How do you do this, anyhow?

From Jennie D-O'C

Kathy wrote:
Could some of you who are experienced with polyamory tell me some of your stories (how you got into it, how you dealt with a situation that started out monogamous, etc.)?
Some of you have heard this story before, but I've never posted this version of it to the Net. So here it is.

Chris and I met and got engaged in our first year of college. While we were in college, we knew a good number of people in "open relationships", and we talked a lot about what that meant and why we didn't want such a thing for ourselves. We both decided that it was okay for other people, but not for us. We knew neither of us was interested in casual sex, and neither one of us could conceive of being seriously committed to more than one person. But the main reason was that I insisted that I was incapable of feeling attracted to more than one person at a time. Chris said he wasn't the same way, but that he didn't want multiple partners, either, so that was that. There were a couple of times when Chris seemed very interested in spending time with particular women, and I got jealous, because I knew he was probably attracted to them, but we never talked about it at all. And of course nothing ever happened, so there wasn't anything to talk about besides feelings. I still say that should have been important, but what's past is past.

Then in 1990 I went and lived in East Germany for a while. It started out as a University of Magdeburg program for foreign students of German literature and linguistics, but then I ended up just staying and going to live with a friend. Anyway, while I was at the university in Magdeburg I met and fell very hard for an engineering student, and he felt the same way about me. I'm afraid I didn't handle it very well. Since I'd always believed about myself that I couldn't be attracted to more than one person at a time (and up until that point, it had been true), I really freaked out about my feelings. I'm a very touchy-feely person, but I refused to hug him hello or goodbye, and didn't want to stand near him, or anything.

It was all very dramatic and angst-ridden, and set against the backdrop of the political changes going on at the same time, it was very emotionally explosive. I didn't treat him very well. Nothing ever happened between us, but I felt very guilty and confused about it all. He took me to the train station when I left, and I wouldn't let him give me his address, and I told him not to write me. He didn't, and I was miserable. I talked with a friend about it, and she assured me that it was normal, and perfectly okay. By the time I got home at the end of that year, I had convinced myself that I had only fallen for this man because I missed Chris. I told Chris the story, but mostly I told him about how someone else had fallen for me, not how I had fallen for him, because that would have been too hard to explain and too hard to admit. Chris felt sorry for him.

Chris and I finally got legally married in 1991, and moved to Ann Arbor. Later that year I met Iain. I was instantly drawn to him, and that feeling only grew over time. It wasn't a horribly big deal, though, because I wasn't really ready to admit that I was attracted to him; I just thought I thought he was nice and good-looking. I really liked his wife, too (who was my friend first; it was her I met him through), and certainly didn't want to let on that I had any feelings for him for fear that it might jeopardize our friendship. Then I found out that Iain was in one of those 'open relationships' Chris and I had discussed in college. Boy, did I not want to know that -- it made him 'available'! I spent many months wanting to be around him and then backing off, much as I had been with my German friend in Magdeburg but to a lesser and less explosive degree. He was totally oblivious, so it wasn't a big emotional deal in the same way, though. I told Chris about my feelings, and so that he wouldn't be confused, I minimized them. I told him I thought I was kind of attracted to Iain, but that it wasn't a big deal. But most of it I kept to myself.

In March of 1992, Iain's obliviousness disappeared, and he realized what had been happening. We talked about it, and expressed an interest in me. I insisted nothing could happen. Iain, who never sees anything in black and white, asked: "What's nothing?" And that was the beginning. I realized I wanted to pursue a relationship with Iain, he realized the same thing about me, and we mentioned it to our respective spouses.

Chris, of course, was very confused and hurt. He couldn't understand how I could have been so wrong about myself, and was convinced on some level that I was no longer attracted to *him*. That wasn't true at all, but I had so much trouble dealing with it myself that I couldn't help *him* very much. Eventually we decided to try and have an 'open relationship' in the same way many of our friends did -- Chris and I would be the 'primary' relationship, and Iain would be a 'secondary'. Chris's level of jealousy controlled when and how Iain and I could see each other, and how much we could do with each other sexually, which was very destructive to the power relationships among the three of us and would haunt us for several years. Sometimes he felt very warm toward Iain's and my relationship, and would be encouraging and want to hear all about it, and sometimes he would be hurt and confused. Add to that the fact that I was beginning to realize that my feelings for Iain were not at all 'secondary' to my feelings for Chris, and I was having trouble fitting them into any sort of known paradigm at all. I vascillated between blaming Chris (Why can't he make up his mind about how he feels!) and blaming myself (If only I'd been more in touch with myself in the first place, this never would have been so hard!). It wasn't a fun time for any of us.

There were other issues I won't go into here (such as the breakup of Iain's marriage, which actually had little to do with me or Chris but happened around the same time and complicated matters for a while) but that's basically the jist of it. It took a lot of time, but eventually things started falling into place for me and Chris and Iain. We decided that the paradigm of 'open relationship' really didn't fit how we all felt about each other, and I discovered this newsgroup. We threw the primary/secondary thing out the window and started over, this time from scratch. This all happened in 1992, and at the beginning of 1993.

Right now, we have two townhouses next door to each other, but we more or less live together, since everyone has keys to both houses, and we're planning on all living in one house when we move to Canada. Iain and I had a wedding ceremony in August of 1994. We don't all sleep together unless we go on vacation and share a hotel room, and Chris and Iain aren't sexually involved, but we do consider ourselves a family. We're open to the idea of expanding further, but it hasn't happened yet. Both Iain and Chris have had another partner (the same woman, actually!) at different times, but there hasn't been anyone we've felt could really be a part of the family.

In some ways, we're a rather traditional family, but with three adults instead of two.

-- Jennie D-O'C

From Anmar Mirza (bikerbabe in black leather)

Kathy wrote:
However, I seriously doubt if he would go for it. Could some of you who are experienced with polyamory tell me some of your stories (how you got into it, how you dealt with a situation that started out monogamous, etc.)?
Each situation is unique, but here's my story FWIW:

J and I had been mono for going on four years, a little under three of those while married. Many long discussions ensued over those time periods where I worked through with her and mostly within myself why I felt jealous and possessive, which eventually came down to because I thought I was supposed to.

The first few situations were sort of test cases, I generally didn't have much real emotional attachment to the people I was with. I liked them as friends a lot and sex was fun, but they weren't people with whom I'd become involved with in a relationship beyond friends.

What really helped us was getting involved with another couple as a straight (literally, though not by my choice) swap of partners. We all started developing fairly serious attachments to each other. That situation started to fall apart after almost two years of that when J and I decided to get divorced. Poly had nothing to do with the breakup, in fact, it probably helped us both immensely with it.

I'd pretty much decided poly was they way I wanted my world to work as I was very comfortable with it and it felt right.

Shortly after that I got involved with someone who insisted on monogamy and six months after that she was cheating on me :-) After that situation I made a vow to myself that I would never agree to a monogamous relationship again unless *I* felt it was something *I* could do (as opposed to doing it for the sake of the relationhip which is what I did at that time).

-- Anmar Mirza
bikerbabe in black leather

From MB of Bear's Den

We're what might be an odd story to most people, even without the poly-happy ending. :>

S and I met when I was 12 and he was 15. For me, instant crush, though for some of the more obvious reasons, we ended up friends (I refuse the term "just friends" when his friendship is one of the things I have valued most in my life). Despite (or could it be because of?) what we now both know was powerful and mutual attraction, that friendship remained platonic for 8 years.

In the meantime, not long after that meeting, N and I met. Our age difference is more considerable (and especially was then), but the circumstances of our meeting were also very different. I was tested and classed as gifted in the 5th grade, and not long after, was introduced in a class to Ayn Rand. I have a difficult relationship with her ideas now, but at age 12, what I saw there almost took the top of my head off. A mutual friend brought me to N in hope of his being able to help one very confused me work some things out. That he did, along the away becoming a mentor and the person I admire most in the world.

N and S did *not* get along, most especially because N saw S as wild, irresponsible and almost completely unpredictable, all of which was basically the case back then.

Forward a year, to the death of a friend who was in no way involved in this tangle. The loss hit me very hard, to the point of clinical depression, and I went to N in an attempt to get it put into some kind of rational perspective. He couldn't crack the depression enough to get through to me, though, and I know now he could see me slipping away, right through his hands. I think it was mostly desperation that made him try sex to reach me. It worked, but I ended up pregnant. I chose not to tell him. Instead, I went to yet anther friend, one willing to take me in until I was ready to go back home, and to raise my daughter as his own.

N, S and I stayed like that, together but separate, for years. S and I dated on and off for a long time once we finally did get started, but we couldn't keep it together for long stretches. Neither of us is much of the stability type (another reason we needed someone else to balance us off--we're too much alike in a lot of ways). N and I stayed as mentor and mentee (if that's even a word at all) for the most part.

Forward several years, to another off-again period for S and me. He's found a friend, the kind of best friend you usually get once in a lifetime, and he's dying for us to meet. Enter K; I fall in love up to my ears, almost on the spot, and am suprised to find he's done the same. What neither of us knew was that it would come close to costing us both S's friendship, and almost costing him his life when he responded to our marriage by getting drunk and doing something very ill-advised.

The three of us were all suffering, and the only end to the suffering was to be together, all of us. It was bumpy for a while, mostly in the area of dealing with our families, but for us ourselves, it was release, relief, and a sense of being where we were supposed to be, finally. We had a poly relationship for nearly a year before we knew there was a real name for it, and others out there.

N's joining has been much more gentle--the admission of love without the trauma. And now we're four, and feel like the family we're meant to be. One of our friends calls us the four elements (and thus mind, body, heart and spirit), and it does feel like we fill in the missing things for each other in a way I don't think any one person could do for any other one.

Bear's Den


-- "We've got to dance and be in love" --Lenny Kravitz

From a.k.a. Homesteader of St. Paul, MN

On 26 Mar 1997, bikerbabe in black leather wrote:
Shortly after that I got involved with someone who insisted on monogamy and six months after that she was cheating on me :-) After that situation I made a vow to myself that I would never agree to a monogamous relationship again unless *I* felt it was something *I* could do (as opposed to doing it for the sake of the relationhip which is what I did at that time).
Its been well over three years now that I've been with my special lady. Ironically for us it all started with the agreement that we wanted someoen to have sex with but any kind of serious relationship was out of the question because we'd both had enough experience to know they never work. One of the big reasons for that and I told her as much, was that I felt I would never be capable of remaining monogomous for any extended length of time. When we met neither of us was aware of poly as a lifestyle. Needless to say our relationship has not only survived but continues to grow and evolve. I think the whole root of it was in realizing that being sexual faithful to a single partner for the rest of our lives was an unrealistic expectation for either of us. So we have developed a set of rules where by either of us can enjoy other partners as long as it is all done openly and no one has to lie about anything. As she puts it, I can have sex with anyone she likes. :) To date she has only vetoed one person and after some discussion she made some valid points that I had not seen at the time so I had to agree that sex with that particular man involved an unacceptable risk level.

"UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot Nothing's going to get better. It's not."
-- The Onceler --
a.k.a. Homesteader of St. Paul, MN

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