For the past two years, I have been the third member of a polycule. To the uninitiated, that makes me sound like some kind of minor superhero, and provided the mask you’re imagining accentuates my cheekbones, that’s just fine with me.
A polycule is just a cute name for a network of people who are connected through their romantic partners in a polyamorous relationship. In our case, my boyfriend has a girlfriend. She is not my girlfriend, but we do get along really well.
When I started dating my boyfriend, I was on the rebound. I met him online, where he sent me a message that simply read, “Hi, hope you’re doing well. I see that you’re a playwright. What kind of plays do you write?”
His profile was direct. He was in a polyamorous relationship with his live-in girlfriend of eight years. That was something Becca the Serious Dater would have viewed as a dealbreaker. But my heart had just been broken by another dude, and Becca on the Rebound thought, “Eff it, we won’t be together long enough for any of that to even matter.” This blue-eyed, open, polyamorous man with whom there was no possible future seemed like just the tonic to soothe my weary soul.
The joke was on me: Rob and I connected in a real way, and we decided to give the relationship a shot. I learned really fast that to Rob ― and to any polyamorous person worth their salt ― openness and communication are key. To that end, it was important to Rob that I meet his other girlfriend pretty quickly. After about a week of dating, he invited us both out to dinner where we got to know each other.
I anticipated a weirdness like none I had ever known before … but it didn’t happen.
I kept telling myself that the second this felt strange or bad I was done. It’s a mindset I still keep, and I’m still waiting to feel like this is all too much for me. Feels like I’ll be waiting a while! Until the weirdness and/or badness sinks in, I’m living the non-monogamous life, and to be honest, it’s pretty different from what I expected.
“When I stay at his place, I sleep in the same bed with him and his other girlfriend. He’s in the middle (in utter heaven).”
I like to describe non-monogamous living as an umbrella. That umbrella covers all sorts of people who engage in anything other than monogamous relationships: swingers, polyamorists, those in open marriages, those in open relationships and more.
Every person who lives and loves non-monogamously defines themselves and their relationship(s) differently. Here’s how mine works. I do not identify as polyamorous, but I am in a relationship with a man who does identify that way. When I stay at his place, I sleep in the same bed with him and his other girlfriend. He’s in the middle (in utter heaven). We all think female-male-female threesomes are hot, and we do from time to time have sex all together, though it’s more common for us to have sex separately, if adjacently, to each other.
We are all allowed to date whomever we want to date. If we are going to have sex with someone with whom we aren’t in a committed relationship, condoms are a must. If we plan on beginning a relationship, we introduce that person into the dynamic relatively quickly ― it just works easier for us.
At the moment, Rob is the only member of our polycule currently dating two people. His other girlfriend had a girlfriend of her own when I came onto the scene, but they have since broken up. I’m not dating a second or third partner because I’m enough of an introvert that even one relationship exhausts me.
When Rob suffered a scare and was in the hospital recently (he’s fine), both of his girlfriends were there by his side, something the various interns seemed flummoxed by. Rob handled it like a pro. After they asked who was his actual girlfriend for roughly the 30th time, he just said, “I am with them both ― now can we talk about why I’m in this bed?”
“Being polyamorous doesn’t mean that you don’t think you’re worthy of love. Being polyamorous doesn’t mean that you’re a slut. Being polyamorous doesn’t mean that you can’t commit.”
To me, all of this seems pretty clear, pretty open. This is the relationship that works best for me, and I’ll talk about this stuff to anyone who will listen. But when you live your life out loud in a way that is considered left of the norm, some people are going to accept you and others aren’t. The thing that was the most surprising to me about making this decision was just how much pushback I got from family and friends.
Almost across the board, the people in my life assumed that I was dating Rob because I was settling or because I didn’t know my own worth. To them, being a person who loves and respects herself means also being a person who demands monogamous love. I don’t see it that way. In fact, I think it is the love and respect I have for myself that informed my decision to get into a relationship with a polyamorous man.
Before I met Rob, I dated a string of men who were at best disinterested in me and at worst abusive. Never once during any of those relationships did anyone I know intervene and instruct me in the ways of love. But suddenly, with Rob, a man who treats with me kindness, thoughtfulness and adoration, people had opinions ― and they were not positive.
Being polyamorous doesn’t mean that you don’t think you’re worthy of love. Being polyamorous doesn’t mean that you’re a slut. Being polyamorous doesn’t mean that you can’t commit. None of these stereotypes is true. If you’ve been treated like any of that was true in a polyamorous relationship, that means you had a bad experience with a bad person who was trying to cover up their bad behavior by claiming it was part of being polyamorous. It wasn’t.
Being polyamorous really just means that you don’t believe you were born with a finite amount of love to give ― that the amount of love you have to give and share is endless.
“I have to say that when I want to talk about my boyfriend, I feel exceptionally spoiled to have another woman I can turn to WHO TOTALLY GETS IT! AND HIM!”
My courtship with Rob was definitely a whirlwind. We became serious very early on and never doubted it. My relationship with his girlfriend didn’t develop as quickly. We were both wary and nervous at first. But over two years, I’ve come to consider her one of my best friends.
Also, I have to say that when I want to talk about my boyfriend, I feel exceptionally spoiled to have another woman I can turn to WHO TOTALLY GETS IT! AND HIM! I still live in my own apartment, but I usually spend three nights a week over at their place and she has moved heaven and earth to make me feel at home.
One thing nobody talks about when it comes to polyamory is that while jealousy is a real thing that people experience, you also might not experience it ― and that’s totally OK! Adjusting to a relationship in which my boyfriend was also someone else’s boyfriend presented a lot of interesting challenges, but for me personally, jealousy was never one of them.
I think a huge reason that jealousy never rears its ugly head is because Rob has encouraged me to come to him when I have any difficult emotions. If I’m feeling scared or hurt or neglected, I no longer nurse those private hurts. I tell Rob right away and we address the issue, head on, together.
Rob is also ridiculously aware of how much time all of the women in his life need. When we first got together, I resented the shared calendar he kept asking me to put our dates on (because I hate scheduling anything), but I came to realize that this calendar existed so he could make sure that we all got what we needed ― in a very practical way.
I never planned on being in a polyamorous relationship, but it’s where I am, and more and more it feels like family. When Rob and his other girlfriend welcomed their first baby last year, I expected that to bring up a lot of complicated issues. It did.
Holding their baby felt strange at first, and even stranger when her new presence meant that I was sleeping on the couch in the living room so I wouldn’t be up all night. I felt like an outsider a little bit ― a lot at times. But I also felt like a member of a family.
Over the past year, that feeling has increased. The baby is too young to have come up with a special name for me, but she knows me as part of her family, someone she can crawl up to and demand to be cuddled, someone she can nuzzle sweetly when she’s tired or needs comfort.
I’m worried about someday having to explain to her who I am and why her family is different from other families. But don’t people raising children have a million concerns about them? And ultimately, what makes her family different is an excess of love, not a lack of it.
“Ultimately our relationship is about the same thing that everyone else’s relationship is all about: love.”
Yeah, I know, whatever you’re thinking I have probably thought, too. It’s not perfect. I worry about the future, but I have no doubt in Rob. I know that whatever happens, he’s going to love and support me. Yes, my life is weird, but my relationship is my relationship. I would never expect another person to try to have a relationship exactly like mine ― that would be insane.
What I do expect is to be treated with respect. My family looks a little different. There are more adults. We are perpetually griping about stuff like “the nightstand problem” ― nightstands are an issue when there are just two sides to a bed and more than two people in said bed. But I wouldn’t trade these problems for any of the woe I suffered in previous relationships.
Should Rob and I ever part ways, I don’t know that I would actively seek out another polyamorous man. I am not with Rob because he is polyamorous; I am with him because he is Rob, and because the kind of love he has shown me has made me brave enough to take on a way of life that, yes, may come with threesomes on special occasions. But ultimately our relationship is about the same thing that everyone else’s relationship is all about: love.