I became polyamorous halfway through a work email, sitting at my desk on a Monday. I looked up to see a wide smile and two sparkly blue eyes pop above my laptop screen. He had a hand on my desk, saying hello. My heart started racing. Nathan was a consultant who worked in my office a few times a year when he was in town. I hadn’t been expecting him that day. If I had, I would have spent more time getting ready that morning. My brain was so flooded when he spoke that I’m not sure what I actually said to him before he headed into a meeting.
I grabbed my phone to text my fiancé: “Remember that super cute and charming consultant I told you about? He’s back! When I saw him, my heart started pounding, and my palms are sweaty just from talking to him.”
Dan replied, “I remember! You have to ask him out!”
This was the moment we had been preparing for since our first date.
My husband, Dan
By the day that Nathan arrived in my office, Dan and I had been together for about a year, and we had just gotten engaged. We had been radically honest with each other since the day we met. On our very first date, I told Dan about the discussion I had had with my ex-boyfriend about opening up our relationship. And how my ex responded the way I imagined most men do. He said that other men were off limits, but, since I was bisexual, a woman would be okay. How my ex had understood that he couldn’t “give me vagina.” In his mind, those were the only two needs I could possibly have: penis and vagina. On that first date with Dan, I told him how, ultimately, my ex and I realized I needed to connect with multiple partners, and that was something my ex couldn’t deal with long-term.
I told Dan that, for me, wanting to explore non-monogamy was not about volume. I didn’t care about sleeping with multiple people on a monthly basis, and when I have a steady partner that I’m happy with, I likely wouldn’t proactively seek other partners. However, I was very clear that no matter how great any relationship might be, it’s fundamentally important to me to feel free. I don’t want to feel like I have to choose every day between my current partner, and the idea of everyone else. And I don’t want any individual partner of mine to feel pressured to be everything to me.
Dan seemed genuinely intrigued. He had never tried non-monogamy, but I could tell that he meant it when he said that he had never been truly happy in a relationship for longer than a year. After our conversation I got the feeling that, now that he was in his late 30s, he figured: Why not try something else? He had nothing to lose. So we started dating.
A year later, when Nathan popped into my office, I texted Dan right away, and we both knew that this was where all of our discussions about how to be non-monogamous and still take care of each other would be tested by reality.
“Did you ask him out yet?!?” Dan texted this an hour or so after our first post-Nathan exchange.
“I don’t know what to suggest,” I replied.
Next came the most enjoyable text conversation of my life—one that most couples will never get to experience. The man that would become my husband helped me gameplan how to snag a date with my office crush.
My boyfriend, Nathan
So Nathan and I went out that night. I could tell he was nervous, and it was adorable. He made me feel like a goddess. He was so different from Dan. My husband is big, intense, loud, and confident, and he makes me feel loved, cared for, and protected. Nathan made me feel like I could be all those things for him.
I wasn’t sure how to bring up non-monogamy with Nathan. Normally, most people avoid sharing too much about their past lovers on the first date, but the poly approach that Dan and I agreed on required honesty. So now I needed to figure out how to share my current romantic story with Nathan. I started by asking him about his current situation.
He had been single for a while. All of his ex-girlfriends would complain that he needed too much alone time. He wanted to build serious relationships, but somehow finding space for himself would always become an issue for him.
I explained how I often felt a bit trapped in my past relationships, and that I thought independence was important. He agreed. Great. I took a breath and used his need for alone time and a life that is not fusional with the person he’s dating to introduce how I came to polyamory—and that I was dating someone.
Nathan asked a lot of questions to understand how it works. I told him that I knew what I was looking for, but not totally sure how it actually worked since this was the first date I had gone on. I explained that I didn’t want a hook-up, but rather to build a meaningful relationship with a second partner. Even though we were engaged, Dan and I planned to always keep two apartments, as well as keep space for our other relationships to grow.
Nathan said he wondered how his ex-girlfriend would have felt if she had had another partner. Maybe she would have been okay with him needing his alone time, since she would have been busy elsewhere.
I went back to Dan’s apartment that night and told him about my date, and how we kissed at the end of the night. This felt oddly natural to us.
Building two happy relationships
Nathan and I went on a second, third, and fourth date. On the fifth date, he met Dan. They got along really well. Dan always says we have to treat each other’s partners like in-laws. You owe them at least respect, and you should see them every once in awhile and get to know them, but they don’t have to be your best friends. Of course, if you really like them, it makes everything a lot easier. He said he could tell how much Nathan cared for me. And he liked him more for it.
I have grown to be very happy and very comfortable with myself and the ways that I love. I’ve started to come out as non-monogamous to my close friends, telling them about both my husband and my boyfriend. Some of them “get it” right away, even some whose lives are traditionally structured. Others don’t really get it, but they have been surprisingly supportive.
I don’t mean it’s surprising in that I had low expectations of my friends, but more that I overestimated how shocking non-monogamy would be for them to accept. I find myself encouraging some friends to consider non-monogamy for themselves, but for other friends, I know it wouldn’t make sense at all. I don’t think everyone needs to be non-monogamous, but I do think everyone should realize there are more choices than the default one we are given.
Telling the world
I started to write stories about my romantic and sexual experiences, and how I came to become a happy polyamorous woman. I even teamed up with a director to create a one-woman storytelling show, all with the support of my husband and boyfriend (and other lovers whose stories comprise the performance).
It felt so good to share my most intimate stories with strangers. The response I get, especially from women, has been mind-blowing. One woman said she hadn’t realized how much shame she lives with every day. She shared that her ex-boyfriend, who would openly say he had slept with hundreds of women, almost broke up with her when he found out she had been with more than 20 lovers by age 32. He told her to never share her number with anyone, because no one would want to marry her. She said that my stories made her realize that her sexuality and ability to love should be celebrated, not shamed.
I want to live in a world where embracing love is the norm, not a source of shame. I still don’t tell coworkers at my job about all of the loves in my life for fear of how it will affect my career. This bothers me. My hope is that, by telling my stories, I’ll help make a world where women aren’t afraid to try new types of relationships—and both my husband and my boyfriend can accompany me to the office holiday party.