doing it all wrong for so long, one guys 20+ year history of polyamory....
WARNING, this is a massive missive of one guys attempts at polyamory over the past 20+ years. This is not a pretty story, there is no fairy tale happy ending here, but there is a multitude of mistakes and limitless lessons to be shared.
This is me, I am a 39 year old male, who identifies as a bi, poly, kinky, sex-positive male. I am currently working on my 6th / 7th poly relationship. This is just an open and honest accounting of my history. Perhaps this will turn into a blogy-thing, but for now i will just spew forth my long and at times treacherous history.
I have always known that I did not subscribe to the traditional monogamous relationship model. Where even in elementary school I would have a "girlfriend" and a "boyfriend" at the same time, which at that point in my life meant holding hands and playing together on the playground.
At some point, probably around second grade, the rampant homophobia in my suburban philadelphia community caused me to closet my attraction to men as well as women, but I continued to have multiple "girlfriends" and ultimately refused to monogamously commit to anyone until my marriage at age 28.
My first sexual experiences both hetero and homosexual happened at a fairly young age (13) and I think have shaped my sex positive outlook immensely.
Though neither turned into a relationship, and the gay sexual experienced turned nasty when male peers of both of ours found out about it, I reacted and forcefully closeted my bisexuality until university.
My first "poly" relationship.
The first was short lived with a bi woman, and also probably my first real lesson in dealing with my own jealousy. The two of us had a crush on a woman who was peripheral to our clique. We had sex with others on previous occasions but one drunken labor day weekend at a pool party we had a chance to both fulfill those desires with our crush. After playing as a threesome for a bit in the pool our crush led us to our host's master bath, she led my friend in first and followed her in slamming and locking the door in my face, leaving me on the outside of the room. I was a drunken, angry 19 year old, and proceeded to behave poorly, making a lot of jealous rage noise, and ultimately drank myself unconscious.
The next morning in my hung-over daze my girlfriend called me and dumped me because of how I reacted to my own jealousy in the situation. She said to me "I understand you are jealous, and the way you acted out in your jealousy was not cool, ...like drinking poison and hoping someone else gets sick." She and I have remained friends for nearly 20 years now. I think her admonishment of my poor behavior was probably my first hard lesson in dealing with jealousy.
The lessons: Negotiate all play first. Jealousy comes from within and affects not only your behavior but can distance you from those you share love with.
My second poly relationship.
This happened a couple of years later where a group of my friends and from university shared a very large house. This group included my "girlfriend" at the time, a woman with whom I had shared a bed and apartment with for the previous year or so, but again had cheated on every chance I could.
One of our housemates was a guy friend I had fooled around with on a few occasions prior to the group all moving into the house. He, my girlfriend and I all shared a floor in the house. One thing lead to another and eventually -- for the better part of a year we were one big happy triad sharing beds, bodies, and lives. Towards the end of that year jealousy got the better of me and in order to preserve the friendship in the group and my relationship with my girlfriend, she and I moved out. Ultimately a year later she and I split, because she wanted monogamy and I wanted to continue to have sex at every opportunity i could.
The lessons: Good things do not always last, jealousy is my own worst enemy.
Shortly after that I moved to NYC where I was properly introduced to "polyamory" after being invited to the NYC Poly-Much list and meetings by a casual lover. Although I did not participate greatly or with any regularity, I did receive my first copy of TES in 97 and began to learn the vocabulary and develop an understanding of what 'Consensual Non-Monogamy' was all about, though I still had no idea of how to sanely live within the notion of consensual non-monogamy.
My Third Poly Relationship
The lover who gave me my first copy of TES and I had what she called a "hedonistic" relationship, where we could pretty much do whatever we wanted in a 'dont ask, dont tell' manner as long as we used condoms with others and were together every saturday and sunday night. For me this was exactly what I wanted.
This relationship lasted for about a year, where one day she told me she had gotten pregnant and had an abortion because she didn't know whose it was. This set off the warning bells in my head as we had agreed to use condoms with others outside of our relationship. After long talks and rounds of STD testing, all fortunately negative in result, we agreed to continue the relationship.
However months later her jealousy got to her and in some attention seeking attempt she fucked my best friend and colleague. A few days later she told his monogamous girlfriend about it, ultimately destroying their relationship . Those events shattered the mutual friendships between us all and due to the dramatics I disconnected from her.
The Lesson: Trust your instincts and internal warning bells. Dont Ask Dont Tell is not always the best way to communicate.
My attempt at monogamy
For the next two years I had no relationships outside of casual lovers both male and female, until my job sent me to Sweden on an extended business trip. There I met the one woman I would actually try monogamy with. By this time I had learned about being open and transparent and early into the relationship we had "the talk" about consensual non-monogamy, but in this case I only wanted it as an option, for later on, because at the time I was blindingly in love and so high on the serotonin and oxytocin created in limbic resonance that I had wanted to build a strong twosome before trying a more-some. She said she was open to it, when we got to that stage in our relationship. I remember thinking that was a positive sign. 9 months later we married.
Shortly after marrying, she turned. Citing the early conversation about my desire for having other lovers she accused me of cheating on a daily basis for the better part of 2 years, where when I found a used condom under our bed that was not my size. After confronting her about it, she admitted nothing and I forgave and more or less forgot about it.
She did not accuse me again for another 2 years shortly after we decided to move back to Sweden to raise our nearly 2 year old child. She moved back first and I took a very high paying government contract in the US for 9 months to make enough money to finance the move and to establish a household in Sweden. During the time we were apart, she began the accusations of infidelity again. Such that I took to flying to see her for one 6 day weekend every month. During those visits she would make me sleep on the couch as punishment for my alleged cheating on her.
Up to the 3rd month of this traveling half way around the world to be with my wife and child, I was "faithful" to her. One night after talking to a buddy about it over beers he replied "dude if you are doing the time, you might as well commit the crime". I took his advice and have no regrets, in fact made quite a few friends in the BDSM and Poly community and learned much during this period, all the while still traveling to Sweden every month to be with her and our son.
At the end of the contract I moved with her to Sweden and we set up her business and bought a house. My job was to be a stay at home father, learn Swedish, and at the same time I ran a small business of my own that mostly took care of itself. "long hours" at work kept her away from home for 18 or more hours a day. Nine months into this she demanded a divorce from me out of the blue. I granted it to her because it was just me and our son most days every day and it did not really feel like she wanted anything to do with home life.
Shortly after signing the paperwork, divorce takes a year here, I was called back to the US to take care of some family matters. During my trip she pulled a fast one and claimed that I had abandoned her and demanded sole custody of our child. Having no ability to fight it, I decided to stay in Seattle with family and attempt to start my life over again.
I recently learned that from the time I took the government contract, to the time I came back to the US, she was dating a man, who moved into our house pretty much right after I left.
The Lessons: How you bring out your polyamorous nature to monogamous people can lead to their insecurity. When someone is pointing at you in accusation they are often doing so in order to cover their own mistakes. That sometimes it is better just to let things end.
(continued in next post)
My Fourth Poly Relationship
In Seattle I began to openly identify as bi-poly-kinky. I even started going to Center for Sex Positive Culture events and rapidly found myself with a poly primary with whom I moved in with shortly after. At this time I had a job that kept me traveling to different cities throughout the world 4 days a week on average, all while still going to Sweden to see my son for a week every month. My primary felt insecure because I was traveling all of the time and she wanted all of my home time to be with her.
Ultimately we wound up negotiating that I would only have relationships outside of Seattle, and she would not bring anyone into our home. This was not really optimal for me because I was not regularly in the same cities and therefore unable to cultivate anything more than a casual relationship, but it kept her happy and I was willing to meet her half way.
Not quite a year of this and things are seeming ok, until one day I get some strange charges on my credit card. The police catch the guy with the card. I find out his name and it turns out that he is one of her lovers. She confesses that she had been bringing him and others into our home while I was away and we agree to end the relationship and she moved out.
The Lesson: Negotiating around someones insecurity may not always work. Negotiating away what you want in order to help another's insecurities is not always the best approach.
I spend the next two years dating many monogamous women and bi/gay men and being dumped by them within 3 months of the relationship because I would not change to suit their monogamy and they would not accept that I am non-monogamous. There was plenty of great sex, some of them remain awesome friends, but in general, it was not exactly the best of times. During this period I was traveling to Sweden on a monthly basis to spend time with my son.
My fifth poly relationship
On a lark I posted a "Bi-poly-kinky-Male for Bi-poly-kinky Female Unicorn" ad on Craigslist. A week later meet the woman of my dreams. We quickly fall in love and everything was full of awesome.
There were rough patches, and plenty of communication and jealousy-abandonment issues but we were working on them, and living the love-sex lives of our dreams, dating as a couple or as individuals; we dated couples, singles, and we even had amazing experiences with a mff triad that had been together for 15 years. They were a real inspiration and roll models to us in our poly-experience and expectations.
For most of our relationship I also had a fairly steady boyfriend that I would sometimes share with her.
One day almost a year into the relationship, A swedish speaking guy calls me and tells me that he will be raising my son as his and that I should stop coming to Sweden because his mother and he are together and I am no longer needed.
I immediately freaked out and in very short order sold or gave away all of my possessions. My 5th and I talked about the situation and decided go our separate ways. Just over 2 months later I move to Sweden to ensure that my son has me in his life and begin another chapter in my life.
Nearly a year later My 5th poly lover move moves back to her home town in Danmark some 800 Km away from where I currently live. We have visited since. She will always have a place in my life, my heart, home, and bed.
The Lesson: Great relationships may change over time, burn no bridges because no matter how bleak the outcome or situation this person may be in your life again, even on the other side of the world.
Fast forward two more years of dating monogamous women, and men, going to local poly meetings and participating in many poly/sex-positive lists, websites, and talking with new and old poly friends, and attempting to gain a foothold in a society that I have a passable fluency in the language in a culture that is not nearly as poly-accepting as Seattle is. There are no poly dating sites in Sweden besides the usual okcupid, pmm and unfortunately there are few Swedes on those sites.
My 6th and 7th Poly Lovers
In the same week I met two incredibly wonderful women on vanilla, monogamous dating sites. One lives a few km from me, the other 400km.
Before the first date I went through the usual speech I give about how I do commitment differently than what they are probably accustom to, about how love is not finite and that it is possible to love and commit to more than one person. That love is acceptance, not change. Both of them thought that it was a beautiful idea, and that they were still interested in meeting and seeing where it goes. ...and well obviously it goes.
We ultimately agreed on a V configuration, both women have no real interests in bi-sexuality, but both have said that they think that I offer them a sort of maturity in a relationship that they feel safe and comfortable knowing that I may be having sex with others, but that they are the priority, and that I will be safe, sane, and consensual with them.
We are still new with one another, the NRE has not yet faded, but I am hopeful, positive and looking forward to growing the relationship we have. They are both amazing, beautiful and come from completely different ends of the spectrum and I love them both for who they are.
only time will tell, and one of my mottos in life is "you cant win if you dont bet."