That night, I didn’t fully absorb what he was telling me – that he could not be monogamous; that he and I would not be enough. But as the weeks went on, I began to see that I had fallen in love with someone who was incapable of being content with only one woman. And because I loved him, I couldn’t seriously think of leaving yet. I imagined Gloria Steinem’s outrage many times. But then, this wasn’t her experience, it was mine. So I read everything I could find on the subject – blogs, message boards, essays, psychological journals…..and I learned that polyamorous people are not only able, but compelled, to love multiple people, potentially, at one time. Limiting this kind of person’s capacity for love to only one partner feels restrictive, repressive, even unnatural to them somehow. Yet it can be difficult to live openly as a polyamorous person. In fact, as I found out later, Daniel had begun dating me in the hopes of being monogamous. But eventually those old desires began to build and bubble up again, creating something like a maddening itch that first whispers but eventually screams to be scratched.
If this was Daniel’s true nature, how could I ask him to constrain it? Yet how could I go so decidedly against my own? But then the question arose: did I truly know my own nature? I had never really explored anything other than monogamy…..
So eventually, I decided to try it.
What followed was an intricate negotiation of how our relationship would work. We lovingly and carefully laid out the boundaries. And at first, this seemed to be working. Yet on some level I knew I was functioning in deep denial….because my world intentionally never collided with the other women. We agreed not speak of the others, so it was almost as if they didn’t exist. At the most unexpected moments, though, they would invade my thoughts. In my mind, these women were always thinner, younger, and more sexually provocative than me. The more these thoughts plagued my mind, the deeper into anxiety and depression I sank.
After several months vacillating between leaving and staying, I decided that one final test would either fortify my ability to share him or finally end it. I asked him to break our silence agreement and tell me about the last woman he was with.
She was Asian. Petite (Oh God). Fun. Flirty. Sexy. Her name was Amy. I was steady enough as he spoke, maintaining my neutral intake of the facts. But then, he mentioned offhandedly that she loved to bake cookies. Cookies? I could have handled dildos, costumes, sex games, even strange fetishes. But I could not handle such a delicate, intimate fact about her. I could almost physically feel the denial being shattered, like a tiny crack in a fragile piece of glass. And that small fact was what did it in the end. I knew in that moment that I could not share his affection. I could view the other, whoever she was in the moment, as a sexual being, but seeing her as a fully realized person, with feelings, with passions, maybe even with a loving heart, was just too much. I ended the relationship the following week.
And when I think back on that experience, I wonder….was I too insecure to handle an open relationship? Or was ending it the healthy exercise of an appropriate, loving boundary for myself? I’m not sure. I’m not sorry for having experienced what I did with Daniel. It allowed me to push and explore my own ideas about sex, love, and commitment in ways I never would have considered before. It also taught me that it’s possible to truly love someone who does not completely share your values. The way that Daniel needs to love many is something I can’t understand. It breaks my heart to think that he may never fully experience the powerful intimacy and simplicity of just two people. But I can’t judge him, either. His heart’s desires are honest and sincere. And though Daniel may forever remain an elusive, powerful force, ever-moving from one heart to another, I hope that he finds love, joy, and contentment on his path. I simply cannot walk it with him.