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For a few years now I’ve been vague when writing about the intimate details of my poly-arrangement with my husband. I make references to the details, allude to the underlying struggle, but I’ve stopped telling the story as it unfolded. I’ve been hiding behind quotes and vague reflections.
In an effort to be more transparent I am going to write a few posts that summarize the steps and mis-steps that have gotten us to where we are right now.
I’ve readily shared the sexy stories, but I’ve been reluctant to share the challenges, partly because it’s been so intensely personal, but partly because in the thick of things it was hard to understand what direction we were headed in, where this would lead us.
Now that I feel like we’re coming out of the woods, and can suddenly see the forest and the trees, I’m feeling pretty fucking triumphant and I want to share that with you.
For those of you who are new-ish around here; my husband and I have been together for 15 years (whaaaaaaaat? I know. As teens we were best friends who liked to fool around when nobody was looking. Actually, we still kinda are.) and have never been comfortable with compulsory monogamy. It never suited us. It never felt right.
Our non-monogamous arrangement has changed and evolved over time, our needs and desires have changed as we’ve grown and discovered new things about ourselves and our sexuality. We have always made a commitment to adjust and work together to make our own rules, rules that suited us and allowed us to grow as individuals, but stay connected as partners.
It’s varied over the years; It started when we were 19 with a few wild nights and casual threesomes with girls, and agreeing we could each flirt with and kiss whoever we liked as long as we were honest about it. We stumbled into a 3 person relationship with a girlfriend we shared, it was exciting and brave and crazy all at once. We spent a few years so overwhelmed with school and new jobs that we were monogamous by default because we hardly had enough time for each other, much less new partners. When we jumped back in we decided to start looking for a couple to play with, and after a few hilarious-in-retrospect experiences we found an incredible couple who became our boyfriend and girlfriend. We were in an unconventional and loving relationship with them for a few years, until a job opportunity moved them to the other side of the country.
Since then we have been looking for different things, which has led us on a lot of great adventures as we test new waters together and try new things. It also led us to try dating individually, outside of our marriage. After 6 months of roller-coaster efforts, we made the decision to return to our previous rules; we only play together.
We pulled the plug on that experiment 2 years ago for a number of reasons:
- We weren’t on the same page; I was interested in finding a secondary partner. I was armed with a ton of resources about ethical non-monogamy and a fantastic support system of like-minded individuals (hey what’s up tumblr!) here on my blog. He just kinda wanted to fuck this straight girl he was flirting with.
- I found a partner immediately who I really connected with, which was hard for my husband. When we shared partners I was usually more connected and he was usually more casual, but he was always involved. Watching me become intimate with someone outside of our relationship wasn’t easy. We were novice level players entering the game at Expert Level Challenge.
- We were stuck on this notion that things needed to be “fair”, it hadn’t occurred to us yet that because we wanted different things there was no such thing as “equal”.
- We were just starting to untangle some issues of co-dependency through relationship counselling. We were very young when we blended our lives and a lot of unhealthy patterns went unchecked for years. Learning to each be responsible for our own feelings took a lot of hard work on both of our parts. He needed to learn how to be accountable for his feelings and not default to anger, and I needed to learn how to stop rescuing him from that process. I needed time to get clear on the difference between my issues, his issues, and our issues together as a couple. Our poly-agony was clouding this work.
- A few other small but mighty responsibilities in our personal lives that left us with not nearly enough time for ourselves.
We knew that we had to focus on building a strong foundation for this kind of relationship before we could withstand the extra pressure. I wish someone had assured us both we didn’t have to get it right on the first try.
Art: Water Heart (by Dragan*)