Experiences with Polyamorous Relationships

One man details the impact his polyamorous relationships have had on him throughout his life.


| August 2016



Polyamory

"Stories from the Polycule" coins the term "polycule;" a network created by the interconnections of polyamorous relationships. Just like the molecules that make up all living things, polycules come in diverse forms: large, small, tightly bound, loosely connected, static, ever-changing.

Photo by Desertsolitaire/Fotolia

The first of its kind, Stories from the Polycule (Thorntree Press, 2015), is an anthology that brings together stories, poems, drawings and essays created by real people living in polycules. In this book edited by Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, children describe life with more than two parents; adults share what it's like to parent with more than one partner. We hear from triads, solos, people who have felt polyamorous their entire lives, and people exploring poly for the first time. Some whimsical, some hilarious, some heartbreaking, some mundane, some life-changing — all pieces reflect the diverse reality of polyamorous families.

I was introduced to the concept of an “open relationship” in early 1969 at age 19, although the term “polyamory” was not coined until 1990. The office manager where I worked, a man age 39, was trying to convince me to go back and finish college. One day at lunch, he smiled and asked me, “How’s your sex life?” I replied, “What sex life?” Little did I know what would ensue. He invited me over to his home for dinner and to go over possible paths, got me slightly inebriated, and said instead of driving under the influence I should sleep on their hide-a-bed sofa in the living room. I’m trying to fall asleep, when suddenly there’s a beautiful woman — tall, slender, fit, and age 37 — standing next to the sofa, completely naked, smiling and saying, “Having trouble sleeping? Perhaps I can help.” Oh, did she ever help ... Her husband explained over breakfast that they had an open relationship. She had a steady boyfriend in addition to her husband, and he had a girlfriend. I had the opportunity for several more “tutoring sessions” before they moved out of the area for better jobs.

At age 22, a female friend invited me to attend a swinging party. Physically, it was delightful, but I wondered why it “didn’t feel quite right” emotionally.

I got engaged at age 24. My fiancée and I were talking about what we wanted our marriage to be like. She said (before I could bring up the topic) that she wanted an open marriage, where we could have emotional and physical connections to others if we wished, with the other knowing and consenting beforehand. She suggested we leave “forsaking all others” out of the vows we wrote, since she didn’t feel it was realistic. We both did have other partners — mostly people who were already my, her, or our friends. I had told her about the few swinging parties I’d attended before we met. She expressed curiosity — and ended up attending a number of parties with me, and enjoying it.

In 1980, my wife had a dramatic transformation in her faith, and got very involved in a conservative Christian church. She said she didn’t want to “do this anymore, it’s wrong.” Out of respect for her, I also ceased any outside activities — for 26 years.

In 2006, after seeing Merry Wives of Windsor with the theme of Falstaff’s infidelities and their consequences, my wife initiated an extraordinary conversation. She thanked me for decades of faithful, loving partnership, and said she felt guilty that I wasn’t being true to myself all those years due to a misunderstanding which she neglected to correct — that she changed, but didn’t expect me to change. She offered me a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) situation. I found this very difficult — it felt completely wrong to me not being able to honestly tell her what I might be doing. In early 2007, I met a couple who had just been to a poly workshop. They wanted to try opening their marriage. She and I began a relationship. My wife consented to my doing this. (I later found out she thought it was just a mid-life crisis where I wanted to sow some wild oats. She assumed it was all about sex, and never considered that there might be an emotional component.)