Filed under: Feminism, Sex | Tags: ethical slut, love, monogamy, open relationships, polyamory, romance, sex at dawn, sexuality
So as I write this, it’s ten o’clock on a Monday night, and my boyfriend, W, is on a date with one of my best friends, R. See, we’re in a polyamorous relationship. In fact, over the almost three years that we have been together, our relationship has been open in theory. However, it’s only recently that theory has become reality.
W and R have been dating for roughly two months now with my explicit blessing and encouragement. I am not currently in any other relationship, as I’ve felt myself to be too busy to pursue anything much. Besides, the few crushes I do have seem to be of the unreciprocated or un-pursuable type because I always aim to be an ethical slut… Er, not to mention the fact that whenever I experience attraction to anyone, I become a nervous, incoherent wreck.
But this is not going to be a blog entry about what a silly, wimpy loser I am, this is going to be about why I am happy that my boyfriend is dating my best friend.
Polyamory and me – in brief because I’m sleepy!
The notion of monogamy has never sat well with me. Even as I’ve loved several people and only been in long-term relationships, the idea of only ever being able to love one person seemed suffocating and the thought of only ever being able to fuck the one person… ever… for the rest of my life was almost inconceivable and libido destroying.
My first “proper” boyfriend was incredibly monogamous and also quite possessive, not in any sort of dangerous way, but rather in a way that many would consider loving (and which was, for him, for he was a good man but not meant for me) but I felt incredibly constrained by my relationship with him, for he even insisted that if I ever so much as posed naked as a photographer’s model, he would leave me. To me, monogamy meant sacrificing autonomy over my own body and life and this made it feel hard to breathe.
So of course I internalised the idea that there was something wrong with me, that I was a bad person, a slut. Destined, ultimately, to be alone and riddled with STDS. Inevitably, it seems, in 2003 I fell in love with two men at the same time and not just a little in love, deeply in love. And they both loved me. I felt ripped and torn apart, I felt intense pain, helplessness and, well, an incredible erotic charge from it too. The Unbearable Lightness of Being became my all-time favourite book and I made angsty art about my emotions. I was about 18 or 19 years old at the time. Here’s one of those old artworks:
There were a lot of tears, there was a lot of pain… but through it, I learned to be as honest as I possibly could with them and through it all, they both still loved me and I loved them. I learned a lot from and because of these wonderful men and have a lot of gratitude towards them.
Unfortunately, because I did not move to Melbourne until 2006, I was not exposed to polyamory nor any discussions about open relationships outside my own until then. At one point in 2005, I had tried discussing open relationships with a therapist but she slammed the idea down there and then, telling me that open relationships never worked and bringing up the fact that she was a Christian. I did not go back to her after that but her words stayed with me, like a grey and looming thing that looms and is grey. The only bit of hope I got was from reading about one of my heroes, artist Len Lye’s beautiful, happy and open relationship with his second wife, Ann. They were not monogamous, yet they were together until death parted them, the “happily ever after”, fairytale, marriage mantra and their life was nothing at all conventional.
But yes, moving to the city of Melbourne meant that I was actually meeting people who were in healthy, communicative, polyamorous relationships and the privilege of having my own personal computer for the first time ever meant I was actually able to research this stuff. It helped me feel like I wasn’t a freak for not being into monogamy (I respect it if it works for others, but it just doesn’t for me and I hope people can learn to understand and accept that) and it confirmed my notion that one could be non-monogamous and still have healthy, happy relationships. Fuck, it was awesome.
So before my current partner, W, and I entered into this relationship in an official and serious manner… I wrote him an email. A ten page long monster explaining myself, explaining who I am and what I need, laying out my deal breakers before jumping into the deep end with him. Because it was always going to be the deep end with W; we already had a long, complicated history and beautiful friendship behind us. This was going to be serious, but I was tired of compromising things that were fundamentally important to me and polyamory had become that important.
I needed to feel free. Not free to do just anything, not inconsiderate, cold or cruel… but free to feel unashamed, free to love where love blooms. Free to have a few exciting adventures before I die.
And to W, everything I said in the email made sense. And with W, I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I feel safe and loved, solid as a rock and light as a feather. Gush, gush, puke. I know!
To be honest, since I’ve been with him, I have not been with anyone else (apart from long distance flirtations with a dear heart) but I know that if something right comes along, we can discuss it and unless W has any deeply felt objections, I can pursue it. No, it won’t be uncomplicated, yes there are risks, yes only time will tell if this is a good idea but we always talk so openly, I trust W deeply and I really feel so good to know we’re pursuing happiness in our own way, in a way that feels constructive, liberating and right for us.
And that is why I am sitting here typing this, happy and content while my boyfriend’s on a date with one of my best friends. Because I love him, I love her and I love figuring out my own life in my own terms.
As a small aside…
Just recently I’ve been reading Sex at Dawn (along with everyone else in the sex blogosphere!), a book which very strongly puts forward the argument that humans are not inherently monogamous but that monogamy is an institution which evolved relatively recently and is very much intertwined with agriculture and patriarchy. Though I am sure the book is not holeproof, the references seem solid, interesting and a lot of the observations in the book ring true to my own experiences. I highly recommend reading it, not just as a book about monogamy but about human sexuality in general. It’s some fascinating shit and has some great stuff one can use to shoot down people who use Darwin to say bullshit about sex and women. Wicked.
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