When I was 19 I was in a polyamorous relationship for several months. I was the secondary partner, or basically the girlfriend of the husband. The wife did not yet have a partner of her own. The experience helped me decide that polyamory is decidedly not for me, and I wonder if it’s truly for half the people that are in polyamorous arrangements. I think it’s one of those things that sounds great in theory, but rarely works well in practice. I’ll share a bit of what I mean with my experience.
I’ve never been good with being “second best,” but being the secondary partner was an especially difficult position for me. I’ve always desired to be a man’s one and only. Polyamory asserts that you can have love for multiple people simultaneously. Personally, there’s only room in my heart for one person. I understand other people may be different, but I do wonder if it’s possible to (romantically) love more than one person equally.
Being the secondary was a dynamic that infringed on my freedoms in my relationship. For instance, my boyfriend had a curfew. Please, if you’re in a polyamorous relationship, get over your control issues enough that you don’t need to set a curfew. I felt like the wife was taking ownership of my boyfriend, who I was supposedly free to love on my own terms. In practice, though, it was all on the wife’s terms. She dictated when I saw him, how much I saw him, even how we had sex — she didn’t believe that I wasn’t drug-addled and STD-laden, so she forced him to use dental dams on me. Meanwhile they had all the unprotected sex they wanted and, as the secondary, I couldn’t say anything about that.
I believe there was a bit of jealousy between the wife and me. I was jealous that she got the full-time partner whereas I only got whatever crumbs were left over, and she was jealous that her partner was falling for someone else. I don’t think she liked his attention being given to someone else. I feel like if you’re going to open up your relationship, you should probably not be the jealous type. Perhaps she thought she wasn’t jealous, and learned she was in the process of having a secondary partner.
Either way, it didn’t end well. The fact was that my relationship with her husband was causing strain in their marriage, and it was a contributing factor in our eventual breakup. It’s for the best that it didn’t continue on longer, since I would have ended up totally falling for him and not being able to have him since he was already married to someone else. I’m possessive like that. I want my partner all to myself. I could never share them with someone else. In that way, I’m not sure why I ever entered the relationship at all. I could never get what I wanted out of it.
Polyamory is a hot topic right now. More and more people are doing it. It seems like you’re the odd one out if you stand up in defense of monogamy these days. There are a lot of arguments about how humans aren’t “designed” to be monogamous. I don’t know what science says, but I’m personally programmed to be partnered with one person and one person only, so saying I’m not designed for the lifestyle I’ve chosen is something I immediately call into question. I think it’s fair to say each of us is programmed differently. Some people are never satisfied with just one partner.
While I can’t understand being that way, I sometimes wonder if many of the polyamorous arrangements that exist today are just a way to sleep around while being in a serious relationship. There are different levels of polyamory, of course. There are swingers, who have casual sex partners as a couple. Then there’s the kind of polyamory where there is the primary relationship, and all secondary partners are casual. And then there’s the kind of polyamory I experienced, where the potential for a “relationship” (beyond sex) exists with the secondary partners.
I can’t imagine sex ruling my life so much that I would need to lessen my commitment to my partner by opening up our relationship. Then again, I’m borderline asexual and far from sex-positive due to my mother’s constant shaming throughout my life, so I’m probably not a good person to consult on this topic. Nonetheless, I think it’s good that our society has gotten to the point of opening up alternative relationship options for people who have greater sexual needs than I. I’m just a traditionalist who worries what will happen when a child enters the picture and she gets confused by having two mommies. Maybe it’s just like gay parents and there doesn’t end up being much confusion. Children are kind of amazing at what they understand intuitively.
I would welcome the opportunity to understand better why people open up their relationships. I can barely handle a relationship with one person, let alone multiple people. I think I’ll be sticking to my old-fashioned, monogamous ways for now.