Polyamory was my Boyfriend’s Idea

  • Polyamory was my Boyfriend’s Idea

    And it opened up a whole world of self-reflection and meaningful communication between us.


    Anne Shark


    Dec 15, 2019 · 6 min read


    Photo by Lauren Richmond on Unsplash

    Polyamory was ultimately my boyfriend Drake’s idea, not mine, though it’s not as simple as that. I’m certain that my dissatisfaction with our relationship, as it stood, led to his suggestion that we try opening up.

    The two of us had been together for about four years, but the last year had been tough. It took me a long time, but I eventually realized I craved more of a sense of community in my life and the freedom to connect with more than one person deeply.

    With Drake, I wasn’t feeling a certain kind of connection that I had felt with other people in my past, a connection that was sometimes expressed physically, sexually or through a type of deep, abstract conversation.

    I knew I was capable of feeling something that I just wasn’t getting with him. It was hard admitting that because, in so many other ways, I was happier in my relationship with Drake than I’d ever been.

    We just worked. I could be my full self without overwhelming him as I’m pretty sure I’d done in many of those other relationships, especially the ones that were more sexually exciting.

    I simply craved a type of intimacy he wasn’t giving me.

    I tried to ask for this connection, but it became clear that it simply wasn’t part of who he was. Drake just wasn’t a deep, abstract conversation type, and he simply has a lower sex drive than I do.

    I tried to fulfill my need for this kind of connection through dance and platonic relationships. However, though I wasn’t technically cheating (defined loosely as I wasn’t kissing or having sex with anyone else), I still felt guilty for feeling physically pulled towards other people. I wanted to explore these connections I knew I was capable of having. I missed the connections I’d had with certain lovers of my past.

    This feeling of longing, resentment and ultimately guilt distracted me and pulled me further and further away from what connection I did have with Drake, until I reached a breaking point and told him exactly that: “I feel we are going in different directions.”

    He interpreted this to mean I was breaking up with him.

    I didn’t argue when he said, “It sounds like you’ve made up your mind then,” because I had. I was no longer able to deny my desire to connect with others more deeply than was appropriate in monogamous relationships, and I realized I needed the freedom to explore exactly what that meant — even if that meant losing him.

    So for a week, we lived together but things had shifted dramatically. Looking back now, I don’t recall either of us saying the words, “Let’s break up,” but that’s what it felt like, and I think that’s what we both assumed had happened.

    After about a week, I broke the silence that lay heavy between us.

    I asked Drake if he’d like to watch the last episode of Mad Men with me, a series we’d watched together from the beginning, and just happened to have one episode left.

    It’s funny, in hindsight, what happened in that last episode. (Spoiler alert in case you haven’t seen it.) Don, the main character, was a man who had lived a lie his entire life. He’d taken on a false identity which he didn’t share with his wife, he cheated on her, eventually divorced her and remarried, only to cheat on his new wife and divorce her. In the last episode, Don goes to a hippy commune where he engages in communal living and talking circles, and finally starts to get in touch with his feelings.

    Watching this episode, we both kinda relaxed into what we used to be. I ended up stretched out on the couch, my feet in Drake’s lap, both of us covered by a blanket. At the end, I went to bed and asked Drake if he’d say goodnight to me, something else that — though he’d sometimes sleep separate from me — he had done without fail every night for the past four years, until our conversation a week ago.

    Sitting at the edge of the bed, he asked, “Do you want to try an open relationship?” It wasn’t a direct response to the hippy-commune episode, but it might as well have been, as it had the same result. It was the first step in opening up a whole world of self-reflection and meaningful communication between us.

    Drake and I had flirted with the idea of non-monogamy.

    We’d talk about having sex with another person in bed, but that had always seemed like pure fantasy.

    And while we knew several people who practiced various forms of non-monogamy, including an openly polyamorous person, it hadn’t occurred to us to try it ourselves. It felt like that was something other people did.

    In fact, up until that point, despite how obvious it is to me now, I hadn’t considered that maybe what I was, and have always been, was non-monogamous.

    Monogamy isn’t what it used to be.

    In her TED talk, “Rethinking Infidelity,” Esther Perel, therapist, author, and speaker says,

    Now, monogamy used to be one person for life. Today, monogamy is one person at a time.

    In other words, society as a whole is redefining monogamy. Because it is happening so gradually, we all seem to agree to this new definition without question. If marriage is a lifelong commitment, a promise to stay with another person “until death do us part,” then nearly 50% of us have broken this sacred promise of monogamy at least once.

    But that’s neither here nor there except to illustrate my point that we often default to a relationship style only to find it simply doesn’t work for us. Luckily, society has given us an “out” from the promises we make through marriage in the form of a legal divorce.

    This talk with Drake may have been the first time I had ever had an intentional discussion around what a relationship could look like outside of the model we’d been offered.

    Together, the two of us began to define our own relationship structure, one based on each of us being more free to express our true selves, even the parts that might threaten monogamous relationships, like our different sexualities.

    Gradually we developed into two individual people who enjoyed spending time together rather than a couple who felt pressured to have most of the same needs and wants from a relationship.

    The following weeks were filled with a newfound sense of hope and excitement, even giddiness. Were we actually going to do this!?

    A week after our talk, Drake had a date. She was a woman he knew from work whom he had feelings for that he hadn’t explored. He’d kept their conversations limited to LinkedIn, reasoning that was the best way to communicate the need to keep it professional. Now that there was room for it, he felt free to see how that relationship could develop — so he’d asked her out for coffee.

    It would take me weeks before I acted on my own newfound freedom and turned to OkCupid.

    In the four years that we’ve been polyamorous, I’ve either had a second partner or am actively seeking one. Drake on the other hand has continued keeping in touch with the LinkedIn woman, only now they text each other and meet occasionally for drinks or coffee. It never developed into something serious, but they’ve shared intimacies that wouldn’t have been allowed in monogamy.

    He tried dating apps, but found he didn’t like the formality of dating. He prefers meeting people in real life and allowing those relationships to develop into whatever organic form they take, and this has happened a number of times too.

    It’s not always easy and there are certainly issues that come up.

    Jealousy is the first thing that comes to a lot of people’s minds when they hear about polyamory or Ethical Non-Monogamy for the first time, but the openness of our relationship allows for communication around whatever feeling is present, and talking through things helps a lot.

    For me, polyamory feels right, even when it’s hard. I’m grateful for the option to explore myself through multiple relationships, each one a mirror to reflect something a little different, and I’m grateful that I have Drake as my foundation partner through it all.