If it's too personal, feel free not to answer, but how did you start your polyamorous relationship? I imagine it may have been awkward given the emphasis on monogamy in society.
I’m pretty much always happy to talk about myself!
I am pretty sure that I was ‘wired’ to be polyamorous from a young age. I used to read Archie comics and saw that Archie was dating Betty and Veronica, and that even though they were written as competitors, Betty and Veronica had an interesting connection because they both liked the same boy. I saw that at my school, you didn’t have the option to “date” - once you were “going out,” you were expected to be entirely monogamous, and there was much fussing and to-do about people “cheating.” This really confused and bothered me, and I didn’t understand why we no longer had a phase between “single” and “going steady.” My first boyfriend in high school was incredibly possessive, to the point of getting upset with me for having close male friends, and I had zero empathy or understanding, even as my peers seemed to see jealousy as normal.
We broke up when I was 16, and then I started dating another guy - let’s call him Yves - when I was 17 and a senior in high school. He was pretty great, but I already had plans to go to college on the other side of the country and I did not want to deal with all the drama, so I was determined that we would just be a “fling.” I had no idea that there was an option where we stayed together, but I didn’t have to worry about “cheating” with all the cool new college boys I’d be meeting. So we broke up when I graduated but since it was an artificial breakup and we still really liked each other, we decided to stay in touch. But he was a high school senior and I was a college freshman - two populations not known for their emotional literacy, communication skills, or time management - and we fell out of touch.
Then I met Diogenes, a college classmate of mine. We liked each other and wanted to date - but he told me that he had another partner, someone who lived in New York, and that it was called polyamory, and everything was above-board, and if I was okay dating someone who already had a partner, he’d love to date me. He lent me a copy of The Ethical Slut.
It was like a light went on in my world, illuminating things that had always been there but I never knew how to see them. I loved the concept from the start. I devoured the book and jumped headfirst into a relationship with Diogenes. I adored him and the rest of his polycule. And, I realized this meant I could get back together with Yves. We reconnected (thanks to a mutual friend who was tired of hearing both of us moan about missing the other) and I explained polyamory to him. He was willing to try it. So, for the 4 years I was in college, I was dating Yves, and also free to date other people.
Though we are no longer together, Diogenes still holds a very special place in my heart. I learned a lot from him, and I still miss him. I dated a handful of other people in college. Some were horrible relationships that I learned a lot from; some were fun sexy flings; some were really sweet college romances. Through it all, I continued to develop my polyamorous identity, build relationship skills, cultivate a personal list of dealbreakers and red flags, and learn who I was and what I needed. My college was a kooky, quirky, tiny liberal arts college that made for a very safe bubble to experiment and grow.
I told my family about it, and they were mostly confused and dismissive, but generally chill about it. My brother was nasty and judgmental, but that’s his problem. The Christian group at my college was tolerant, but not super accepting. It took us a lot longer to come out to Yves’s family, but that went well too. Yves also dated other girls in college, and I liked all of them. He liked most of my partners too. We hated being long distance, but we loved each other, and being polyamorous took a lot of pressure off our relationship.
When I graduated and moved back across the country to be with Yves, we talked about whether we wanted to stay polyamorous - was it just something we did to make it through the 4 years of college, or was it who we were? We came easily to the conclusion that it was part of our relationship that was happy, healthy, and didn’t need to change. We lived together and both continued to date other people, and get up to all sorts of polyamorous hijinks and shenanigans. We are still together - it will be 11 years next month. (Hi Yves!)
So, that’s my story! It’s kind of a “best case scenario,” and I don’t want people to compare themselves to it. I was always well-wired for polyamory, and never dealt with jealousy or possessiveness. I’m naturally inclined toward compersion. I was very lucky to have a ‘training wheels’ relationship with Diogenes where I was able to learn a lot about healthy (and unhealthy) polyamory, and to be able to experiment and explore in a community that was open and accepting. I didn’t grow up with a lot of internalized sexual shame. This is not true for most people! There are many, many ways to be polyamorous - and many ways to become polyamorous.
Hopefully this can serve as an example not of how all our lives should have gone, but of how we can be gracious, giving leaders for the next generation of polyamorous folk - how can we cultivate communities and narratives that give other people a chance to discover, experiment, and grow in healthy, safe ways?