Nick was foolish enough to confer posting rights. I feel like I should give a bit of my own history. In certain ways, it’s quite the opposite of Nick’s, in that I have always been in open relationships and never in monogamous ones.
This has been circumstantial, partially. I move a lot. Jobs in my field are often seasonal. In one banner year, I moved six times, mostly crossing state lines each time. I’m infamously mega-busy, and I disappear off the face of the earth for long periods of time to juggle superhuman career-related feats. (I’m a prop person. It’s a good thing I never bothered to take physics, since I’m usually asked to do the opposite.) Really, I haven’t slowed down with the moving thing until the last few years. Even now, I don’t actually intend to stay in one place, but happen to.
This is lousy for monogamous relationships, obviously. I’d have the guy back at school, the guy from the summer, the old roommate I shouldn’t have been sleeping with anyway… all dependent upon agreements to get together when I was in town, or when they were in mine. And I was happy that way. Eventually, I realized that I was using distance because I was more comfortable dealing with people on their own terms, without relation to the others. This is perhaps the root of my conscious rejection of monogamy: the extreme singularity of relationships, in my mind. I don’t mean that they’re islands, but my important relationships are fervently one-on-one. My relationship with someone else has nothing to do with my relationship with you, fundamentally.
Which is to say, I haven’t really had any, well, serious relationships, in the way you’d probably mean serious relationships. I take friendship much more seriously than most people do, and I would regard my romantic relationships as serious friendships. I’ve never been a part of a couple. I have not identified a person I was romantically involved with as my “other half,” for lack of a better cliche. I’ve never wanted this. I’ve always been baffled by people who would rather be in a mediocre relationship than no relationship at all. Basically, unless you’re really motherfucking special, I’m not going to sacrifice my precious personal time to you, and certainly not a slice of my identity. I really like people, but I really like being alone. (I’m almost 50-50 on the I-E spectrum, per Meyers-Briggs, tending slightly toward the E.) I have ridiculous independence complexes. On my first day of kindergarten, when all the other kids were screaming and clinging to their mothers, I turned around and banished mine from the bus stop. It got worse from there.
I fell into the Boston poly community four or five years ago, after an old friend from early in college took a chance by sending a Christmas card to my mother’s house, wondering what had ever happened to me, and I took to visiting her and her more recent friends. The Boston poly bunch is astonishingly bright and functional. They’re mostly brilliant adults (lots of Harvard and MIT runoff) who were not the cool kids in high school, and now are reveling in lives of abject sincerity. They’re responsibly hedonistic, and treat sex as the sacred ordinary, something that is common but relished. They do poly well. I often wonder if the people who give poly a bad name do so in part because they’re not operating as a part of a community. Everybody in the Boston bunch is surrounded by others facing the same things, they have other examples to learn from, and there are social consequences for serious transgressions.
So I fell in with these people in Boston, and I basically kept doing what I’d been doing all along: having multiple caring relationships. Basically everyone I’ve dated lately is already fundamentally committed to someone else, and I’ve liked that fine. To answer the question about “how I juggle all those relationships” — well, among other things, distance helps, and they’re not all relationships that I constantly maintain anyway. Some are still whenever-you’re-in-town. Really, there are only two of them that I sort of throw myself into right now, besides Nick, and I’ve basically called a moratorium on the physical aspects of those relationships. I’m not into anyone else right now, physically. I’ll get over it. But it’s best to be clear.
Nick is the first person in my whole life that I’ve been in an actual couple with. Just as Nick has never really dated, I’ve never really not-dated. And I don’t know what it is that’s so different. In previous relationships, I would start to panic when I got the idea that people would identify another person with me. Now I don’t care. He basically is me. He’s better at math, more extroverted, and more in touch with his feelings (who else could start a fucking blog to talk about his feelings and actually keep anyone’s attention?), but basically he’s a default position for my personality. One of the nicest things I can say about a person is that being with them is like being alone. Nick is the least alien thing I can imagine.
Those are the basics. More later.