I was sunken into a chair with a guilty conscience and a glass filled with gin in my right hand. Of course when I had made my decision to do what I had done, I justified my actions to the point that my words wrapped around me like a bulletproof vest. I was going to never tell a soul, but realistically, I knew I would need to fess up. In reality I didn’t know what the fuck my love life was becoming. It was dark, mysterious, anxiety filled, dramatic, shameful, shameless, and sometimes even invigorating. As I sat looking down at my phone scrolling through pictures of my boyfriend and me and pondering what I would do next, I began to hear footsteps coming toward me from the corner of the room where some of my closest friends stood. I looked up at my best friend of 11 years as she gazed intensely into my eyes. She’s such a hardcore fan of this traditional idea of love, romance, and partnerships that she could never give herself to understanding the unorthodox nuances of the latter - partnerships that are unconventional and taboo - the very lifestyle that I was living. As she stumbled drunkenly into my legs and into this orb of depression and heartbreak that I was emitting into the room, she yelled at me, “I don’t care what you say. I don’t care what you think. Polyamory is a sin!”
Disturbed, shocked and feeling slightly attacked, I had no verbal response. “A sin? Really? You had to get biblical in this bitch?” I thought to myself as I took another sip from my glass. Again, I was back to where I started. I was stuck between false realities and my/their (my friends’) ideologies. I sincerely for the life of me could not figure out how to have an opinion on the matter. I was miserably in love and in pain at the same time and I was okay with it. I was OKAY with it and it left me utterly complacent. It’s hard to give a blanket statement as to what polyamory is and what it feels like because it can manifest in so many ways.
When I began this journey into non-conventional romance I was entering something so unknown and unfathomable to me. At first I thought, “Oh I’ll just stay for the convenient and frequent sex and not get emotionally invested.” SIKE! That idea quickly dissipated as I locked eyes with Ben for the first time on our second date. My feelings came on strong and from what I felt, so did his. We began to spend every weekend together, he would drive me to school, we exchanged our most intimate secrets, and so much more. What sucked the most, though, was my forgetfulness. I’d forget the reality of the situation, that this man that I had begun to see was polyamorous. At the end of every date, I would eagerly try and plan to see him the next day, and he would respond with the words that would constantly slit my throat and leave me mute and confused: “I can’t. I have plans with Tori.” I could always hear my heart trying to reach out of my chest, and I'm sure he could hear it too. I can’t describe the way it made me feel. I knew that they were happening, Ben was eagerly honest from the very beginning, and I knew what I was getting myself into. I wanted it but ran from it at the same time. When Ben would speak her name it sent me aflame- I felt bad but, the burning felt good. I felt as though jealousy and compersion collided and I was the byproduct. It felt backwards not being his one and only which made me feel bad, but being open and sharing him was empowering and THAT felt good. Being able to control my possessive tendencies ,I thought, was powerful because being possessive over someone, in a sense, shows weakness.
My feelings, like that of most people, were constantly fluid and unpredictable during my experience in a poly relationship. After meeting Tori for the first time, it was sleepless nights for several days on end thinking about Ben kissing, hugging, and giving himself to her.I had accepted it… but did I? I lied to my friends, telling them that he had broken up with her because I knew they wouldn’t tolerate me in a relationship like this. “But I want this,” I told myself. I told myself that my friends just couldn’t understand because they weren’t walking in my shoes. I blamed society for shaming those who chose not to engage in conventional monogamous relationships and that they were just misrepresented and looked upon immaturely.
I told myself that jealousy was just a mind game that I could easily overcome and defeat with time. I told myself that I’m young and that people are too possessive and life’s too short to be tied down to one person with high expectations of your relationship. But was I was lying to myself? It was hard to grasp my stance on the matter. I began to constantly play out scenarios in my head of Ben one day leaving Tori for me and realizing that I’m his one and only true love. I was constantly thinking about her. I was constantly thinking about them together and fighting my inner demon that I wasn’t a side bitch. Ugh. As much as Ben being with another person made me feel unsure, it wasn’t enough to keep me away.
My internal monologues changed every day with the ambivalence I felt about my relationship with them. We’d break up and get back together. I’d be above it and then instantly below it, drowning in it. I even found myself loving HER (platonically, that is) until I realized that maybe we were both ambivalent toward our relationships. It was 100% craziness but, having Ben was so much more than him being my boyfriend. I believed that the love that I had for him was bigger than allowing or not allowing him to have another relationship aside from ours. My love for him was more than the stance I had to take on his and Tori’s relationship.
Together we were rare and human and honest people together, and it was so pure and beautiful. As pure and beautiful as it was at times, it was also ugly and somewhat toxic. The worst of it all was the jealousy. The jealousy I STILL feel in our now-more-conventional relationship, considering Tori is now completely out of the picture. As much as I told myself I could fight the jealousy, it completely consumed me. The biggest thing I took from being in a poly relationship was how important communication is. We all felt jealousy throughout, but what kept me consumed by it was my lack of communicating that fact to myself and Ben.
How could you blame me? Things obviously won’t fix themselves without action, and we all know talking about our feelings is rough, especially when expressing them to a significant other and/or confronting your deepest insecurities. Many a time, I felt that my feelings were irrational or ridiculous. I considered myself a “poly person” and believed that as a poly person, I could conquer jealousy, but in reality that was stupid because everyone experiences jealousy no matter what. No one is immune to it, even if they’re open to having multiple lovers and can manage their feelings of envy better than most. It’s unfortunate how much the jealousy clouded my vision throughout my experience.Talking about my jealousy rather than internalizing it forced me to confront myself in the end.
When people think of polyamorous couples, I’m sure they envision multiple people dating each other or two people both seeing other people on the side, but our relationship was a little different. Ben was seeing Tori and me, and she was also seeing other people. I, on the other hand, rarely hooked up with people and never really enjoyed it because I was so in love with Ben. It was hard understanding how I should feel or what I should do when I wasn’t with him. I would ponder, “Should I be hooking up with or talking to other people since we’re open? Do I really care enough? Does it look bad if he’s the only one getting with another person? Do I fit in as a “poly person?” When I hooked up with people, it was usually because I felt an odd mixture of spite, loneliness, freedom, and perhaps jealousy. The reality of the situation though was my lack of really trying to live in the moment instead of being extremely in my head. I feel I lost sight of who I was and failed to take advantage of my time because I was too wrapped up in the ideas of our relationship, love, and lifestyle. Although it was great to reflect and take the time to address my feelings, I found myself only searching for things on the surface.
I speak on this because people should be open about sharing their experiences no matter how “taboo” they may be. People tend to be closed-minded about non-conventional relationships. Feeling uncomfortable upon encountering a perplexing concept or lifestyle should be a sign for one to dig deeper, but that isn’t always the case. In mine, it was. At first, I saw this experience as one-dimensional and very complex simultaneously, until I genuinely started to experience it. When Ben told me he was poly, I immediately painted a picture in my head that was very hard to erase after realizing all of my picture’s faults. One fault was actually dealing with my jealousy and accepting its big, ugly existence. Another was realizing that not all polyamorous relationships are executed in the same fashion and that having expectations of “poly people” is problematic because the lifestyle and people that live it are not confined to one personality and/or characteristic. There were numerous times when I felt like I should be acting a certain way, which in hindsight, was unnecessary because, of course, not everyone experiences relationships the same way.
The picture I painted in my head wasn’t detailed enough, and it lacked color and substance. It lacked all the emotion, love, attention, thoughtfulness, strength, genuineness, and open-heartedness that our painting should have evoked. It lacked the courage that made me confront my darkness and entitlement. It lacked the joy that freed me from fear and dishonesty. It lacked the reality of pain, envy, and heartbreak. It lacked truth. What my painting lacked, I would soon realize, was what would help me find the appreciation to experience relationships in different ways and not live so obediently under societal norms. It made me learn how to stop questioning whether what I was doing was right or wrong and to just go with my feelings and find my true autonomy. Experiencing being in a polyamorous relationship lit a flame inside of me that has made me more creative, decisive, and open with myself and others. It’s brought me here, to finally figuring out how to express myself on my own terms.