"The point for me is to create relationships based on deeper and more real notions of trust. So that love becomes defined not by sexual exclusivity, but by actual respect, concern, commitment to act with kind intentions, accountability for our actions, and a desire for mutual growth."
How Did You Get Involved In Polyamory, Anyway?
As an out of the closet and open polyamorist, I get asked some pretty odd questions. It's kind of par for the course and I expect it since most people are really intrigued and it is human nature to want to pick apart something different and interesting. The problem is trying to explain something that is a process in a few trite and easy to understand sentences.
For instance: How do you answer the question, "How did you discover you were poly?" The real answer is that this is a process much the same as figuring out your sexuality. It's not something you wake up one day and decide. I have never met anyone straight, gay, non-sexual, or poly-sexual that woke up one day and decided to be whatever drives them. It is a gradual unfolding and discovering that makes sense to each individual person. In some cases it's a gradual understanding that the person "always knew" that they would be happiest in a certain configuration of love style. For others it seems that there was no other option available so it was just a non-concern. My answer to that question is simple and yet offers a glimpse into how deeply and very well thought out the decision was. To fully answer the question, I have to go back to the beginning and explain how the process of finding myself began.
I was born into a household where it was expected that I would grow up, meet a guy who was tolerable, marry him and then stay together through everything until one of us died. Not the most attractive picture of life but there you have it. For their part, my parents, as well as my grandparents (on both sides), lived that life and it was supposed to be the right and proper way. With this in mind, I navigated my teenage years and met Sigel.
Like a "proper" young girl, I demanded that he be faithful and true to his one and only true love. In his way he was, he just could never seem to make sexual fidelity work. At the time I didn't know this and had no desire to see my shining white knight as anything but a shining white knight! Even then I had no real sexual hangups other than fidelity. I regularly watched porn, loved being adventurous, and really loved the way sex made me feel. I loved being sexy and knowing that people were responding to me on that level. When Sigel began to gently, and sometimes not so gently, nudge me toward even more sexual adventures, I didn't resist much, which is how I ended up having a threesome the night before we got married.
The real problem was the dichotomy between my expectations of the magical happenings of marriage and the fact that I actually liked having people in a very close relationship that resembled marriage. I thought that if my husband really loved me, he would somehow, magically, sort of hate other women. I didn't hate other men but I also never felt the need to sleep with them either! If I felt those feelings creeping in, I would squash them under the guise of the idea that I was not attractive enough anyhow so I'd better not even try. Now that's not what I told myself, mind you, but deep down inside I knew this was the real reason. In the meantime, Sigel was doing whomever he wanted and still trying desperately to get me to join him. I was devastated when I learned that he had cheated because it challenged my magical thinking. I saw it as proof I was somehow deficient and totally unattractive.
If I am honest, I knew he was cheating but I really didn't care. Sexual fidelity wasn't as big an issue as I thought for me. If I knew he was interested in another woman and wanted to sleep with her, I knew it was just sex and I was ok with it. As I began to work through the grief of the cheating, I realized slowly that I was most angry that I had missed out seeing him enjoy himself. I knew at a bone deep level that he loved me, truly loved me. I got so angry that he had some experiences that I could never share with him. I mean, we had loved my college best friend together and while that ended badly, I had never told him no...why couldn't he just be honest and ask me? We came to the realization, he and I, that we were both caught in magical thinking. He thought my answer would be a resounding, "NO!" and that I would kick him to the curb. I thought he shouldn't want anyone else, even though secretly I had crushes and stuff. We had to work through all of this to build a solid foundation because our house of cards was sinking, fast.
During all of this cheating on his part, I wasn't the suffering angel waiting at home and being all virtuous. I was having emotional affairs by the gross. I would move people in to the house in some weird effort to build a "family" with them. I have learned that this is a very common thing for adult survivors of dysfunctional families. It took its toll, however, because it took time and energy as well as focus away from my husband. Add to all of this that I was an undiagnosed bipolar manic depressive and you can see that this was a pressure cooker going full blast. When I got manic, I would throw myself in a "cause" and I expected EVERYONE around me to embrace the cause as their own. Sigel wanted to see me happy so he enabled me for YEARS while secretly resenting me for it. I built improper relationships that sapped my energy so much that my sex drive got lost and the deep depressions drove Sigel to look for an outlet. Given his upbringing, his focus was sex, but he always came home. Needless to say, SOMETHING had to give.
I was deep in a long, manic episode when I met Arch. I would stay up for sometimes three days straight just playing MMORPGs. By this time, I had two little girls and my marriage was just a miserable wreck looking for some beach to wash up on. Sigel had given up and wasn't really even hiding his philandering anymore and I was stubbornly looking the other way. Arch was a guy on a screen and we connected on a deep level because of our similar upbringings. The main difference is Arch believes in being honest...sometimes brutally so. He never felt that the little lies Sigel and I told each other were productive and he began to tell us so. Sigel reacted badly and chose to attack, but I found truth in what he was saying. Most of all, Arch listened to me. He didn't always agree with me, but he listened for hours on end. He also made one thing very, very clear: He would not be a home wrecker. He respected marriage and knew we had been together too long, Sigel and I, to ever make a clean break. It was a recipe for disaster.
Through the years, we talked and grew closer. Sigel and I learned that Arch was a complete virgin and at the ripe old age of 21 was sick and tired of this "problem." Sigel had the perfect solution: I could "initiate" Arch and Sigel would get one of his nearest and dearest fantasies lived out. It made perfect sense to him, and Arch seemed to think it could be a good idea...how to approach me?
In Sigel's usual way, he took the bull by the horns and simply stated that he was sure this was a great idea. I thought about it and realized that I couldn't do this as a one time thing because I was already more than half in love with this guy. Having sex would probably cement the deal and then I'd have to choose which man to be with. In my heart, I feared this eventuality above even losing Sigel to death. As the mostly honest person that I am, I frankly and honestly discussed this with Sigel and Arch.
Sigel has a huge ego. This sounds like an odd segue, but it must be understood that while I was honest with him about how I felt about Arch, Sigel believed that I would simply have sex with Arch, have a great time, and then send him home with some great memories. In any case, Sigel would have his fantasy threesome and he was sure nothing bad would happen. So he made all the arrangements with Arch for him to come and visit us for a little more than a simple meet and greet. I saw the problems but I admit, I was excited to finally get to meet this amazing guy in person. I was also wracked with self doubt...what if he thought I was too old and too fat and wasn't his "type"...round and round that image played in my mind.
I later learned that when he first saw me at the airport, Arch hoped I was the woman he was there to meet cause he wanted to go home with me. Love at first sight? Naaaaaaw! When he learned how anxious I was he just sighed and turned me over his knee.
What Happened Next
I pulled Sigel aside when we got home from the airport and told him I wasn't sure about this because I wanted Arch something fierce and not just for sex. I knew I was completely smitten. I wasn't sure my heart could take putting him back on a plane after the two weeks and I knew sleeping with him wouldn't change that feeling. It was then that I also realized that my feelings for Sigel had NOT changed. I was completely and totally in full on love with two men.
Sigel realized a fundamental thing as well: He LIKED the way I looked, all starry eyed and full of blushes. He knew it was the same way I STILL looked at him and he LIKED not being the focus of all that attention. He wanted to sit and just watch! He felt a bit scared, but a whole lot excited as well. It was he that said that Arch belonged with us...and he said he knew it from the first time Arch walked through our door.
I would love to say that everything went smoothly from that moment on, but that would be an unforgivable lie. I went slightly insane. I had an AMAZING two weeks with Arch and we did everything we had talked about for months. I fell deeply in love with him. Then a few days after Arch left, we took our first family vacation. One week without my parents and just the four of us: Sigel, me, and the two girls. We had such an amazing time but I was in a frantic tailspin because I missed the daily conversations I had had with Arch for years. Sigel was so very understanding and found a way for me to talk to Arch every day while we were on vacation. We rekindled our relationship and this was the point where we began to really see what we could be without our magical thinking.
Without the amazing support of the man I married and the man I later fell in love with, I doubt I would have been able to make the leap into polyamory. Without the understanding of my husband, I would never have allowed my heart to accept another love. Arch has always been firmly committed to my marriage continuing to work and we are all in it for the long haul.
So the real answer to the question of, "How I Got Into Polyamory" is that it was a process that unfolded. Through trial and error, we have negotiated our way into a love style, and life style, that works for us...all three of us.