- The Dipp -The Honest Truth About Polyamory & Living With 3 Partners
I think it’s important to start with naming three things:
- I never thought that when I started practicing ethical non-monogamy (ENM), I’d have the relationship(s) that I do now.
- Polyamory is one way to experience or practice ENM. ENM is an umbrella term that isn’t for everyone (and that’s ok!).
- I experience being polyamorous as an orientation — similar to my bisexuality. As much as I have red hair and am bisexual, I’m polyamorous.
I’ve always had a lot of love to give, and I never understood monogamy. Even at 14 years old, I equated the feeling of being in a (monogamous) relationship with being at a food from around the world buffet, unable to try all of the food. It felt as if I ate more than one type of food without committing to one cuisine for six months, I was a slut.
I tried so hard to be monogamous. Sometimes I was successful, and others, I hurt people unintentionally. I remember doodling a Sondheim lyric from Into the Woods in my high school notebook, “just remembering you’ve had an and when you’re back to or, makes the or mean more than it did before.”
“What is wrong with me?” I would write in my diary. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t see what it was like to kiss someone else while I knew I wanted to be in a committed relationship with someone else. Commitment and love have never meant “exclusivity” to me. And yet, all around me were messages that monogamous relationships were the “right” kind of relationships. I didn’t see a model for anything else, so I thought I was a weird slut.
It wasn’t until I met Kyle, who I married in 2016, that I even verbalized this to a partner. On our first date, I had just learned about different relationship designs in my Master’s Degree program. Yes, I was in a Master’s program for clinical psychology before I knew about any other relationship design other than monogamy (that wasn’t frowned upon or portrayed to be silly in the media). I remember learning about what was called “consensual non-monogamy” in school and thinking, “oh, that’s so nice for people who aren’t judged.”
I had already written it off in my mind as something that wasn’t for me. I’m not fully sure why. I think a lot of it comes back to messaging as a kid. I mean, while I understood it academically and for potential clients of mine, I still had a belief system for myself that if I wanted the life I had imagined (which wasn’t even what I really wanted), I had to do that through a monogamous relationship. I had just accepted my bisexuality — to add “something else” felt heavy and hard. But something in me really resonated with what I learned, and I talked about it with Kyle on our first date in 2012.
Kyle resonated with what I was sharing, and we agreed to check in consistently about “opening up” if we continued to date. Fast forward to 2019, and Kyle and I are married, living in NYC, and have one of our regular relationship check-ins. And this time, we were both wanting to try this thing that we now call Ethical Non-Monogamy. We read The Ethical Slut, had endless talks about agreements, navigating jealousy, and sex clubs. In March 2020, we met the two people who are now my other primary partners.
Today, Kyle and I are in a family of four adults. We went from being two couples to many variations and arrangements of couples, but eventually, we came together as one family. We live together, plan to have kids together, and operate much like any other family — just with four adults! (And yes, some extra appointments with lawyers, therapists, and doctors for family planning.) There is so much love in this house, and any of our family and friends that have come to visit will tell you how “normal” it feels.
And yes, we also still have the opportunity to meet and have various types of relationships with other people. It’s all on the up and up — everyone knows what’s going on, which is what makes it ethical.
I struggled most of my life with what I now refer to as my relationship design orientation. I shamed myself, tried to convince myself otherwise, cheated and hurt people, lied, and snuck around sometimes — all because I was trying to contort myself to fit into a very specific-sized monogamous box that I was never going to fit in. During this time of shaming and sneaking, I developed Major Depressive Disorder & Panic Disorder. I was put on medication and learned how to be a pro at benzo intake. ALL BECAUSE I WAS NOT MYSELF.
When I finally admitted to myself and then to the people I love and trusted that this was a part of who I am and started actually healing the wounds caused in therapy, I was able to get off of all the medication I was put on. Now, having three primary partners, being in multiple polyamorous relationships, I can tell you it’s hard and worth every bit of courage and strength needed. I haven’t ever felt more like myself since Kyle and I said, “yeah, let’s do this” back in 2019.
While ENM is gaining a lot of awareness lately, it’s still very much “against the grain” and ruffles some feathers. It’s hard to acknowledge that something that makes me want to have more love in my life is so against the grain. What grain? Anyway, while it feels incredible to be myself in the world by the sides of three people who love me, who I love, and want to do life together — it can be tricky.
When you’re in a relationship with one person, it’s hard. And while navigating three primary romantic and sexual relationships can be challenging at times, both logistically and emotionally, it’s also really nice to have other people there to support you when you’re in conflict with another. For example, Kyle and I recently had a yucky interaction. We both were really stuck in our realities of what happened, and having Ashley and Yair (our two other partners) there to help clarify the situation helped both of us gain understanding and move forward to heal.
What logistics get confusing? Well, who sleeps where when, date nights, and when the world is set up for two-person relationships, how do we do things like taxes, savings accounts, cars, mortgages, etc.? How will all four adults be legal parents when we want to have kids? These are all things that can very much complicate things if open and honest communication isn’t present. And one of my favorite things about ENM is the level of open and honest communication that's necessary.
Relationships are relationships are relationships are relationships are relationships are relationships are relationships are relationships. You may have a handful of close friends, one romantic relationship, and a bigger group of not-so-close friends — that’s still caring about many people and investing yourself into multiple relationships. I’m doing the same thing; mine just also (sometimes) include romantic love and sexual dynamics. (I also have plenty of platonic friends!)
The truth is, we are all in many important relationships — be they familial, friendly, romantic, sexual, or anything else. I happen to experience romantic relationships polyamorously — literally meaning many (poly) loves (amor). I never thought I’d wind up with three people I loved and that loved me and wanted to do life together. I never thought I’d meet three people who I’d WANT to live with and do life with.
And, here we are.
Feature image: Hello Piacere