I Tried to be a Polyamorous Team Player
"I recently read a book called The Ethical Slut," my boyfriend *Zane had told me one day when we were walking around downtown one evening. "It argues against monogamy, basically it made a lot of really good points about how open relationships are the most natural and healthy."
"Oh?" I had said casually. I was still thinking about the title - The Ethical Slut - why was it that that word rubbed me the wrong way, even as just a title?
"Yeah, basically it talked about feelings of jealousy, and how those feelings are natural and okay to have," he continued.
"Oh?" I immediately knew this conversation was going somewhere I would not like.
"And how we shouldn't hold ourselves back. Like, I'm seeing you, but if I met a girl at a party and we hit it off, it would be unfair for me not to pursue that," he said.
"What? You can always talk to people you meet," I said. "I don't ever tell you to not talk to people. And if you meet someone else that you like, then break up with me. Date them. That's how this works."
Zane was 26 and this was his second relationship ever. I wondered if he was trying to figure out how a literal relationship functions, or turn what we had into something polyamorous.
"But what if there was another way it could work?" he said.
So it was the latter.
A few hours of conversation later and somehow Zane had convinced me we should be in a polyamorous relationship. I thought this made no sense considering that we both were dating each other, and didn't have anyone else in our lives that we were interested in at the moment, but he was the Ethical Slut expert, and I was fresh out of college and naively so into someone who read books (and then, as I found out later, thought of himself as a philosophical expert on all subject matters due to said book readings).
I'm open-minded, which I think is a great quality. But I'm also a people pleaser, and when you combine those two qualities sometimes you end up in dangerous territory.
I'm not immune to jealousy. I feel hurt when my Uber driver accepts another passenger while he's still dropping me off. I compare myself to other women, other colleagues, other friends, and I probably always will.
I figured the best way to handle being in a polyamorous relationship was to get ahead of it. I would be the one who dated someone else first, and not only would I do that, but I would have an entire roster of boyfriends and girlfriends. Like a romantic baseball team. A partner for each day of the week.
Note: This is not a good way to be polyamorous. In fact it's probably the worst way to go about it.
So I made my list of people I wanted to date:
- The musician (was already dating him)
- A hot latino guy
- A mysterious dark-haired girl
- A funny, life-of-the-party type of guy
- A really rich guy because why not
And then I went out with my best friend and hit the bars trying to find these types of people like I was playing demented sexual bingo.
I ended up going on a few dates with another guy, but he wasn't that interesting, or funny, or smart, and I realized a few weeks into it that I was only seeing him because I was terrified of getting left behind in polyamory. I didn't even like this guy.
What's worse, I was spending all of the time I had with my original, musician boyfriend trying to be the absolute best version of myself possible. Maybe if I'm every type of girl and I keep him happy, he won't feel the need to look for someone else, I kept telling myself.
I would stay up late at night for hours wondering what his "types" were that he was looking for. Was I not hot enough? Maybe he wanted a model girlfriend. Maybe I wasn't musical enough, and he wanted someone who had that. Maybe I wasn't smart enough and he wanted a super intellectual girl.
For weeks on end, my mind was filled with reasons why I wasn't "good enough" for him to want to be monogamous. And to be honest, it really messed me up.
We ended up breaking up in a weird series of him ending it, and then me ending it, and then him reaching back out when I started dating someone new and saying that he "only broke up with me to push me away" and the whole thing truly was a headfuck that I wouldn't wish on anyone.
But I learned, ultimately, that polyamory is not for me, and I don't think it ever will be.
I sincerely tip my hat to people who are happy in open relationships. For the life of me, I can't understand it, but this is a big world, full of people with different preferences, and as long as you are happy and safe, I think it's everyone's prerogative to do what they want. Seriously.
I don't think that there is one "right" or "natural" way to have a relationship, and my boyfriend constantly harping on how "this is the right way" to date or how my feelings "didn't make sense because I shouldn't be jealous" even though I was...I hated that. There's no one right way to date. There's no one right way to love - it just is what it is.
And in the meantime, I've filled my demented bingo with different boxes. I don't want to collect a bunch of boxes full of different people, I want to collect a person with different boxes full of qualities that I admire. Funny, positive, open-minded, dark-haired latino rich girl who is the life of the party....haha. I mean, I kid, but that is kind of the dream isn't it?