I found myself infatuated with Jo’s childish, whiny demands and love of all things Disney princess, and captivated by Nick’s tender charm and soothing voice. The raised eyebrows and judgmental gazes of others seemed to fade away as I became lost in a vortex of child-like pleasure.
When I was away from them, I felt lonely, empty, and ultimately unfulfilled. Not in an “Oh, I miss them” kind of way, but in a “What the fuck is happening” kind of way. It wasn’t that I was breaking the conventions of society. It wasn’t that I felt like my (for the most part accepting) family wouldn’t welcome my new relationship. It wasn’t that I was grappling with a queer identity and I couldn’t wrap my head around having two partners. The problem? We didn’t communicate well.
It wasn’t until a drunken night that the truth finally came out: This relationship was not making me happy. Jo and I were smoking and holding hands under the stars and when she turned to me and said, “You have to be nicer to Nick.” Why was she the one telling me this? Why couldn’t Nick open this dialogue with me? My reaction was to get upset and defensive. “I am nice to Nick,” I answered. I now understand that what she meant was that I wasn’t giving him the same type of attention that I gave to her.
The work of having a romantic relationship with two people was exhausting.
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but jealousy was one of the biggest problems I faced during my short stint with polyamory. Not only was there my own personal resentment towards the relationship that Nick and Jo shared, but I also felt inadequate. Maybe it was the fact that my partners lived together, played music together, and were ultimately a couple before I was introduced into the equation. But I believe a lot of my issues came from insecurities that I felt about myself and the sustainability of my situation. It wasn’t only the open and elusive nature of the relationship, but I felt my sense of self begin to slip away. Any commitment requires time and nourishment. The work of having a romantic relationship with two people was exhausting.
My partners were attentive and genuinely good people, but I think we all misunderstood what we were undertaking when we decided to be together. It wasn’t just a lack of communication that drove us apart, but our inability to establish boundaries and facilitate an open dialogue. Without openness and security, any relationship seems doomed. You’re already vulnerable. Add an internal dialogue of self-doubt and you begin to want something more, maybe more than your partners are willing to give.
If I learned anything from my time dating Nick and Jo, it’s that all of my future relationships will require complete transparency. Yes, the fireworks and passion need to be there. But I also learned to be more practical when thinking about what I want. It’s not to say that polyamory doesn’t work or isn’t practical, it works for many people. But relationships and how we choose to go about them is a personal choice. It’s a choice that can be playful and full of experimentation, a tool for self-discovery. It’s a choice that doesn’t need to conform to societal standards of heteronormativity, but it does need to work for you on a personal level.
Images from Flickr
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