Anonymous Mom is a weekly column of motherhood confessions, indiscretions, and parental shortcomings selected by Mommyish editors. Under this unanimous byline, readers can share their own stories, secrets, and moments of weakness with complete anonymity.
We received this submission in response to a previous Anonymous Mom who was attempting a polyamorous marriage.
A wonderful sex and love therapist once told me that there is a spectrum of monogamy to polyamory, from the most fidelity driven two-person couples to the individuals so dedicated to multiple partners that their personal lives ring of debauchery. Then there are those of us who fall somewhere in the middle, dedicated and committed yes, but also driven to love more than one.
In what I’d call the middle, somewhere between newly married lovebirds with eyes only for each other and swingers at an orgy, is the idea of ethical non-monogamy or, polyamory. The idea that the human heart is capable of love and devotion to more than one partner. There is not one soulmate who fulfills you so completely that your emotional, physical and all other relationship needs are met, but that meeting all these needs could take more than one person — and that’s OK. In fact, it’s down right beautiful. The cornerstone of this kind of love is communication. Open, honest, and by all means frequent communication, but first, you need to get there.
I was raised in a nuclear family that consisted of my parents, my sister, myself and God. My father liked to post scripture on the fridge and lecture my sister and I about settling down with a good Christian man who could provide for us. From my teenage days one of my main interest was chasing boys. I liked men, I still like men. The look of them, the smell of them, the way their shirts button on the opposite side and when they sit down they always look so damn comfortable. Despite my desire to surround myself with the male of the species, my parents’ tutelage stuck in my head: Find a nice man. Settle down.
I also wanted badly to be a mother, perhaps due to natural mothering instinct or to try to be a better one than my own. But the outcome was the same. I needed to get married and have babies.
My husband and I met when we were 18, all naive and young and adorable. We fell in love quickly and married shortly after finishing college. We married under the strict and fast rules of monogamy and the church. Thou shall forsake all others, one woman one man, and so on, but the times would change.
Recently, my husband and I attended a wedding where, clasping fingers we giggled as the priest spoke of “three cords being the strongest,” because our third cord would be our having other partners. I do not say this to dismiss religion, but to iterate the fact that for some, adding more love enriches and fulfills what you already have.
When I timidly, and over many days, weeks even, broached the subject with my husband, we had been married for nine years and had three children together. We had always communicated well, though with a heavy dose of snarkiness we find charming. But I had realized within myself the propensity to fall in love with other people. I loved my husband and our children; I was constantly concerned about their needs and our needs as a family to a point where I finally asked myself what my own needs were. I feel that for a whole family to function, each member has to have to some core need met or be left wanting.
I was drawn to a close friend, despite what I already had, and had to use those open channels of discussion to broach the topic. The best way I could explain this to my husband was that I had feelings for my friend and I could not ignore them. I would not cheat on him, but I also wouldn’t pretend I did not feel this connection to another person. This caused me to think back to all the times I was torn between emotional bonds with one or another, and that the main reason I had stuck with monogamy was because I was told it was “right.” I wasn’t craving wild flings and one night stands. Though I fully admit I was physically attracted to this man too, I wanted the freedom to love some as my own heart saw fit.
During those rocky days of discovery and negotiation, one thing my husband and I steadfastly agreed on was what was most important: our children. We had three under the age of 10, and they required an exorbitant amount of our time, attention, and love while also often driving us to exhaustion.
You may think that adding partners would deplete an already flailing sex life. Any parents with young children can tell you that a sex life can be nearly non-existent. You might assume that being poly would take away from the devotion to parenting discussions, but really it was quite the opposite. Our dedication to raising, protecting and nurturing the children became stronger as we embarked on a different lifestyle, always making sure we were discussing what the kids should know or not (very little at these ages) and how anything was affecting them.
But also, being poly gave us another connection, another conversation. We had more to discuss than who peed on the floor today or which one put peanut butter on the dog. We discussed our sexual interest, what we found attractive in others, and also began to explore more just what each of us wanted from life in general.
Our sex life took a turn for betterment I couldn’t have imagined. Not only did we start to explore more areas of our desires, but finding passion and confidence with other partners brought us closer together so our time spent intimately doubled from what it used to be. I felt more drawn to my husband, and our relationship is better than it has been in years. Either of us would tell you so.
I am a mother, then a wife, and then a girlfriend. The kids’ needs come before my husband’s and boyfriend’s, and we all are sensitive to how time is spent with them. I do not give up time with them to spend time with my boyfriend, and my husband and I make sure to spend plenty of time as a family.
Yes, my kids know my boyfriend, adore him actually. This arrangement isn’t confusing for them because they know him as a family friend (he was before we ever dated). The kids are currently kept completely unaware of any other dating that goes on.
If eventually, my husband would like to introduce a partner to our children, it would have to be serious enough (as in dating for awhile) to warrant the children knowing. Perhaps, when they get older they will find out that “uncle Jim” is actually their mother’s partner. And then we plan to explain that love is not bound to two people, and we all may love and live as we choose.
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