For about a month, I’ve been dating a lovely individual who happens to be polyamorous and in an open relationship with her girlfriend. I’ll refer to her as FKS, the initials of her nickname. We connected through Tinder; she was one of my handful of right swipes (Perhaps two times out of a hundred, I swipe right as if to say, “Maybe”? It’s a strange age. And yeah, it feels superficial to swipe left on people). She mentioned her girlfriend in passing on our first date while we were wrestling with too-full tacos and a shortage of tortillas in a trendy little dark taco bar on Alberta. Taken aback, yet interested in remaining friendly, I let the conversation drift on. After a couple of minutes, I casually asked about her girlfriend and she shared that they were in an open relationship.
In the past, if ever asked if I would date someone in an open relationship, my answer would have been no. It’s difficult for me to manage feelings for one person, let alone more than one, yet I do prefer monogamous romantic connections with individuals. I would like to be their only partner, too. Marriage and “settling down” with someone certainly offers me some anxiety—I recently commented to a friend how strange the institution of marriage is for implying life begins upon binding yourself to another human—but I like the idea of being sweet with a single someone. Holding their hand and no one else’s because at the end of the day their hand is the only one you want to hold. It’s just how I’m wired. Perhaps that’s just the result of my acculturation, perhaps not. Either way, monogamy is what I prefer.
My time with FKS has challenged me to reconsider my feelings on dating and polyamory, and by extension, monogamy. Until as recently as a couple years ago, I dismissed polyamory as an odd, misogynistic practice of Mormons, or just a plain odd thing. An excuse for folks to get more sex, I suppose. Exposure to different ideas and people in college, in addition to increased open-minded in general, made me realize that while polyamory most likely wasn’t for me, it could be a beautiful, healthy thing for others.
FKS and I make each other laugh and think. On paper, we would appear as opposites in many regards. She grew up in a humble music household in southern Oregon; I grew up in a middle-class home in the north. She moved out of her family home at 17, and at 18 moved up to Portland with her girlfriend; I left at 18 for college but returned most summers and now find myself back at home as a graduate. She attended her senior year of high school here in my neighborhood school then dropped out. She developed a heroin addiction. She got herself off heroin while biking 17 miles a day to work and working 56 hours a week. I attended high school across town and averaged 5-6 hours a night on homework. I rode the bus with a bus pass the youth commission I was part of helped secure for Portland’s public high school students. I had healthcare and dental care. Except for one hit of pot last July, I’ve never done drugs. I’ve been buzzed on alcohol only a handful of times; she quit drinking on New Year’s.
We share our stories and comment on the strengths of the other. Offer gratitude for each other’s stories.
I danced away from all of her attempts to kiss me before last weekend. Even last weekend, while preparing burritos in her kitchen, I pushed her away and shook my head with a goofy “Nooo” when she grabbed me by the collar and pulled me close for a kiss. It wasn’t right, I wasn’t ready. And yeah, the friends I’ve relayed this to don’t know how I could resist that kind of kiss. I waited until after we grabbed toilet paper from 7-Eleven, telling her I needed to know more about the nature of her relationship with her girlfriend. I needed to know about their understanding.
She shared that they’d been together for 7 months (also a Tinder match), and that from the beginning, they agreed that it was an open relationship.
Later, when she wanted to hear some of my poetry, I shared (an)other human and scrap of tinder with her. I had warned her about the angst and already shared my reservations about dating someone in a relationship. She loved the poems. She felt bad I was “breaking my rules.” I told her I had given the matter a lot of thought and that I was capable of making my own decisions (and I’m a stone anyway). Not too long after, we kissed. Even before though, mitigating my shyness, she spooned me. We spooned most of the night, and I marveled at the fit.
The reason I am “breaking my [original] rules” is because I realized I experience attraction of any kind so rarely that gently exploring something with a sweet albeit partnered human may not be such a bad thing, provided there is respect and understanding between all parties. I’m not particularly interested in meeting FKS’s girlfriend but it’s important to me that their communication is honest, respectful, and compassionate. I’d like the same thing with FKS. Also, importantly, and I belabor this point in my letters: I’m a rather stoney individual, Les. I’ve got a lot of hardness around my heart when it comes to dating. Whether it’s stone, or ice, I’m uncertain. I’m not eager to leap into a relationship—in part, I admit, because I have anxieties about not being “enough” for my partner. Maybe because of this stoniness. Sometimes I just feel frozen and like I can’t give others enough of me. Casually dating someone who already has a partner may actually be a really good thing for me. It helps relax some real or perceived pressure.
I find myself writing about this, however, because I don’t know how much more I can do. FKS is a beautiful human. A rare soul that I feel at home with, in spite of, or perhaps because of, our many differences, yet similarities. At least when we are together, our energy matches up and I feel at home in myself. But I’ve also been holding myself back, telling myself that this is just a casual thing.
I feel myself softening a bit, Les. And at the end of the day, I do not want to thaw with FKS and hurt because I want more than she has to give. I already know that she is polyamorous, and I respect this. What remains to be seen is if the best way to respect myself (and her), is to gracefully part ways if I seem to thaw more and want a relationship.
It is a beautiful thing to feel affection. It is a painful thing to feel affection.
I would happily welcome comments from anyone who reads this, if you are so inclined to share your thoughts. I know I have many polyamorous fellow bloggers—I’d be grateful to hear your perspectives/experiences. The same goes for monogamous bloggers. Thank you for reading 🙂