contemporary art, culture and criticism from a Jewish-Eskimo in the Pacific Northwest.
Polyamory Isn't Just About Sex....
Polyamory isn’t just about sex, according to many polyamorists that I’ve talked to. Sex can be a part of the mix, of course, but it isn’t necessary. To some poly people, their dear, dear friends that they love immensely but don’t sleep with are considered partners. They say polyamory means many loves not multiple sex partners.
Except, sometimes that’s exactly what poly means. Many of the poly people I've talked to over the years first got together because they were swingers. Couples developed feelings for play partners and decided to explore relationship possibilities. For some, that is how they first discovered the idea of polyamory. Other people discover poly because they are sexually attracted to more than one person at once and want the freedom to be able to sleep with them without our cultural restrictions. They want to have a deep meaningful relationship with someone, and be able to boink other people on the side without their loved one going ballistic from jealousy and a sense of ownership/entitlement.
Originally, poly was that for me. It was a release valve. My husband, due to health reasons, couldn’t have sex. Oral sex and masturbation are fine, even him strapping on a dildo to please me was okay. But I missed real sex. I missed the whole throbbing penis sort of thing. (My sister said I would make a lousy lesbian. She’s probably right. I like sex with women just fine, but I couldn’t do that exclusively.) It got to the point where I missed sex so much I was fantasizing about men I saw in the grocery line or at the gas station—men who I wouldn’t have ordinarily touched with a ten foot pole. Enough was enough. I told him I either wanted to open our relationship or else I wanted a divorce, because I wasn’t going to sneak behind his back and cheat on him.
Naturally, he was upset. That night, he disappeared to a bar and drank himself silly. I had just rejected him as a man. But after he regained sobriety the next day, he came to me and said okay. He said he put himself in my shoes. If I couldn’t put out and he could, would he be getting sexually frustrated? The answer was yes. Would he hope I would understand his needs? Another yes. He didn’t want to get a divorce. So he came to the only conclusion he could. Yes to poly.
I told him that I didn’t believe that opening up our relationship should be one way, because that would be unfair. He scoffed, asking me how in the hell would he find somebody, when he can’t perform? I told him that for some people, sex isn’t everything.
Sure enough, he was the first one to find somebody. They dated for a couple of months and then she moved out of state for a job. His relationship ended, but this example showed us that poly could work, since he saw I didn’t blow up, I didn’t get jealous, and I was actually very happy for him. No really, I was! I felt compersion. His happiness and the boost to his self-esteem (which, honestly, I know I shot down by asking to go poly in the first place) really made me excited for him. Not to mention, I found the idea of him with another woman a little hot. I just wish we had discovered poly a loooong time ago, back when his…abilities…were in full swing. We could have had some serious fun! Anyway, my husband’s health has since deteriorated to the point where he doesn’t really feel like dating anymore, but he doesn’t keep me from doing so.
I digress. When I finally started dating, I think accepting poly was a lot harder for him. But because I had been a good sport, he really gave it his ya'll. I could tell when he got uncomfortable. He tensed up and looked like he didn’t want to talk. He sighed The Sigh. I reached up and held his chin in my hand, and looked him straight in the eye. I reminded him, “I want to feel like I can talk with you about anything, honey. This is important to me. If I can’t talk to you about this and be open, it hurts me.” He always took a deep breath, and nodded for me to continue. He listened and offered constructive advice. It was hard for him. It still is, sometimes.
But! He is friends with the man I’m currently dating, my fuck buddy (FB). He's married and is poly, too. Our families get together periodically and have barbecues and game nights. Our kids get along splendidly.
If you had asked me ten years ago if I would ever be caught dead in a relationship like this, I would have said no. I was firmly in the monogamous mindset. Now, I can’t imagine life any other way.
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