For nearly three years, my partner and I have been seeking to merge our strictly monogamous relationship with what we have found most intriguing: polyamory.
It all started with a confession on his part, where he very carefully confided in me that he felt that his capacity to love was deeper than just loving me. I remember listening to him speak and feeling like my heart was being pulled slowly out of my chest.
So many emotions washed over me in that moment—confusion, devastation, admiration (that he could speak so confidently his truth made my heart swell full with respect), deep violation. My entire world was collapsing before my eyes, and at the very height of my emotions, I contemplated divorce.
It took several days before my heart began to soften, which was prompted by the realization that his confession, though incredibly emotionally disruptive, was merely a confession, not a request to switch over to free love right that moment.
We had a series of conversations, most of them gut-wrenching and sob-inducing, and came to one final agreement: His limitless capacity to love was noble, but not mutual, and I simply wasn’t OK with his polyamorous tendencies being actualized.
He understood and agreed to essentially “shut off” his desires to be open.
And so it was. The topic wasn’t discussed very often after that.
Several months later, I fell in deep lust with a female companion. It was completely unexpected. It shook me to my bones. I felt like a hypocrite, and that, once more, my entire world was falling out of orbit. It was then Jonathan’s turn to be compassionate, and he gave much so much grace and patience as I worked to figure out what all of it meant.
Even though nothing ever physically manifested with my love interest and I, the overwhelming emotions I experienced during that time were enough to change my idea of polyamory. Suddenly, I understood what it meant to both love and lust after multiple people at the same time.
During this time, we sought through books, lectures, podcasts, and hypothetical conversations to make sense of the truth that was circling throughout our consciousness: That perhaps polyamory was more of a possibility for us (in me!) than we thought. Our minds spun even more so after reading the book Sex at Dawn, which pretty much proved scientifically that monogamy amongst humans wasn’t the most natural. We couldn’t help but think that we somehow didn’t fit into exclusive partnering very well.
Thus began our experiment into opening up.
I went on a few dates with women. He declared his attraction toward close, unsuspecting friends. I put up a “Married and Available” profile on OK Cupid. We attended polyamory meetups, unabashedly flirted with a lot of good-looking people, and had many intense discussions together as we went through every sort of What If? scenario imaginable.
We played like this for about three years, experimenting with how far we could go, opening ourselves up to people and experiences, and in some cases practically holding up a neon-green signed that screamed, “We’re open!”
And it never got us anywhere.
I was having brunch with a friend a few months ago, and we got on the topic of relationships. I mentioned to her that my partner and I had been seeking to have a polyamorous relationship for a few years, and as I did, I was surprised at my indifference toward the admission.
Usually, this was a time for me to chat buoyantly about my lifestyle, partly with the hope of finding another comrade who upheld the same notions, and partly because I was curious to see if my confession would elicit an invitation for our friendship to possibly go further.
But strangely, everything about polyamory suddenly bored me. I had been feeling for several months a slight repulsion in continuing these flirtations, but it wasn’t until I was retelling my story about what brought my partner and I to explore non-monogamy that I realized how done I was with it.
“I think I’m over it,” I blurted out without thinking.
“Well, you know,” said my friend gently, “it’s OK if you are, honey. You tried it, you gave it a shot. There’s no shame in walking away from it for a time.”
I let her words linger in my mind for a few moments before finally uttering once more, “Yes, I think I’m done.”
We parted ways after brunch and I continued to repeat those words in my head as I walked home.
I’m done. I’m done. I’m done. But why?
I’m done because opening my relationship became too labored. What I was looking for was synchronicity and serendipity—an accidental kind of friends-turned-lovers partnership that would whisk me and my partner away and into a fiery love affair. But it was becoming too contrived, too well-thought out.
I’m done because I simply was not finding what I was looking for. No matter how much I tried, no matter how fervent my lust for expansion and experimentation, the people that came into my life continued to be imperfect matches, people who were not emotionally available (or sound) enough to give me what I deeply yearned for with this experience. I have grown tired of my heart being broken, and of having my hopes sliced by rejection.
I’m done because it’s all been very emotionally exhausting—the wondering, the seeking, the hypothesizing, the desiring; oh, the desiring has been the worst part of it all. Wanting so badly to experience something that you have no earthly idea what it will ultimately bring you, or if it’ll be at the demise of a relationship, or if this is the path meant to be taken, but the desire is still there, strong and unrelenting. Yes, that has been the hardest part for me.
Opening our marriage gave us a lot of things (like juicy conversations and a glimpse into what our partnership could be like with the addition of another), but the one thing it most certainly did not give us was what we were initially looking to experience: physical explorations (i.e., sex).
Not one kiss, not one grope, not one one-night-stand was had in all the three years we were playing. Only emotional affairs that kept our minds and our bodies wound tight with sexual tension and the gnawing What if? thoughts that made our imaginations run wild.
I’ve always seen our lack of polyamorous sexual activity as a negative thing, something that proved to us harshly that we weren’t meant for this lifestyle. These days, though, I am seeing this reality to be more of a blessing as I move into full attention on my partnership. Transitioning back into monogamy wouldn’t be as easy for me, I think, with vivid images constantly flashing through my mind of my lover in the arms of another.
What I realize now more than ever is how incredibly sacred my union is with my beloved.
Our deep, unchanging love, our amazing, spiritual, cosmic sex, our never erring devotion to each other. . . I do not want to share this gorgeousness with anyone. And because I know how powerful erotic energy is, I don’t want to give my body to anyone else.
Rather, I want to focus on other things, like the electric connection I have with Jonathan, and cultivating lasting platonic yet love-filled relationships with my friends (because it was getting so murky that every single person I knew became a “Potential Lover”).
All of this isn’t to say that we’ve given up on polyamory completely. Our curiosity was never quenched, and so, at least on my part, there will always be a sense of wondering. We might come back to it in the future, we might not. When I was speaking to Jonathan about moving back into monogamy again, he said to me, “I could die without having ever expressed polyamory and I’d be fine.”
As for me, I don’t know if I could be OK with dying without ever having actualized my fluid sexuality. But. . . I am learning to, at this point, be OK with and luxuriate in what I’ve already got.
Update: My husband and I have since returned to non-monogamy, and I speak about that process of re-opening up here.