High Functioning Polyamory
Three years ago, before Wes and I were officially engaged (though we had been planning on getting married for most of the time we had been together), we went to an Outback Steakhouse and ended up having a very interesting conversation.
I always mention that we were at Outback when we had this conversation because I find it hilarious. If these blogs start getting a lot of attention, I think we should pitch some sort of advertising campaign in collaboration with them. Imagine it: It could be a campaign advertising that Outback is a great choice for date nights for couples of all types. A person with a terrible Aussie accent would say, “G’Day! Are you looking to have a strange, possibly uncomfortable, possibly illuminatin’ conversation about your relationship? Why not do it ovah a Bloomin’ Onion? Want to have a date night with ALL your girlfriends and boyfriends? Walkabout right on ovah here to Outback Steakhouse!” We’ll make millions.
The conversation resulted in both of us agreeing that logically and rationally, non-monogamy was a prudent choice for us. It wasn’t that either of us had any outside relationship prospects at the time. It was simply that we both wanted the healthiest, most rewarding relationship possible and for us this meant not wanting to impose limitations on each other’s happiness.
I’ll fully admit that this was not easy for me when we actually started practicing a non-monogamous lifestyle. As it turned out, I had a lot of jealous, possessive, and negative tendencies that bubbled up to the surface A LOT in the beginning (and still do from time to time, but not nearly as severely as before). For the first year and a half of this relationship change, I did not date at all. I spent the time working out a lot of personal issues that desperately needed to be gotten through. There were times when I felt like I was getting an unfair end of the deal, simply because I wasn’t dating. I wasn’t participating…but then I realized that I really was. Every time I had a problem, I got through it because my ultimate goal was to be happy. The non-monogamy was not the thing making me unhappy. It was my irrationality, my insecurity, my bad habits, that were making me unhappy. Non-monogamy does not cause problems that do not exist in monogamy. It simply illuminates the issues that are already there.
When we first made this decision together, I had an undefined vision of a successful future. In the beginning, the vision simply consisted of me being super well-adjusted and happy. I figured that in several years, maybe I would be dating someone but that in the immediate future, I would just happy that Wes and I had so much freedom in general. I hated the lousy attributes I mentioned above. They stood squarely in the way of me being the person that I wanted to be. In the beginning, I could only see a future in which my brain was fixed…without a lobotomy. And I assumed that this was going to take an incredibly long time.
In October 2010, Wes met Jessie. Jessie changed everything. Before Jessie, we merely had an open relationship. After Jessie, we had a polyamorous relationship. The introduction of Jessie into our lives kickstarted a major time of change for me. I could see pretty quickly that she and the relationship she would have with Wes was special and that it needed to be supported and embraced. Again, this was not initially easy because of how I am wired, but it was important to get over it. It was important to get over it not just for the sake of Wes and Jessie, but for my sake, because I really liked her.
In June 2010, Wes and I got officially engaged. We asked Jessie to be in our wedding party and then Jessie came to the beach for the last couple of days of our honeymoon. I remember at the wedding reception, Jessie had mentioned that Wes invited her to come down on Thursday night instead of Friday during the day. I had been unaware of this, but it was fine. A friend heard her say this and said something like, “It’s their HONEYMOON, Jessie,” as though her presence was somehow inappropriate. Well, as it turned out, the nights/day Jessie were there were by far the highlights of an already excellent trip. The whole week Wes and I kept thinking of things to do (mostly “down the Shore” boardwalk silliness) and would say, “Ooh, we should do that on Friday with Jessie”. A few weeks after that, I realized that I really wanted her to move in with us (another something that I hadn’t envisioned being not only ok with but honestly happy about happening for many years). And so she moved in! We have a wall by the front door (as many people do, unless you’re living in one of those houses that’s just a door…which is just weird) that I like to call the Trio Wall (to myself, and I should come up with a better name than that…). It has our three masks from Halloween, an Old Timey photo of the three of us from the Boardwalk during our honeymoon and a picture of the three of us in steampunk outfits in Santa’s village. We have a photo with us dressed up as pirates with Santa too, but that’s not hanging up yet. (Jessie encourages us to eat lots of candy and dress up in silly costumes. She does not have to twist our arms). And finally, we have an ornament of the three of us that Ginny made us. Every morning, I get to look at that wall when I leave the house and it makes me smile. I just can’t see my life in any other way and still be as satisfying.
**EDIT** Wes and Jessie pointed out yesterday that I left out a relatively important part of this story. I left out the part where I had my first boyfriend outside of the relationship. I am amused that I left that out and that perhaps it speaks volumes about how that short lived relationship panned out, but they are correct in pointing out that the relationship itself was representative of a very important turning point in my life and in our path through poly. In March of 2011, right around my 30th birthday I noticed that I had developed on a crush on a friend of mine.
This was huge. When I was initially working on my emotional issues, etc., I sincerely was not attracted to anyone. For that year and a half I had no interest in anyone as a romantic partner. I couldn't conceive of dealing with jealousy/possessiveness issues with both Wes and some other person too. It would have been a nightmare. But, when I found myself attracted to this friend I realized that I had been successful in dealing with a lot of stuff, and it took me by surprise. We dated for about a month. It started out well, ended sort of stupidly, but I will be forever thankful that my initial experience was relatively positive because I think that experience helped me be ready when I met Shaun and Ginny. **End Edit**
We had met Shaun and Ginny in April 2011. They had recently moved back to Philly from Atlanta. Ginny messaged Wes on OKCupid and she came to karaoke. A few weeks later, she brought Shaun along and he met me. Unfortunately, I was in a considerably foul mood. Lucky for me there are second and third chances to make good impressions. Exactly a week after we got married, Wes and Ginny started dating and about a week after that, Shaun and I were as well. A couple of months later, I, too was dating Ginny and, well, here we are! It sounds complicated, but these days it feels very simple.
I was taken by surprise by how immediately comfortable I was with them both. I was surprised further by my own capacity to love and how much love I got in return. It wasn’t always easy in the beginning, but it appears that we are all pretty comfortable with each other and see a real future as a wonderful family. I will say again that this was not something I expected when I signed on for this whole polyamory thing. But after Jessie, Shaun and Ginny came around, the future I envisioned was more defined and significantly more awesome than I could have ever imagined.
The other day I was chatting with Ginny and she announced that she and Shaun had figured out where they were going on their honeymoon. She said they’d be gone for a week and I said that I was appreciative of having the advanced notice to sufficiently prepare for being without them (BARF…I know). Then Ginny said, “You should come at the end of the week!” She’s going to be at a conference at the end of the week and thought it would be nice if I could keep Shaun company.
At first thought I wanted to accept the invitation immediately. Why on Earth wouldn’t I want to go hang out with them in an awesome city to which I had never been? Then the next thought was that there were various reasons why Wes wouldn’t go (vacation time he doesn’t necessarily have yet and the fact the Ginny was going to be tied up at the conference all day every day, so she wouldn’t have much time) and I felt crappy about that. I talked to him about it and he said, “What, you don’t think I can make it 4 days without you???” followed by, “I won’t promise that I won’t feel left out, but that’s not a reason not to do something”. Then I got all paranoid because I heard my friend’s voice in my head, “It’s their HONEYMOON, Gina”…and I was terrified that I would be a burden or intrusive or something. So I talked to Shaun about it and he asked, “Did you feel that way about Jessie joining you on your honeymoon?” “Um, no…”I said, “She made it better”. “Exactly…”he said. I asked Ginny and she reiterated that she wants me there, that me being there would allow her extra time to spend with colleagues at the conference and such.
So, what am I doing after all these conversations? Well, I’m going to accept what everyone has said and I’m going to go. I feel lucky and thankful. As a thank you for Wes and Jessie being awesome, and because me being in Austin will give them a rare weekend alone together, I want to make whatever fabulous date night they want happen. As for thanking Shaun and Ginny for being awesome, I’ll have to do that when I get there. I will likely do it with booze and terrible jokes.
A couple of days ago, Shaun posted about how much he loves polyamory and that he hopes that having us all post on here will start to show the general public how functional and happy we are, how normal this life can become. I suppose looking at all this, you wouldn’t really describe it as normal, but it is comfortable and amazing and oh, so very worth it. If you had told me several years ago that I could ever be this happy, this healthy, this inspired, I would have assumed you were talking about me getting that lobotomy I mentioned earlier. I didn’t think I was capable of it. I had resigned myself to a life of being kind of alright. I didn’t know that on that night, at Outback, when Wes and I had the first conversation that it would truly improve my life this much.
Well, here’s to happy little surprises.