Dating With a Side of Polyamory
Written by Anonymous
Illustration by Hattie Reid
When you’re growing up, you’re taught that romantic love is exclusively between two people that devote all their time, energy and love to each other. This is how I thought relationships worked for a long time and never expected to deviate from this norm. However, at 21 I found myself dating an older, married, polyamorous man and the way I love has never been the same since.
So How Did This Happen?
It began from a simple bumble date…on which he wore his wedding ring! At first, I was very sceptical as to how open his relationship with his wife was, but he was incredibly honest about his previous relationships and dating patterns. We easily clicked and he was the most interesting person I had ever met. The way he explained his approach to love was fascinating and I was hooked. I originally justified the relationship to myself by insisting that it was casual and so the polyamory didn’t matter because I wasn’t attached but it soon became so much more, and I had so much to learn.
I can’t speak for polyamorous people everywhere as everyone has their own versions and definitions on what polyamory means and what works for them. Polyamory can also change and evolve within individuals and relationships. In this particular situation, he and his wife were each other’s primary partners, while she also had a long-term boyfriend and continued to date other people as well. However, as their relationship with each other changed they dropped the hierarchical measure of relationships. At first, I couldn’t really wrap my head around why you would actively go out and seek other people when you’re in a happy and healthy relationship to start with. I could understand accidentally meeting someone, falling in love and becoming poly to adapt to that situation, but to go looking for more seemed unnecessary to me and insulting that the original chosen person isn’t enough.
I soon realised polyamory was instead about the joy of love. In monogamous long-term relationships, you only experience everything once. With polyamory, you don’t have to give up any experiences. You can fall in love again and again, enjoying that initial excitement turning into intimate connection and comfortability without having to let go of another. Love is not limited. You have enough love to give to as many people as you want, it does not have to be confined romantically to one person. As you have many friendships that are unique, you too can have unique romantic ones that fulfil different needs. It seems rudimentary and out-dated to expect one person to be able to completely fulfil all your needs and its very traditionalist and romanticised to think that someone can! Movies and media promote this image of a perfect couple coming together and being soulmates, completely happy and satisfied for their entire lives, but the expectation that someone can be that person is unrealistic. I’m not saying that it can’t and won’t happen but I’m also a sceptic. What I struggled to grapple with in the beginning of the relationship was the feeling of not being enough and I couldn’t understand why he still wanted to go on more dates with new people. But he found genuine enjoyment from finding connections with other people. It was also important to him that he grew and learnt from each partner, at a level much deeper than you can from traditional platonic friendships. Him seeing other people besides myself had nothing to do with me and in order to be content in this relationship I had to come to terms with this. It was not easy, and I initially struggled with my own insecurities until I found true stability and was completely assured within myself and our relationship. Him dating others did not de-value or take-away our relationship, it stood on its own and is credited to great communication and commitment to each other.
So What Did I Learn?
My whole perception of love and relationships changed within the short span of our relationship. I began this experience with a very short-sighted view of what a healthy dynamic is and found that a relationship doesn’t need to conform to the traditional norms that society has defined. In my previous relationships, I was quite defensive and often jealous. Through the experience of polyamory, I learnt to understand where my jealousy was stemming from and to critically analyse whether it was derived from my own insecurities or rooted deeper within the relationship itself, such as needing more quality time together. I came to terms with facing potential conflict such as possible trust issues and relying on communication to overcome these challenges. It was also striking to me how traditional monogamous relationships are often framed with very possessive language, creating an extremely toxic culture of jealousy and controlling behaviour. Polyamory invigorated my sense of self-worth and inner strength of which I was unaware that I had. After my previous long-term relationship, I had extremely low self-worth and it took time to find the value of myself again. Being in a polyamorous relationship surprisingly continued to help me regain my self-worth by exposing how much love, compassion and understanding I am able to bring into my relationships. However, polyamory is by no means perfect and comes with many complexities that need to be addressed. A major difficulty I had with this specific relationship was that I didn’t feel like it was just me and him, there was always at least a third (his wife) or fourth person to consider. I often felt that my relationship was orbiting around him and his wife’s which was simultaneously at the mercy of the wife and her boyfriend’s! in this way we were all connected in our time and communication. This made planning dates and nights overly difficult and was ultimately what made me question the relationship.
Will I Be Polyamorous Again?
When I first came out of the relationship, I was still strongly identifying as monogamous, however, the more I reflect and navigate the dating scene, I am increasingly inclined to adopt a version of polyamory for myself. I struggle to contemplate having one person fulfil all that I envisage in an ideal partner and being with only that one person for the rest of my life. For these reasons, I am keeping my mind open to all the possibilities of love and romantic connections with people. I believe that people come in and out of your life with a purpose to shape the person you become. I am incredibly grateful to have had him in my life and to have been able to have an overall positive experience with polyamory. Each relationship has the potential to practice and strengthen many skills, such as communication, respect and empathy. Polyamory felt like a boot camp for these skills which significantly developed my muscles in these areas. I now feel ready and prepared for the next relationship coming my way and I’m excited for when it does.
Anonymous is currently completing a masters of bioscience researching aquatic ecology and evolutionary biology in relation to climate change. Outside of science, her interests include meeting new people, travelling and swiping on Hinge.