The fancy word for Elizabeth is metamour, but I prefer “sister wife” or “my husband’s girlfriend.” My husband started dating her about a year ago, and since then she has become one of my best friends. I’ve never been someone into monogamy, and most of my adult relationships have had some level of openness. When I met my spouse ― a queer, nonbinary person with a disability ― eight years ago, he understood that I was not okay with long-term monogamy.
We got married about six months after meeting, primarily for health insurance purposes. My husband was a single dad of three kids, and while I’m sure it seemed reckless, we fit together well as a unit of five and knew we would be together for a long time.
In the beginning of our marriage, as we were figuring our new status and I was getting used to all of a sudden being a parent, we decided to focus on the family we were building. So we agreed to be monogamous for the time being ―but with the understanding that we were building the foundation for a relationship with some level of openness.
Over time we loosened the parameters of our relationship and I’d occasionally hook up with people on vacation, but neither of us had the energy to do much more than that. During most of that time, we just agreed that we would check in with each other before hooking up with anyone, but it never happened. We just didn’t have the energy for it.
A few years into our marriage we had another child, which gave us even less energy for outside dating, and I didn’t feel quite at my sexiest immediately after birthing a child anyway. So between four kids, my health issues and everything else our relationship was (in practice) mostly monogamous (or “monogamish” in Dan Savage speak). Luckily, babies grow up and need a little less tending, so in the past couple of years we have had a little more capacity to date.
It’s hard to understand our dynamic without understanding us, but my partner and I are extremely different people. He is a loving sweetheart who always wants to show me love. I, to be frank, am a slut who needs a ton of alone time. We work, and we work well.
Then a year ago, my husband met Elizabeth on Tinder, and I was really excited about their first date. It’s hard to understand for some people, but I was legitimately happy for him to go out and meet someone that he might connect with. He was a lot newer to polyamory and though he was on board, he had just been dipping his toe into the dating pool at this point. We love each other so much and have a lot in common, but like any two people, we can’t meet all of each other’s needs. I was genuinely encouraging for him to connect with someone with similar interests that I didn’t share. The fact that they also sometimes have sex doesn’t really seem relevant to me, as it doesn’t change anything about my relationship with him or how we feel about each other. Some people won’t understand this, but we’re both happy with our setup.
I met Elizabeth eventually, but I already knew I would like her from what my husband had told me. One of the things that makes polyamory work for us is that my husband has impeccable taste. Elizabeth is a lot like me; we are both smart and opinionated and loud. As someone very committed to polyamory, Elizabeth also values direct communication. If you want the secret to our relationship, it’s that either of us can say (usually me), “I need some alone time” or “I’ve been feeling neglected I need more time with [my husband],” and she not only knows it has nothing to do with how I feel about her, but it’s about what I need.
Throughout the last year, Elizabeth has become a part of our family and I consider her like a sister. Like my husband and me, she is also queer with a disability, and she understands who we are as a family and what our lives are like.
By the time our kids met her they had known for a bit that we were polyamorous. However, Elizabeth was the first partner one of us had who was serious enough to introduce to the kids. She and I do not have a romantic relationship, and you would probably be really disappointed to find out how little sex is actually happening here (four kids, remember?). Elizabeth usually spends a night or two at our house each week in the guest room alone, as we have created some rules for when the kids are home so as not to disrupt their routine.
I genuinely love Elizabeth as a part of our family, but I still sometimes feel jealousy. There are definitely times when the two of them are hanging out when I wish that I could be hanging out with my husband, but those moments are few are far between. I actually have more alone time with him than before because now Elizabeth can (and does) watch the kids so we can go out for a date or away for a weekend. Time and energy are limited and there are sometimes tensions because there is never enough of either, but we all work together to make sure that all three of us have what we need.
Like any close relationship, sometimes there are conflicts. Especially as Elizabeth spends more time at our house and takes on a parenting-type role, we sometimes do things differently. For example, while I’m fine with our 5-year-old grabbing snacks when he wants; when she’s cooking dinner she (understandably) doesn’t want him to ruin his appetite.
Things like this are easy enough to solve ― when she’s cooking something, he needs to wait to eat, otherwise snacking is fine. The hardest part is noticing and acknowledging the different approaches and coming up with a solution that works for us. It helps that Elizabeth is good at respecting the fact that we are the parents, and I try to always remember that she has the best interests of the kids in mind.
Different things work for different people, and I really, really don’t care what other people do and don’t think others should care what we do. Polyamory isn’t a cop-out, and it definitely takes work that monogamy doesn’t. It’s okay if those dynamics may not be right for you at this or any other time. We’ll continue to take it day by day but for now, my relationship with my husband and his girlfriend Elizabeth works for my family. And that’s all that matters.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.