I can’t quite say whether I am polyamorous or monogamous. All I know is I am loyal. Some may say that’s a contradiction, that dating more than one person is far from loyal, but I disagree. I am honest — that’s the difference.
I’m monogamous because I have been in two long-term, heteronormative relationships, and I am currently in love with a monogamous person. I’m polyamorous because I am still in a three-way relationship with a couple, have dated numerous individuals at the same time, and have fallen in love with multiple people at once, with respect and consent being the highest priority in each instance.
After dating monogamously in my teens, at age 22, I began leaning away from traditional relationships and toward alternative ones. I found it liberating and my partners more open-minded. Navigating my way through different kinds of relationships — casual, committed, long-term, monogamous, polyamorous — has been difficult. I’ve learned I can’t trust that everyone is on the same honesty boat and is eager to respect one another’s wishes.
In the process, I’ve learned a lot about myself and other people — how to have direct conversations about sexual health, how to talk about partners’ other relationships, including consent from all sides, and how to continually communicate about what each party wants.
My relationship with the couple, Dottie and Steve, is open. Although we are committed to and absolutely smitten with one another, all three of us agree we can see other people so long as we are honest, considerate, and safe.
Martin was one of those other people. He and I met at university in a photojournalism class. He is tall, handsome, and the most normal person I have ever met. We stayed in touch and became good friends over the years. A little less than a year ago, he asked me to grab a beer, and we realized we were beginning to want something more.
He loves beer, dogs, movies, and sports — pretty uncomplicated stuff. But his passion is real, and you can see in his eyes how excited he gets at the mention of any of those topics. I think that’s what made me fall for him — his unwavering enthusiasm for the things he loves. I wanted to be one of those things.
It was complicated, though. He had just gotten out of a long-term, long-distance, open relationship that left him with a broken heart. The experience had been so negative that he had become completely monogamous. And although I’m great at comforting people through hard times, I’m not a fixer-upper or savior.
Polyamory means more to me than just being greedy and collecting people to love.
There was so much potential for Martin and me. I was falling for him, hard, but I was unsure if we fit because I was also in love with two other humans, Dottie and Steve. I wanted to be selfish and immature, and tell Martin to just deal with it. But I knew there was more to it than that. Polyamory means more to me than just being greedy and collecting people to love. It means being able to be genuinely myself, opening my heart up to numerous people, and understanding that everyone loves differently.
In the end, Martin and I had a bit of a falling out. We were having a night in, watching movies, and chilling on the couch, getting intimate. Out of nowhere, he stopped and started talking about his ex — comparing how alike she and I are in how we talk, and how we love. It was too much. He was my friend first, so my initial instinct was to comfort him and try to talk to him about what he was going through. But when I thought about it further, what he had said made me feel completely vulnerable and alone, and like I wasn’t even my own person.
We tried talking it through, but we were both hurt. I understood that he was still dealing with the breakup, but he hardly seemed to care about how his words made me feel. Even though he really wanted to at least try to be friends after all this, I decided that I didn’t want to see or talk to him for a while.
Dottie, Steve and I were — and still are — an item, and in those next months, I casually dated a few different people who were okay with me being polyamorous. For them, I didn’t have to change myself. However, I also dated people like Drew. He was funny and charming, and although it seemed like he was fine with me seeing other people, it turns out he was merely tolerating it because he wanted to be with me. In these situations, I felt like the people I dated wanted to have me for themselves, disregarding my views and disrespecting my choices in the process.
Yet, I would still listen to Martin’s podcast regularly, even after nine months of not seeing him. Hearing his voice made me both happy and sad. I missed him. I lit up whenever I received a text from him. I would send a polite reply followed by some witty banter, but never anything of depth and definitely not anything about what happened. Ultimately, he hurt me and I am still a little bit mad at him.
Here lies my ongoing dilemma: Dottie and Steve have always been there for me, supporting and doting on me, Drew wants to meet up with me but he doesn’t want to know about anyone else in my life, and I think I am still in love with Martin.
Honesty is at the top of my list when it comes to relationship principles, so first on the agenda is telling Martin how I feel. I’ve already asked him to grab a beer, to which he responded, “I was just about to ask you the same thing.” Next up is discussing how we left things, whether we can come back from that, and deciding whether, if he wants to be with me, I can be with him. Am I willing to become monogamous for a man I have fallen for? Will I be willing to let Dottie and Steve go?
My loyalty to Dottie and Steve is strong; we have been through so much and have a beautiful connection. My loyalty to Martin wavered a little when he hurt me, but it was me who asked to stop talking, and now it’s me who asked him out for a beer. You may not get to choose who you love, but you can choose how you love them. Love is tricky like that.