Last year, my fiancé and I opened our relationship as we began seeing other folks outside our own pairing.
Since I’m quite blunt when it comes to what I share with the world, I’ve told many of my friends and family that Skylar and I have a polyamorous relationship. To my surprise, the same people who have unflinchingly supported me as a pansexual trans man couldn’t seem to wrap their minds around the nature of my loving relationship (and now engagement to) with Skylar.
Though everyone I know has vigorously approved of my partner and our couplehood, it’s the non-monogamy part of our relationship that many just can’t seem to swallow. In fact, I find myself being slut-shamed and concern trolled quite often over the healthiest and most fulfilling relationship of my whole life.
When it comes down to it, people are judgmental because society’s portrayal of heterosexual monogamous couples as the norm deeply affects how the people we know perceive us. And this is especially the case with older individuals and relatives, a demographic I tend to avoid when it comes to conversations about the terms of my relationship.
So I decided to lay out some of the most common questions I’ve received from judgmental and generally curious individuals in my life. For those who don’t know much about polyamory, here are some genuine answers for you from a person who practices it. For those who are polyamorous, perhaps you can share with me in my pain regarding hearing these kinds of questions.
Isn’t that cheating?
When done right, polyamorous relationships are built on consent and lots of communication. But due to people’s assumption that relationships that fall outside monogamy, it can be easy to mistake having more than one partner at once as infidelity. I do not feel as though I’m cheating on my partner when I flirt with or sleep with another person because our arrangement is agreed upon and built on trust. In my relationship, seeing other people is the whole point! No lying or cheating necessary.
Aren’t you guys serious?
Multiple members of my friends and family expressed concern when I came out to them as polyamorous because they assumed my relationship with my partner must be experiencing some issues. However, in my experience, opening up a relationship takes a lot of trust, communication and mutual respect of boundaries. And so Skylar and I becoming more open in our relationship and sex reflected just how deeply we had established love and trust in our relationship. I find that only really solid relationships can support something like polyamory since a lack of trust can truly make those situations anxiety-inducing.
Isn’t sleeping with other people dangerous?
As long as it’s between consenting adults who get frequent STI tests and are transparent about their medical statuses, sleeping with other people carries the same risks for polyamorous folks as it does for those who stick with monogamy. Besides, the fact that whatever STI I might pick up would be passed on to my loving fiancé creates extra incentive to be diligent about these sorts of things.
What if you fall in love with someone else?
I’ve heard this one a lot; and I often don’t know how to answer it since the person asking clearly doesn’t understand love as something that can happen more than once and between more than two people. My partner knows that I’m in love with one of my dear friends, someone I don’t have intimate relations with, and it’s not something that makes them feel threatened.
We both know and encourage the other to develop exciting and enriching connections with other humans — and sometimes, love happens! But that doesn’t mean I’m going to break up with my primary partner to be with that person. And if we ever encounter a situation in which one of us has feelings that are too strong (like with the friend of mine I mentioned above), we agree on avoiding sexual contact to enhance our individual and collective mental well-being. Bottom line: Polyamory is all about the belief that you can give/receive/feel love from other people besides your primary. I don’t believe in “one true love” and all that stuff.
Do you talk about your other lovers with your partner?
Every polyamorous relationship is different, but my partner and I talk about other people we’re interested in with each other. I’ve introduced my partner to people I’m seeing, and we talk all about the details of our dates with each other excitedly. Above all, we prioritize each other over secondaries when it comes to scheduling dates and texting.
Don’t you get jealous?
Jealousy is a natural emotion. It happens sometimes, and whenever it does, we talk it out. Some days I talk too much about a girl I’m seeing; other times I feel jealous of Skylar wanting to have sex with someone that looks like me. If jealousy gets to be too much for one of us, we temporarily close our relationship. However, if you’re naturally a jealous person, non-monogamy may not be for you. A firm security in yourself and in your relationship with your partner is key in every polyamorous situation, as well as the willingness to allow your partner to explore pursuits outside your relationship if you already are.
I hardly have the energy for one partner — how do you make the time for multiple?
For me, as someone who maintains more casual relationships with the people I date, it feels more like making friends who also want to have sex with me. It doesn’t feel like work because there’s no expectation of emotional support or commitment. I just enjoy a respectful time with people I date without any strings attached. However, being polyamorous isn’t for everybody. And if you have low social tolerance, dating other people in addition to your partner can feel exhausting. But at the same time, you don’t always have to be actively dating someone when in a non-monogamous relationship.
Why did you guys open up your relationship in the first place?
Everyone opens their relationship for different reasons. Besides the fact that we both feel we are naturally non-monogamous (and wanted to stay true to our most genuine selves), I yearned to experience feminine bodies while still in a relationship with my partner. I am primarily attracted to women and people with vaginas. But before I started dating Skylar, I never got a chance to fully engage in any type of relationship with a woman. So once we felt secure enough in our relationship, we opened it up with hopes of us both achieving our fullest sexual potential in and outside our bedroom.
By Meg Zulch
Originally published on HelloFlo.