When I was 18, my high school sweetheart made me sit down with my former flame and him for coffee. We’d started texting for the first time since breaking up, and I couldn’t ignore the spark between us. I brought it up with my boyfriend at the time, who thought catching up under his supervision would get seeing him ‘out of my system’ — but that spark had ignited something inside me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more out there than just being with him for the rest of my life. There was nothing wrong with my relationship — in fact, he was an amazing partner. But because I didn’t know anything other than monogamy, I assumed we had to break up.
This wasn’t the first time I was involved with what most of society considers adultery. Throughout my young adult life I’ve been in many relationships where I emotionally cheated by texting past lovers. Either they reached out to me when they were horny, or I reached out to them when I was lonely. It was an ongoing cycle, regardless of who we were dating at the time. And sometimes, that texting turned to a lot more — when their partners were away or even when they were in another room. Even though they loved the other women, there was this electricity between us — and ignoring it felt like we were depriving ourselves of something we were too young to give up.
I don’t think that new relationship energy ever goes away, regardless of age — although I respect those who are monogamous and choose not to act on it. For a long time I thought there was something wrong with me — I was a homewrecker who needed to control her urges. But fast forward to 28, and I’ve noticed a pattern — not only in my own relationships, but in the world in general: We find someone we’re completely mad about and build a life with them — and then we find someone else we’re just as intoxicated with. Does that mean we throw away the other person because we have feelings for someone else? In monagamous culture, yes. But for a year now, I’ve been exploring polyamory — the idea that through respect and communication you can have multiple relationships — and I’ve never felt so much satisfaction.
When I was monogamous, I was constantly fighting with whoever I was dating because I felt like there was always something lacking. No matter how much I loved someone, I was miserable because my needs weren’t being met. I was putting all of these expectations on one person to be everything for me — and when they weren’t, I went looking for someone else who could give me what I needed. What I hadn’t learned yet — and what I’ve learned from polyamory — is that just like friends, different people will make you feel valued in different ways, and through polyamory, instead of focusing on changing someone, you can embrace what they can provide for you rather than what they can’t.
Recently I started seeing someone new. He’s polyamorous and lives with his partner. After a few amazing dates, he encouraged me to come over and meet her. She was an impotant part of his life, and he was more into sharing activities than making anyone feel left out. Some people think a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ kind of relationship is best so that they can pretend their metamour doesn’t exist and they don’t get jealous — but for me at least, I know that it’s not realistic long-term. I like things to be straightforward and transparent — otherwise my anxiety runs amok, filling in the blanks with my insecurities. So even though I was pretty nervous — I’d been raised in a society that believes women should compete with each other from a distance, not become personally acquainted with the attributes men find attractive in them — I was optimistic. He was reassuring and made me feel safe — and obviously had good taste in who he spent time with. Maybe I’d like her and we could become friends, or at least friendly.
He suggested I come over to make homemade pizza and cuddle with their dogs (who doesn’t love pizza and dogs?). They picked me up so we could go grocery shopping, and when he came to the door to get me he mentioned that his girlfriend was feeling nervous as well — side note: It really helped to know I wasn’t the only one. When I got to the car, we hugged each other and made small-talk. I knew a little bit from what he told me, so I brought up things we had in common — as well as what she did for work, her hobbies and what they did together. It was just like meeting a new potential friend, except she had a sexual relationship with him too.
Meeting his partner was a really rewarding experience. Instead of feeling jealous, I was pleasantly surprised at how I didn’t feel insecure at all. We chatted for hours and I was able to appreciate her more because I could see firsthand the things he appreciated in her. It was also encouraging to see how well he treated another woman he cared about and what our relationship might look like down the road. I felt equally valued as we cooked together and he showed me affection in front of her — and vice versa — and later cuddled together on their bed with their dogs. I left feeling full from pizza and covered in dog hair — and much more confident about the situation than before I’d arrived.
This kind of polyamorous relationship is called kitchen table poly — an ethical form that’s different from ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ where everyone’s able to sit down and have a conversation. There are various forms of poly, and I’m not saying this is the right one for everyone, but I appreciate kitchen table poly because sitting down together made me feel like I was a part of his life and an ongoing conversation about everyone’s needs — because after all, needs will overlap. What if he’s having a birthday party and wants us both there? Or what if he’s with me and she needs to get a hold of him?
Of course I’ve had insecure moments to work through, but these are about me, not her. When you break it down, what is there to be jealous of? He’s kissed her, seen her naked, had sex with her, said I love you, moved in with her, built a life with her — and he’s still interested in me. But unlike adultery, he doesn’t need to sneak around to see us both — he can just message us in a group chat.