I’m a bisexual, polyamorous feminist in an open relationship with my monogamous, high school-sweetheart boyfriend. Let me say this right at the beginning: I am not trying to save a sinking ship, nor am I trying to compensate for what this relationship might be lacking. The short answer as to why I decided to open my relationship, after much healthy and thorough communication with my boyfriend, is: I’m a lot.
I have a lot of feelings, a lot of emotions and a lot of energy. I crave conversation and connection from all types of people, whether it be my best friend, a stranger on Tinder or that person I keep running into at Starbucks with the nice hair. While I could certainly socialize within a monogamous relationship, I was never able to understand the boundaries it would require. Even if I didn’t technically cheat, what does it mean when I spend late nights in a friend’s driveway, and the conversation gets just a little too deep, the atmosphere a little too intimate? The boyfriend and I had discussed future hypothetical threeways, but what about the woman that sits next to me in class that I’d like to take a walk and hold hands with? I never acted on these loaded moments as a monogamous person, but there was the constant creeping fear that one day, my impulses would win and I’d break not only the love of my life’s heart, but my own respect for myself.
Fortunately, I met people in college in happy, successful, nonmonogamous relationships. I was able to see the nuances of how these relationships work, and how the myths and misconceptions fall away when people can communicate and consent to whatever arrangement fits for them. While my sexuality was definitely a part of my interest, the overall vibe and philosophy of polyamory motivated me to seriously consider it a part of my identity.
Embracing polyamory felt like moving from an awkward family dinner to a conversation with your closest friends. I stopped constantly looking for the line I was afraid of crossing; the protocol established with my boyfriend allows for anything as long as I stay safe and keep him in the loop. When I meet a new person, I no longer worry about whatever physiological reaction my body might have, whether it be a butterfly in the stomach, a tingling in the genitals or just an intellectual spark. Since I started, I haven’t had many committed partners or torrid affairs outside of my primary relationship. However, I feel like the most authentic version of myself to date. I bring all of myself to every interaction, and allow my interactions with people to flow naturally.
As much as I enjoy other partners, the best part for me has been discovering different versions of myself. Being in a long-term relationship, I got comfortable in the specific dynamic I have with my primary partner. That dynamic is still as wonderful and important as it was six years ago when we started dating, but I like to flex other muscles with a new conversational partner. I tend to fall for ridiculously sarcastic people, and flirting becomes a battle of wits. More romantically inclined folks let me live out romcom fantasies that just don’t happen with a serious long-term partner. I like people just as passionate as I am, so we trade roles as student and teacher, respecting and enjoying our different areas of knowledge and experience. Of course, there are as many negatives in poly-dating as any other type of dating, but my journey has been exploratory and patient without too much heartbreak.
I still respect monogamy as a relationship style or identity, and I can imagine there will be times in my life when I choose to return to it. That being said, the ability to keep myself open to possibility and the potential of new relationships have been extremely rewarding as I learn new things about myself, my long-term partner and those around me. Also, people on this campus are cute as heck and now I can embrace all my feelings without guilt or shame.
A note on terminology: Here, I use nonmonogamy, open relationships and polyamory relatively interchangeably. There are distinctions to each that I don’t feel to be an expert on, so please consult the Google.