I've had an inkling for years that I'm not monogamous. Despite having had a few long-term monogamous relationships, I always felt a sense of disappointment that I wasn’t “allowed” to get close to anyone but my significant other. I got married a few years ago, and somehow I thought marriage would put out this flame inside of me and allow me to follow the life script I’d accepted since childhood -- marriage to one man, house, babies.
Last year when I read Jenny Block’s book on open marriage, I had my first conversation with my husband about the idea. It didn’t go well. We were on a road trip, riding at night while my son (just a few months old then) slept soundly in the back. We fought -- my husband thought I wasn’t attracted to him anymore, and he didn’t see how my idea of having sexual relationships with other people could possibly make things better for us. Over time, we had similar discussions, but they were more rational, less emotional. Finally we came to the extremely difficult decision to give it a try.
The decision was triggered in part by a burgeoning friendship with Cal. I’d known Cal for quite awhile, and despite worlds of flirtation and sexual tension between us over the years, we didn’t admit our mutual attraction until recently. A huge caveat: Cal is uncomfortable around children, and my nearly 2-year-old son is a very big part of my life.
My husband gave us the “go ahead” to pursue our relationship, but it’s at a great cost to the balance in my life. I can only spend time with Cal in public or at his house (a rule my husband suggested, because he’s not really ready to integrate Cal into our family life). I work throughout the week and my husband works weekends, meaning it was difficult already to find time for date nights with him. So now that Cal is in the picture my husband occasionally feels neglected.
There are many things we’ve done right so far: getting tested for STIs, communicating and learning to trust, and attempting to get to the heart of any negative emotions anyone is having.
I’m not worried for a second about my son growing up with a polyamorous mom. I don’t fear it’s going to confuse him or estrange him from his peers. All he has to know is that I love both Daddy and Cal for unique reasons. I’m not going to share with my child details of my sex life any more than I would have if I’d remained monogamous. I don’t know a thing about my monogamous parents’ sex life, except that they love each other deeply. That’s all my son needs to know about me and my relationships.
Even with our newly created Google Calendar to keep everyone on the same page, hiccups happen. We run out of babysitter money. We realize we didn’t schedule a husband/wife date this week. My husband has to work later than expected, or Cal goes on a weekend trip. Sometimes romantic dates with my husband turn into heavy-handed conversations about polyamory, which is productive, but often far from enjoyable. I want to be able to enjoy my time with him because I love him -- otherwise I wouldn’t be trying polyamory. I’d either get a divorce or do what many disgruntled married folks do out of cowardice: cheat.
It’s clear that this is going to be a drawn-out learning process for everyone. I’ll get overwhelmed, feelings will get hurt, everyone’s needs will go unmet from time to time. At the center of it all is my son, who absolutely depends on the adults in his life for care and support. That’s the one part that can’t slip, and I’m working hard to make the most of my time with him. Just last night I sat down with him and asked questions about his day.
“Did you sing any songs?” He nodded and did the hand movements to “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” I lit up -- he understood me. We were conversing. He knew this was a big deal, too: he had an awestruck sparkle in his eye as he hung onto my every word.
Just like any parent, I’m trying, I’m amending, I’m adapting. I’ve wondered if I would’ve been happier had I realized I wasn’t monogamous years ago, but I can’t even visualize what that path would have looked like. Here I am instead, working on my ultimate happiness in a communicative, committed relationship with my husband, an exciting new relationship with my boyfriend, and a beautiful, changing relationship with my child.
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