So, how does this stuff work?

About two years ago, I broke up with a monogamous partner of six years, and realized that, at 28, I’d never actually dated. I went from one-to-three-night-stands as a teenager straight into commited monogamy (a previous relationship had lasted four years) with nothing in between. I decided then that I would not get into anything serious–which at the time I defined as commited and monogamous. I needed to date around a bit and learn how this aspect of humanity worked. I’d happily get into an ongoing relationship, but only on the condition that I was allowed to date other people.

So I spent a couple of years trying to date. It went poorly. It doesn’t help that I’m in Indianapolis for the nonce, which is a rather terrible laboratory for these sorts of experiments.  For example, Forbes rates Indianapolis as 37th among the largest 40 US cities as a place to be single… and it’s only that high because it’s easy to get a job and cheap to live here.  We’re ahead of such notable hot spots as Salt Lake City and Cleveland.

So, it was hard to find anyone, and even harder to find someone who met my criteria–interesting, attractive, and willing to be in the sort of relationship that I felt was right for me. I’d started to wear down, and decide what all interesting people in Indiana seem to decide; I’d just go ahead and grab the next person to come along and we’d be in the sort of standard relationship that everyone else is. I would have loved to find someone to explore an open relationship with, but that person just wasn’t here.

It turns out, she was somewhere else, but one should be careful for what one wishes.

On OkCupid, I met an amazing woman 800 miles away from me. I was cautious, and assumed that it couldn’t go anywhere; there was the distance, and also the fact that she was involved with other people to the point that her profile said she just basically didn’t have time for anyone else. Also, I knew from past Adventures in Dating (which I’ll no doubt outline later), that it was difficult-to-impossible for me to be involved with someone who was involved with several other people while I wasn’t. Despite my desire for an open relationship, I knew very well that my prospects were severely limited in ways that an attractive woman on the east coast was not. Not that I don’t get my share of interest, but there’s just no one here looking for what I’m looking for.

Well, fast forwarding a few months–as time went by and the electronic equivalent of the wordage of War and Peace was exchanged a couple of times over–whatever objections I had faded. Eventually, I went to see her, because I had to, and was startled when I not only wanted a relationship with her but I fell in goddamn love. All of a sudden, I understood that “serious” and “monogamous” were not synonymous, and I had no real choice but to go forward with things.

I had my misgivings, of course. I’m not a terribly jealous person, but there’s this sense of imbalance that’s wildly difficult for me. It doesn’t bother me that she sees other people so much as it bothers me that I don’t, that I can’t. It bothers me when I find out something, even superficial, that’s similar between me and her other boys. It bothers me that she has this opportunity to live the life that I’ve been looking for these past years and that I don’t. And, yes, it bothers me at least a little bit that she’s slept with someone else since we’ve been together and I haven’t. I am human.

In a much less serious relationship, these things wouldn’t matter at all. I could just enjoy my time with someone without sweating the imbalances.  In a slightly less serious relationship, they would be complete dealbreakers, because the relationship wouldn’t be enough to overcome the problems.

But I love her.  I love her.  Madly.  Obviously, at the moment I’m still in the infatuation stage, but I have some experience living in this head, and I know where this is going. I think this is going to last, assuming I don’t blow it.  So I’m putting in the work to make myself okay with the things that hurt for the sake of the things that are better than I’ve ever had before.

love her.

And I’ve decided that something I can do to help make this work is to post my musings. I’m doing this for a couple of reasons. One is that I think pulling together my thoughts will help me smooth out the rough spots in my head, and see where I’m being ridiculous, or hypocritical, and minimize those. Another is that I simply can’t find many resources for someone in my situation–a person with no other partners getting involved with someone who has several. For the moment, I’m functionally monogamous, and while I’m sure that will change I feel like the healthy response is to learn how to deal with the difficult bits without requiring another relationship as a crutch.

The latter is worth expanding on a bit: it’s both unfair to C (I’m going to keep names in this blog to initials unless someone gives me permission to use their name), and unfair to anyone else I might get involved with. If I’m going to get into a second relationship, it needs to be because I want to be with that person, and not because I want to even up some sort of “score”.

So, here I am, Newly Open after a decade of monogamy and a couple of years single, and learning what that means. The ride has been a bit bumpy so far, but very much worth it, and continues to be. I plan to chronicle my thoughts as it goes along. I hope that this helps someone, not least of all myself.

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11 thoughts on “So, how does this stuff work?

  1. Hi Dia,
    aus_bird from OKC here… I’m in sort of an opposite situation from you – married and monogamous, would like to be poly/open but spouse says no.

    I’ve wondered for years why it’s so difficult, and about binary relationships, and why society demands them (nature/nurture)… anyways, a few months ago I found a Yahoo group (I know, lame) called cpnpolymono@yahoogroups.com. It’s specifically for poly spouses of straight/mono people. I’m not saying it’s got all or even a lot of answers, and there are certainly some people on it who I think are very far up themselves – but it might help, if not answer questions, at least find different ways to frame them.

    There are probably lots of other resources around if you look, this is just one I know of. If you check it out, I hope it help some.

    Best of luck!
    Rob

  2. Hey, N –

    I am a little fascinated by this exercise, because I have very good friends who are open and poly and have spent a tiny bit of time in a relationship with someone who was… just enough to know it is not for me. Nonetheless, I am dearly fond of these friends, and would love to know more about how their relationship clocks tick. I look forward to your musings on navigating the transition as a possible light on that. I also wish you and C the best, as there is clearly a very real connection there,

    Be well,

    J

  3. I totally understand about the inequities of being involved with someone who gets more (or less) intimate time than you do. My partner lives 1500 miles away and is dating someone who lives close enough to visit three times a week. If I haven’t caught on fire from resentment, that’s proof that it can never actually happen. I have faith that it’ll work out, somehow; and I have a date tonight, too. 🙂

  4. Hi, sweetheart,

    All I know is, you are awesome, and I have faith in you to be honest, with her and with yourself, and kind. So that seems to me to be all that’s required. That doesn’t mean that it will be easy, or even that it will necessarily work long term, but it’s certainly worth a try, and you have the requisites for making the attempt honorably and lovingly. Some risks are not merely worth taking, it’s wrong not to take them, I think.

    Go you. xoxo S.

  5. Hey,

    At 800 miles you did better than me. _blackjack_’s 4000 miles away. I’m seeing him again in three weeks. It can be hard, but it’s so worth it. I love him soooo much.

    You’ll do fine. Just try to relax and enjoy it.

  6. N-

    I wish you much luck. This deprogramming of the heart is not easy after a lifetime of monogamy, but certainly seems worth it considering the richness of possibilities for all parties involved. I dare say I would attempt it too, but I still need to shore up my own heart before offering it unreservedly to one let alone others. Also, this is sort of amazing and educational to watch, so thanks for sharing.

    -J

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