That’s right folks, we’re talking polyamorous relationships. Now I’ll be the first person to admit I wasn’t sold on the idea. My inner Scorpio alone wasn’t having it, and saw the concept as a setup to set off jealousy and that infamous Scorpio stinger. I could understand why some people negatively commented on the few polyamorous related posts I’ve written, saying they couldn’t do it.
And then one day after a chance encounter on Instagram with relationship coach and polyamorous expert, Lindsay H, I began to think I had such a strong opinion on a topic I didn’t actually know a hell of a lot about. Thankfully, Lindsay agreed to speak with me one evening and give me a full picture of what polyamory is and isn’t. So let’s go ahead and dive into what I learned. Oh, and I’ll be sure to let you know if she changed my mind in the end.
What is polyamory?
Polyamory is a type of an open relationship. So open relationship is sort of the umbrella term. And under that umbrella lies things like swinging, which is usually a husband and wife who sort of switch partners with another husband and wife. Or something like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell which is just you know, you’re out of town on a business meeting, you do your deal. Polyamory on the other hand tends to involve longer-term romantic attachments. So, where it’s maybe not a one-time thing, there are loving feelings that are attached to more than one partner at a time. And everybody does polyamory differently… For myself, I have a husband of 14 years and a boyfriend of a couple years. And my husband and I date separately… But basically, it’s open and honest communication about the fact that you are involved with more than one person at a time.
What’s your personal experience with polyamorous relationships?
My husband and I actually met in high school. We go way back. We didn’t get married til we were about 25. And we’re super happy and all the normal stuff. But I think kind of independently around the age 30 we kind of went, did we miss out on things like not dating other people, I don’t know. But we were both happy where we were, so no big deal.
And my husband came to me at some point and confessed that he had romantic feelings for a mutual friend who was also married. And she had feelings for him. And they both had talked about it and decided they needed to talk to respective spouses. And there was no specific ask, it was just I have these feelings I don’t know what to do with them. Here’s what’s going on. It was really hard for me. I didn’t really have any issues with the idea of an open marriage, but it’s different when it’s your marriage. And my self-esteem wasn’t at its highest point, so that was really hard to hear.
But we went to a marriage counselor and the other couple went to some counseling, and we all managed to stay friends. It was rocky and awkward for a while, but eventually, my husband started dating her very slowly, and always with permission and very honest communication about what is okay and what’s not okay. They slowly started to date, and I started to see that it wasn’t necessarily bad for us. In some cases, it was good for us. It’s less pressure not having to meet all your partner’s needs. Really simple examples like, if he loves Star Wars movies and I don’t, great, he’s got someone to go see them with. So, it’s down to even just little things like that, that can be really nice.
To be clear, you are still friends with your husband’s now girlfriend and her husband?
Yes. Absolutely. We have hung out, traveled together… We hang out with them, we’ve been friends with them for years, and still are.
So when all four of you go out to dinner, are there times your husband may ask if it’s okay that he leaves with his girlfriend that night?
Sometimes yes. And sometimes he will go on a date with her. And in the beginning that was really hard. Like he’s on a date with somebody else, and I’m sitting at home wondering what’s going on. And it was really, really difficult. I learned some coping mechanisms, and sort of just got some side projects of my own. And I’m now to a point where it’s sort of like, yes you go do that, I would love a night alone in the house… Again, it sort of came around to being a benefit once we kind of figured out that it wasn’t going to wreck our relationship. We started very slowly, but gradually a lot of trust was created as far as he always came back home.
How do you cope with that? I know if I were in your shoes, I think in a way I would initially feel as if I’m failing as a partner?
I absolutely dealt with that. Talking to a counselor was really, really helpful. But also realizing I don’t have to be the only person who meets his needs. He’s not necessarily the only person who meets my needs. And that was difficult in the beginning. Coping mechanisms very specifically in the beginning was something like if he’s going to be out on a date with her, then I needed to plan to be doing something fun on my own… It got a lot easier on me when I started dating too.
How was the experience dating as a married woman?
It was definitely an interesting journey. I was very lucky to have a good friend of mine who was single, and she sort of became my dating guru. She helped me set up a profile on OkCupid and Tinder. And OkCupid especially has gotten really good at having questions and filtering questions for those of us that are non-monogamous… It’s actually how I met my current boyfriend was on OkCupid. He’s happily married. We both could see on OkCupid that each was non-monogamous.
Do moments of jealousy ever occur for you and your husband?
Jealousy still happens occasionally. It’s funny the forms that it takes… Part of it’s about riding it out. But it’s also about communicating.
As issues of jealousy first arose, did you establish boundaries?
Yes. Absolutely. Getting really super clear on boundaries is very important. In the beginning, it was maybe once a month the two of them went on a date, then it became once a week. It was just becoming clear about physically what I’m comfortable with them doing together and what I’m not comfortable with them doing together. All of that stuff I discussed with my husband and I trusted him to respect those boundaries, and he always did. So that built more and more trust. So as we went along there were fewer and fewer boundaries… They were very respectful of my hesitations and fears.
On a recent According to T post about polyamory, I received a lot of comments concerned that polyamory breeds infidelity. Is that a valid concern?
It’s a valid concern, but I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion. I lived a very similar story where my husband said to me, I am attracted to someone else and she is attracted to me, and what do we do about this? It never crossed my mind that he had actually cheated on me, because he was honest enough to come and tell me. If he was going to go behind my back, he probably just would have done it. So to me, that is a very open, honest way of communicating.
I know we touched on a few misconceptions, but what are some other major misconceptions that you noticed from people that don’t understand what polyamory is?
I think one of the biggest assumptions is that it’s all about sex and/or it’s just sex all the time. Think about your typical dating and/or marital relationship and how much work that is to make sure you’re meeting each other’s needs. Now imagine doing that for two people. It’s a lot of work… It’s not like people do this just because it’s sex all the time. It’s actually, for some of us, it’s very fulfilling to have these really deep friendships or relationships, and have a few of them.
Also, that it’s a phase and/or an excuse not to commit. I’m very committed to my marriage, and I’m also committed to my boyfriend… It’s not really about a lack of commitment. In fact, sometimes it involves more commitment.
By the end of the interview, I actually walked away with a deeper understanding of how polyamorous relationships work. It was almost as if I had an “aha moment.” However, while I appreciate Lindsay’s insight, I can’t say I’m sold on the lifestyle for me personally, because folks, I know me.
Oh, and make sure you check out my new scripted show, Majoring in Me the Podcast.