Polyamorous vs Promiscuous - A Question of Motive
I'm fairly new to these forums - I've been reading around, and I've seen some of these questions fielded, but nothing that completely matches what I'm going through, so if you don't mind a well-written and dramatic tale of love and woe, here you go...
Neither my wife nor I really ever... dated... during our youth (we met when she was 14 and I was 16 and it was love at first sight, and we've been together in one form or another ever since. Yes, I know, I'm lame, shut up.) so we don't have a lot of practical experience with flirting, asking people out, doing the walk of shame, or any of that. We've been in an open relationship for almost the entire time, and between her time at college and a few of my various adventures in the past, we've picked up a little experience around the edges, but not a ton.
While I've always self-identified as polyamorous, I've never made a huge deal out of it, because (to me) there's a difference between having the capacity to love multiple people and actually being in multiple relationships. When the right person came along, for a while, we three were a thing (and it was great). That ended when our friend grew afraid her presence was ruining what we (my wife and I) collectively had and eventually left us.
Since then, neither my wife nor I have actively been seeking additional partners for a few years now, during which time we got married and had a kid. There've been a few opportunities for things to happen with other people, but neither of us actively persued things and, naturally, nothing happened.
I've recently undergone a somewhat traumatic but decidedly transformative experience. After a series of events forced me to evaluate my own priorities, I realized that over the last few years I've become a mere spectator in my own life - just like with my own lack-of-polyamory, I've been waiting for some external force to act on me instead of trying to act myself. Realizing that this is part of the fundemental unhappiness I've been experiencing for years, I have vowed to fix several things that are within my grasp I'm on a diet, have begun attacking several unfinished projects that I've left lying around, and I've decided that I want to start dating again.
This is not a decision that I've taken lightly - my wife and I talked at length about it, and she too missed having opportunities to meet new people, having extra people in our lives, and also the extra sex, because let's be honest, that was fun. Ideally, we'd like to find a nice lady who likes the both of us so we can reform our previously-awesome trio (triad, triangle, whatever term you wanna use), but we're open to also seeing people individually just to see what happens... if we can find people, that is.
The big thing that we identified as an issue was that our social circle has dwindled to nothing - we live in a nearly abandoned town a good hour from three different cities, smack in the middle of a nexus of nothing. We have no friends here in town (and let's face it, they're still struggling with accepting blacks and gays as humans - coming out as polyamorous around here would likely break a lot of people's brains and may get us lynched), and the friends we do have an hour away in the city all view our relationship with the same sort of "do not approach" that our former third developed. It's probably because she and I have, as I said, been together forever - they fail to realize the adaptability and flexibility of our relationship is WHY we've been together that long - and it's damn frustrating to boot.
So instead, we have been looking at a couple local meetup groups - there's one nearby in Dayton, OH that we're looking into - to see if we can find some other like-minded invididuals who might like to get to know either of us (or both, we're down with that too) better.
Now, here's where my provocative "Polyamorous vs Promiscuous" title comes into play. Another friend of ours, let's call her M, has recently "discovered" polyamory. M is someone who I was nearly involved with years ago but who decided (at the time) she was not into polyamorous relationships (and again citing that she did not want to damage the "holy" relationship that is my wife and I), recently got a divorce. Upon being free of her bad relationship and worse husband, she has decided that she is, in fact, VERY into being polyamorous.
M went from "Polyamory is bad" to "I'm in three relationships at once, look at how awesome I am!" overnight, and while I'm happy for her newfound freedom, I have to admit I'm more than a little jealous of M's success and can't help but be frustrated. I've always felt this way and more-or-less embraced this lifestyle but could barely maintain a triad, but she's fresh out of the gate and it's like she invented being poly.
A lot of this plays out at various anime and scifi conventions, which is the closest to any sort of poly meet and greet I've attended to date. Miss M and I both frequent them due to our hobbies (I'm a writer/artist/panelist/humorist, she's a semi-pro booth babe). She develops a gaggle of men who follow her around and usually winds up with an impressive collection of hickeys, while I make awkward passes at people who I think might be interested in me while completely and totally missing the signals from those who actually are because (as I said before) I'm horribly out-of-practice at this.
The mean part of me would suspect that she was really not interested in polyamory and was just doing this as a rebellion against her oppressive upbringing and even further oppressive husband, but I do genuinely believe she's in it for the love more than anything else. While she often comes back from conventions covered in hickeys, but has (as of the last time we talked, she's at another convention this week) only had actual sex with one person at a con - still one more than I've had, but there you go.
The more I think about her, her successes, and my own general failures, the more I start to question my own motives. Where is the line between being polyamorous and being just plain old promiscuous? I love my wife and she will always remain my primary (thus my decision to marry her and have a kid with her), but since we hooked up so young, we both more-or-less bypassed the entire dating scene. Later on, she went off to college, which was about the time we decided to be officially "open" in our relationship, but between the two of us and being as open as we have been, we've racked up an unimpressive number of actual partners.
To date, my wife is at three with me, our third, and another friend of hers who was just interested in her and not me, while I'm at just two - my wife and our former third. I completely and freely admit - I would like to have sex with more people. I feel like I missed something, developmentally, by being so (unintentionally) mono so early on. I missed experiences, and adventures, and a lot of fun physical activity. Yay physical activities.
And so, since I'm in an open marriage anyway, and I'm entirely 100% sure I'm capable of loving at least a couple people simultaniously, I don't see why I can't also get to maybe have some more sex too. My ultimate goal is love - that's it, just love. To love and to be loved. I'd welcome another LTR - or two, or three, or whatever - and as I said before maybe reforming the triangle of power (assuming my wife and I find someone who likes the both of us that way at the same time), I can't say I'd feel all that bad if I wound up going through a few less... permanent... relationships as well.
And now, I'm worried about what that makes me.
I'd welcome your thoughts, those of you who survived the wall of text.