When I first discovered poly, I thought it was the answer that I had been seeking to describe my unconventional views on romantic relationships. Finding out about ethical, open relationships felt like my squareness finally fit into the round hole. Heh… I said hole. I’ve heard over and over again that poly is “hard,” and I agree in so much that it takes effort and requires more communication than I ever realized. It’s like I bought into the poly idea because I thought it was going to bring me a ton of sex. Don’t get me wrong, I fuck a lot. But even more importantly, and what I didn’t realize when I started, was that poly brought me love… love and compassion and more opportunities for introspection and growth than I ever thought possible.
When I was monogamous, I found that I was always hiding some part of myself. I fully expected to be married forever, so being completely honest about everything seemed more harmful than helpful in the long run. I subscribed to the “pick your battles” philosophy of relationships, and sometimes I felt like revealing everything I thought would only hurt us more. After the divorce when I was single again, I still operated along the pattern of hiding the difficult truths. Not all of them, mind you, but some of them.
Poly and BDSM were the two things that inspired me to really change that pattern. In the various books I read about open relationships, the authors talked about honest and frequent communication. I was nodding and smiling and agreeing that this was a great theory, but it scared the crap out of me to be so open. I mean, what kind of person could love me in my entirety once they knew ALL of me?! I wasn’t trying to be open and honest with only one person either. Somehow I was going to do this with multiple people to foster multiple open relationships. Yes, there were times that I thought I was nuts. Even my mama said so.
Some patterns are harder to break than others, but I honestly wanted to change this. Practicing polyamory offered me the way to do just that. It has taken time for me to change how I communicate, and I failed along the way, stumbled and asked myself over and over if this was what I wanted. With willing partners, though, my fuck ups didn’t mean an end to our conversations or our relationships. I’m reminded of this, because Zen and I had a breakdown of communication in the week following my birthday.
“I’m never going to do that again,” I said to Zen. He had asked to meet me at the arboretum, and we sat amidst the blooming shrubs and trees and talked about some of our recent relationship challenges. In very general terms, I had failed to communicate sufficiently to both boyfriends about what precisely my birthday plans consisted of. As a result, Zen had felt excluded–like he was a lesser partner. “I never want you to feel that way again,” I repeated.
He looked at me and smiled, pulling me closer beside him on the bench. “You know, chances are that we’ll revisit this issue again. In fact, it might come back around several times. What’s important is that we agree to work on it and that we continue moving forward.”
His words stole my breath. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He still loved me despite my fuck up, AND that we could be ok if it happened again. This man, this amazing, kind, thoughtful human being, offered his love to me when I was at my worst. He told me that he knew I would make mistakes, and that as long as we talked about it and tried to be better, that we could move forward. These challenges didn’t have to be the end of us. In fact, this hiccup in our relationship offered us the chance to become even better communicators and better lovers.
I don’t know that I can fully articulate what a gift this was to me. Zen saw me, the Heather that was over-analytical and silent and confused, and he still wanted our relationship. Not because we were married or going to embark on some happily ever after scenario like in a monogamous paradigm, but because of our connection and the possibilities that we held between us. Those moments in our relationship may be messy or ugly or amazing and beautiful. And I never would have had the chance at this if I wasn’t poly.
Poly has given me an abundance of sex, love and deep, quality relationships. The effort that I put into them, the energy that I expend, has been given back to me tenfold. I’m learning to show my vulnerability and to speak up when I’m dissatisfied. I’m finally feeling safe enough to show all of me and know that I will still be loved. Unfettered by the traditional paradigm of monogamy, I am free to explore and love to the very best of my ability, to reach beyond what I thought I understood about myself. I know that poly isn’t for everyone. Hell, my mama is still asking me if I’m going to marry one of my boyfriends. But I’m grateful a thousand times over that I discovered polyamory and that my boyfriends found me.