Polyamory: Like anything, there’s a right and a wrong way to do it.

Oh, polyamory. 

Sure, it is a lovely notion, that romantic love could be spread between multiple people equally and without compromising what you’ve expressed or given to anyone at any prior point.  Being the open-minded and free-spirited type of person that I am, polyamory appealed to me.  I had believed in it much like Christians believe in and cling to their notions of God…but like my own endeavors with religion, it was an attempt at shoe-horning myself into a spot I didn’t belong in.  I didn’t belong in it for the sake of anyone else; I really just didn’t know how to evenly spread my love like jam on toast.  I didn’t know how to silence my jealousy.  I didn’t know how to share without pouting in a corner, and I didn’t know how to spend intimate time with someone other than the one person I’d invested x amount of time into without a barrage of guilt and shame clamoring in the back of my mind.  My whole life I had searched for just one person I could share my heart and soul with, not a few or several, and certainly not any that I had to compete with.  I am not one of those monogamous types who will say that it’s unnatural or dishonest.  On the contrary, I believe that a polyamorous lifestyle can be beautiful, fulfilling, and very successful…for the right people under the right circumstances.  I have often defended the people I know who have found the peace and joy they deserve under such arrangements, and I have read many books and personal accounts of why it all works the way that it does.  For any of us to say that one way or the other is the “one true way,” the only way to love, is wrong.  You’re not me, and I’m not you.  Naturally, we are going to have different needs, perspectives, and opinions if for no other reason than we have different DNA defining us.  What is to follow is my personal experience, nothing more and nothing less.  It is not meant to invalidate, degrade, or otherwise insult the life choices of others; it’s just how I know polyamory is not meant for someone like me and how finding the right person to invest my time and energy into made all the difference in the world. 

“You were my best friend.  We’ve been through much together.” 

I had these friends, this lovely couple I admired for their perseverance, quirks, and devotion to each other.  I met them when I moved to New Orleans in 2006, and they were a centrifugal part of my late teen years all the way up to my mid-twenties.  For the sake of identity, we’ll use the names John and Jane.  Jane and I were instant rivals—both writers, both musicians, both take-life-by-the-balls-and-bend-it-to-my-will type ladies.  We had a lot in common, but the spirit of competition was enough to keep us from being close friends, though we both tried for John’s sake.  Our astrological signs clashed as well; she was the proud and brave lion, and I am the dreamy and intuitive fish.  Fire and water don’t mix very well.  To this day, I admire her very much, and a large part of why this story ends the way it does is out of respect for her. 

John and I probably shouldn’t have ever met.  There was an instantaneous attraction neither of us could fully comprehend, and over the years, we would make a right mess of all things related to love—platonic and romantic.  He quickly became my best friend in a blurred montage of drunken gatherings, weekly “dates” in which we ran around the city or cuddled at home while listening to music, and a mess of text conversations.  That Jane’s jealousy was roused to a point that she felt a need to call me out seemed off-base at the time, but looking back, it was properly placed even if it was approached the wrong way.  John and I had everything in common—rough childhoods, previous difficulties with cutting and suicidal thoughts, nightmares that robbed us of sleep, taste in music, creative minds, and oh-so-much love.  I left New Orleans in November 2007, and it would take months for us to actually talk again.  I would later find out that he was furious I hadn’t taken him up on his offer to stay in their spare room, but even then, I knew it could be a disaster.  Not wanting to wreck a home, I returned to Dallas with a heavy heart. 

The years came and went in a haze of lesser men, dumber women, clubs, alcohol, escapism, filthy pictures, and even an adventure to California.  Day in and day out, the texts and emails kept coming.  Every move I made, every thought he thought, every wish either of us had.  Looking back, obsessed doesn’t even begin to cover our fixation on each other.  Any guy or gal I might connect with was instantly aware of my “best friend,” and most of them would be put off by the obvious fact that I was in love with him.  I never meant for it to be that way.  My original intentions were to keep it platonic, simple…but the heart wants what the heart wants, and anyone who has been there knows that there’s no stopping that avalanche even if you try.  Over time, difficulties would crop up in their relationship, and I was the friend who heard his side of each story then became “the other woman” over a distance.  If I was going out, he’d request pictures.  I’d gladly oblige, and eventually, I’d come home alone just to call him up, and the phone sex we’d have was hotter than anything I had experienced at that point in my life.  This would continue.  He made me feel beautiful and worthy, and I was, in fact, a lonely, sad girl with very little self-esteem.  For a time, it seemed as though he was just waiting for the appropriate time to leave Jane so that we could, at last, be together.  Just us.  This, of course, never happened.  John and Jane even came to visit on my birthday one year.  We were having a lovely night until it turned into a couple-swap with my now ex-boyfriend.  Guilt, shame, blame…That’s all we had for each other for the longest time.  I tried to spell out what everyone else was too scared to say and found myself shunned, omitted from all communications for a year or so.   

When we resumed communication, it was revealed that John was in love with me.  But it wasn’t that he was ready to leave Jane, who he’d been with for nearly a decade.  It wasn’t that he was willing to cut me loose, either.  The way he saw it, the three of us could make a pretty phenomenal triad.  I was inclined to agree, especially since I had been on my own hunt for answers about polyamorous relationships.  I had met a mentor who would make polyamory seem tangible and set me off on a journey to make my own decisions.  I admired the level of trust and respect such an arrangement required, similar to the trust and respect needed to make any D/s relationship successful.  At its core, it was something I could agree with.  By the time John and I were addressing this, I had read Sex at Dawn and the Ethical Slut, spoken with many people on the idea of polyamory, spoken with many more about monogamy.  I was (and remain) decidedly bisexual.  A scenario in which I have a lover of each gender was too delightful to pass up.  I was going to have my cake and eat it too.  I was so happy I couldn’t see straight…but I had to mend the damage done to my relationship with Jane, damage only made worse by the fact that we hadn’t talked at all after that one night.  What I didn’t know was that the damage I was trying to mend wasn’t actually damage I’d done.  I went to visit last October, endured her poor hospitality and bad moods, personal attacks and defense mechanisms to “prove” to both of them that I was worthy of their circle, deserving of their love, a valid and good part of their family. 

The problem with that is that I set out to “prove” myself to people who supposedly loved me.  The bigger problem was that when John drove up to Dallas and spent the night with me before the drive back to New Orleans, we gave in to years of sexual tension.  I wouldn’t trade that night for anything because it was so very beautiful, but for something that was supposed to be alright, Jane was certainly not stepping down on her text and phone call check-ins.  If I had known what they had actually discussed instead of what John told me to put my mind at ease, I could have unraveled the whirlwind of emotions bubbling under the surface a lot faster.  They agreed that polyamory was possible, that you could love more than one person.  It’s even possible that he’d been honest about his intentions with me, but Jane had set her guard against me a very long time ago because he spent so much time communicating with me and romanticizing the possibilities.  Simple fact is, he wasn’t given clearance to make love to me under my roof or his own.  We acted on it, and he told me it wasn’t the right time to tell Jane, that we would in time, but she was having enough trouble trusting either of us without knowledge of our carnal acts.  My understanding of polyamory at the time was that any endeavor, sexual or not, was not to be undertaken with another person without addressing it with one’s primary partner(s) first.  Rule number one had been broken, and that is the point of no return. 

I don’t know if the truth ever got back to Jane, but after a couple of months of realizing how lonely it can be when you’re trying to sustain romance over a distance (with the knowledge that I was alone while they had each other), I sent a rather forcefully worded email to end the whole affair.  He was angry with me for a post I had made on Facebook, of all things, and I’d had enough of hiding in the shadows.  If the love we made and shared was never to be spoken of, what was the point of harboring that love between us?  If he truly felt we were meant to be, why would he continue to stand by someone who just wanted me gone?  Over six years had been invested, unconditionally listening, supporting, and accepting…and for all my time and effort, I was shoved into a box and locked away anytime someone else might have overheard or seen us. 

“Am I not enough?  Am I so dull that the affections I deserve must be shared with others?”  

These are the words I found myself saying in that first meeting; some of you might call it a date.  The stage had been set, and all we had to do was step into those blinding lights together.  Time would take care of the rest.  But that first night?  I was nervous, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  We got on well enough digitally, but I had reason to doubt it would carry over in person.  The chemistry and common ground were too good to be true.  Since ninety percent of my relationship with John had been digital, I had ample reason to fear that this was a facade or that some ugly secret was hiding behind all of that awesome.  The first hug would silence my doubt; the first kiss would still my breath; and that first admission of inadequacy, or fear of such, would bond us despite my initial resistance. 

At the time, I was still wrapped up in the notion that polyamory was the way to go, ultimately confused as to how one person could meet me on all my levels or how I could provide the same.  Moreover, the desire for more kink and specifically a D/s understanding could have put a wedge between us.  I was ending a lengthy boycott of all things BDSM, and he was on the verge of beginning the same sort of hiatus.  Our decision to be an official, exclusive couple came quickly to the outward eye but was not made without detailed discussions about what we felt was important, as individuals as well as a couple.  We decided to be monogamous when the time came, accepting the possibility of purely sexual encounters in a very distant future, if ever.  We were more than enough for each other, and we’d seen our share of pain prior to happening on each other. 

This is the first time I have ever felt safe and free, loved and appreciated just for being who I am.  The bond we have, the love we share, the support and inspiration that come in return…it’s all unlike anything I have ever felt or known before, above and beyond anything I may have dreamed up.  When he’s near, I am invincible, and every day I am closer to the best version of myself that I can be.  The irony here is that my jealousy and insecurity are non-issues now.  That is how I know I just wasn’t invested in the right people for my situation, character, or needs. 

“You should never have to try to prove yourself to someone who loves you.” 

These are the words my lover/Dom/muse gave me to put it all in perspective.  At the time, he was speaking as a friend more than anything, but it rang true.  The whole crux of the situation with John and Jane was that they felt they had nothing to prove but held me accountable for issues wholly unrelated to me.  Too often, troubled couples will run to polyamory or an open relationship to try to “save” their commitment to each other.  In these scenarios, hostility and blame are projected onto outside parties.  Or the interactions run rampant with dishonesty, leaving the third parties on uneven playing ground, crippled by another’s inability to communicate.  They feel they now have something to prove because of the guilt they’re carrying…and all of that goes right back to the core couple who can’t accept and forgive each other. 

Newsflash:  If you can’t accept, forgive, and talk to the FIRST person on your docket of lovers, you cannot do it for the second or eighth or twentieth.  All you’re doing is spreading your hurt around, and no one actually deserves that.   

Love who you choose and as you choose.  Don’t use it as a weapon. 

-Kortney Marie


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