One of the most common questions that I’ve been asked about my lifestyle is “how did you get started?” Though my origin story is not one with whirlwind romance, wild adventure, or radioactive spiders, I think that it differs enough from many of the writers here on the Swingset to be worth telling.
To start with, I’m sharing a new diagram of my Constellation. When I first started writing, we were a family of five that were fairly easy to represent with my little star-chart, especially since I was on an end so my star was easy to point out. Now, as you can see, not so simple. So, how did I come to be in a situation with a husband, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, my husband’s two girlfriends who are also each other’s girlfriends, my step-husband-in-law (which by the way is really just an affectionate nickname – don’t try to figure out any logic to it) and onward down the line? Not, like so many of the others here on the Swingset, by starting out as a swinger.
I feel like one of the things that differentiates me from a lot of the other writers here, and – yes, I’ll say it – from many ethical non-monogamists of an older generation, is that we were never swingers. My husband and I did not go through the oft-repeated transition from swinger, to open, to poly. In fact, I didn’t really know what any of those words meant when he and I first became a couple. So, enough dawdling – here is my story.
I have often said that I’ve never had a monogamous relationship as an adult. My first and only monogamous relationship was with my high school boyfriend, who was with me from 9th grade until the beginning of my sophomore year of college. As I’m sure we’re all already aware, the first year of college is one of huge lifestyle changes as we figure out who the hell we are and what the hell we want from ourselves in this life. I spent that year constantly struggling with my desires for other men, trying to quash them because I still loved my boyfriend and still truly believed that I couldn’t both love and be with him, and love and be with someone else. The options I saw as available to me were to suffer quietly, or cheat – sadly, I chose to cheat. A lot. For the last year of our relationship I was incredibly dishonest, making excuses to spend time with these people who I was interested in, making it seem like something else so that my boyfriend wouldn’t get jealous or suspicious. I was not a good person during this period.
Somewhere in the middle of this year I met the man who is now my husband. I was living in Florida, where I grew up, and came to the Midwest for a wedding, wherein he was the wedding photographer. I know, sweet story, right? We were attracted to each other immediately, but with me trying to maintain some vague level of monogamy and him living in another state, our relationship didn’t start right away.
After that year of misery and dishonesty, I finally broke up with the high school boyfriend. My husband came to visit me in Florida a few months after that in the Fall of 2006, and two and a half years of long-distance relationship later, I came to the Midwest in 2009, we moved in together and got married. So that’s the super-nutshell version that gives you no relevant data about non-monogamy whatsoever.
The thing is, when he and I first got together, I was 18 years old, and I had no idea there were words and philosophies behind non-monogamy. All we knew was that we were in love and lived really far away from each other. What that meant to us, was that we wanted to be together, but we didn’t want it to be just us. We knew that would be lonely. So we decided to have what I see in hindsight as an open relationship. Neither of us got serious with anyone new, but we dated around and didn’t feel the need to limit ourselves to each other. This was our situation for the first few months.
I made a visit to see him over my Christmas break, and our relationship boundaries were radically re-aligned. As a special occasion, he arranged a threesome for us with a girl that I hadn’t ever met before. He had told me about her somewhat, as a friend of his, but I didn’t really know much about who she was or why she was the one having this threesome with us. I came to find out through seeing them interact, this was not the first time they’d had sex. I panicked, left the room, and had an incredibly ungraceful anxiety attack. When he and I talked through it, it turned out that he had been seeing this girl for a while, but didn’t know how to tell me, so he just didn’t. He felt like he couldn’t handle the communication involved with non-monogamy, so we decided it should be just us. We broke off relationships with the people we were dating, and focused on our own.
We were monogamous for about a year an a half. Eventually we had to revisit the subject, because the reason that we had decided against monogamy hadn’t gone away – we lived in different states, saw each other only every 6-8 weeks, and we were lonely. So, we opened things back up, and in the meantime became more learned in the terminology and boundaries of different kinds of relationships. We decided polyamory was the word for the relationship we were trying to make.
During the rest of my time in Florida I had a boyfriend. He was an incredible person, though he is the big reason I have since become wary of single people (as I mentioned in a previous post). He was the type that would say “yes, I understand, you have a fiancée and you’re moving to the Midwest and that’s ok,” but what he really wanted was for me to stay in Florida with him and be his monogamous partner. This was not ok.
Meanwhile, my husband met his girlfriend (the one that is also my step-in-law’s girlfriend). Things with her turned out much better, obviously, considering she is living with us now.
The rest is really just a boring timeline. My husband’s girlfriend started dating my step-husband-in-law in the summer of 2010, and she got involved with his wife a few months after that. My husband and step-husband-in-law met their other respective girlfriends this past Fall. I started seeing my boyfriend and girlfriend in January. And there you have my tangled web – or at least from my perspective.