This past weekend found me attending my cousin’s wedding in the hottest place on earth. No, not hell. We were in a barn in central Pennsylvania in the middle of July. I drove eight hours home for the first time in a year, and I got to see my entire extended family, minus third cousins, in one un-air conditioned place. There’s no suffering like trying to look fancy with sweat trickling down your spine and your eyeliner trying to make a break for your chin.
The ceremony was beautiful. My cousin and her fiance wrote their own vows, and they managed to be poignant and personable all at the same time. I watched them pledge to “look beyond the dirty dishes and towels on the floor” to see the bigger picture of their partnership, and I felt something stir inside me. This was the first wedding I had attended since my divorce, and I had been certain that I was beyond ever wanting to enter the vows of holy matrimony again. The obvious reasons being that I was polyamorous and both my relationships were with married men. I was not going to marry either one of them, but I had to wonder what part of me still wanted that type of traditional union.
I wrote about my Turning 40 Existential Crisis over at Fearless Press, and I think some of that reared its ugly head at the wedding. Sitting there surrounded by my nearest and dearest, I got a startling outside perspective of my life. The stark viewpoint showed me that I’m alone. Now I know that isn’t really true. Both my boyfriends are super-supportive, and I could lean on them both emotionally more than I do. I have a great support network, Soulmateclone included, but in the eyes of my traditional family I am alone. I’m the first woman to get divorced in our family, and everyone would be much more comfortable if I’d get married again as quickly as possible. They equate security and long-term happiness with being married, and I’d be a liar if a small part of me didn’t think so too.
It’s the long-term aspect that trips me up. I love my life. But when someone is planning their golden years, they’re planning with their life partner, not their spouse AND his/her girlfriend. Although I like being a unicorn and a complimentary third to married couples, more often than not, I see myself as being a solid “second” to the married pair. In other words, I’m the glittery unicorn icing on their sex cake. It’s a role I love and enjoy, but in the bigger picture, are they still going to want icing when our asses are no longer perky and our sex drive is more of a meander?
Hypothetically, there’s nothing stopping me from dating a non-poly guy, having a monogamous relationship and eventually getting married again. Then my mama could stop expressing her worries during Joys & Concerns at church every Sunday. Except that I don’t think I would be happy with monogamy. My darling vagina readers, I love sex, and I like to have sex with more than one person. I’m also bisexual and want to continue dating and having sex with women. But even more importantly, I know from first hand experience that a beautiful ceremony and kickass reception are no guarantees that everything will turn out wonderfully in the long run. I sold a piece of my soul for the perceived security of a traditional marriage the first time around, and I learned that a long-term relationship takes two willing people that want to keep working at being together… being together and being happy about it.
When I talk about the future with my boyfriends, I ask for reassurances. Not the promise that we’ll be together forever, because I don’t believe in happy endings. (Hey, I’m working through the bitterness of my divorce.) But I want us to keep striving for a relationship that fulfills us both, that we continue communicating and tackling new horizons and adventures. I ask that they be present and open, and I promise them that I will continue doing the same. When it boils down to it, I don’t need marriage vows to get those things.
Much of these fears stem from ghosts of my poly past, and I look at everything I’ve written in this post and know that much of the worries I experienced at the wedding were pure monkey chatter in my brain. I suppose there’s a part of me that still subscribes to the symbolism of marriage: the commitment of the very best parts of ourselves and the safety in that. But getting married wouldn’t fit my lifestyle. The things that I’m certain of include my commitment to the relationships in my life: my honesty, my pledge to always talk about any problems and my willingness to explore new things. Sometimes I wish I had a crystal ball to tell me what my polyamorous life will look like when I’m a blue-haired, sassy grandmother and then I slap myself in the face and think that I’m fine being just where I am. In fact, I’m really really good.