My partner has a wrestling date with a porn star tonight. It's true - you read that correctly. Believe me, I was impressed myself. But the expansive world of polyamory has taught this queer girl that yummy sexual adventures can be available to all who cultivate the skills necessary to embrace them. In my partner's case (let's call him Ryad), he met his new lovely while acting as production assistant on a community-based porn flick - getting folks coffee, running errands and assisting with other, uh, tasks as they arose. Yes, tonight my honey and his ravishing date will coat their bodies in sandalwood oil and lock limbs, each attempting to stay on top long enough to tease, nibble and caress. How can I be so nonchalant about my man making it with a gorgeous babe while my own sorry ass will be hauling boxes at work? Well, for one, I have a hot date of my own this Friday. My girl Shanti and I have been bringing each other to bliss for two years, and we fit together like dal and rice. It goes down real good, let me tell you!
But it hasn't always been easy. To be honest, being poly was Ryad's idea. Before we became involved five years ago, Ryad strongly asserted his disdain for monogamy. Back then, I had never heard of "polyamory," this embrace of many loves. I was perplexed, hesitant and afraid. And yet I knew that I never wanted to set limits on how much love my partners had in their lives. Nor did I want those limits on myself. This sentiment kept me in the process.
For months I kept Ryad at arm's length while encountering yucky feelings of all kinds. I was jealous if I noticed him flirting with others. I imagined folks thronging around him and (supposedly) ignoring me. I observed feelings of worthlessness in myself when I thought he was choosing to connect with others rather than me.
As a woman of colour, I had unconsciously bought into society's construction of self-worth as a gift to be bestowed on me from outside myself, and by men in particular. For me, embracing polyamory meant acknowledging and throwing off unhealthy beliefs about myself. It also meant recognizing that feeling whole in myself decreases my need to put restrictions on my partners' behaviour.
Of course, the major feeling associated with polyamory is jealousy. Unlike people in monogamous relationships, those in poly dyads, triplings and so on are forced to meet it full on.
In Deborah Anapol's Love Without Limits, the author suggests that jealousy can teach and heal. When listened to, she says, it can help us expose and let go of old wounds that bind us.
For me, this meant coming to terms with those little-girl aches and injuries I've been hauling around for 29 years. It meant learning to acknowledge when I felt jealous, and recognizing that this feeling was my own. Regardless of what actions on the part of others might have triggered it, I could not, in reality, blame anyone else for my response. What I could do was make choices, such as getting support from my partners and my community.
Perhaps you wonder how Ryad and I support each other when we feel jealous. Our culture suggests that people in relationships, especially men, are typically incapable of being emotionally available when their partners are upset. Deny it, run away, drown it, whatever. For Ryad and me, much unlearning has sprouted alternatives to these "options."
For example, if Ryad is feeling jealous, he takes responsibility for his jealousy and doesn't blame me for it. If I'm feeling jealous, I ask him to sit and be present with me for a while. Afterwards, we might make a date to have fun together in order to acknowledge our particular connection. We try to think twice before dumping anger on each other, and attempt to truly listen underneath the blaming for whatever feelings might need to be heard.
So, after months of letting this stuff percolate, my fear and mistrust diminished and I stuck a toe in the water. Soon I was wet all over. It has been truly freeing to be completely committed to one person and yet able to invest varying amounts of time and energy in relationships with others. Binary, limiting notions of the range of human connection are being replaced by a playful sense of agency.
Yeah, yeah, I know, it ain't all rosy. In addition to the good times there's serious work involved in this poly business. I love my partners real good. That means through the yummy stuff as well as through the times when it feels like Abandonment Issue Central. That takes learning new skills that we don't learn in school - like listening without having to fix, or validating someone's feelings even if they conflict with one's own. But you wouldn't catch me going back to the supposed easy way.
Though my bed will be a little colder tonight without the presence of Ryad's hot li'l bod, I'll be warming it up by thinking about my own love connection this Friday. And I will happily use the minutes before I fall asleep to fantasize about sandalwood oil, a gorgeous porn star babe and her fluffer.