Wait A Minute! There’s How Many Of You In This Relationship?
Trying to understand the allure of polyamory to my fellow Millenials.
It was a peculiarly warm winter night in North Brooklyn. We sat crouched close to the small tea lights lining the wooden bar top— a feeble attempt to see each other’s faces. After all, it had been over a year since we saw one another. This was a ritual of ours, to meet in low lit bars and sip whiskey neat. We, three usually with one of us half asleep. My partner slept eyes open whilst I devoured every word of the conversation.
It was fascinating to me. Listening to my good friend wax poetically about the virtues of polyamorous relationships. He tells me how as we approach our mid-thirties, he’s grown increasingly more open to the idea of polyamory.
He’s currently in a situationship with one young woman that he believes will be his primary partner. This term is apparently the one that describes your main person. He’s also dating a couple other women, who all have “primary partners.”
I bandy the term around in my mind while passively listening. Letting it bounce around like a basketball with no aim, I try mouthing it. It was a make-it-make-sense-Jesus moment.
“These aren’t quite the open relationships of yesteryear,” he explains. Though, I have yet to spot a real difference.
You have a primary partner but you can have sex with other people. How is it different from an open relationship?
I don’t actually ask but my face does. All of this finds my eyebrows knitted together — like two naked people out in a snow storm — despite my fervent effort to unfurl them. I just don’t get it and my eyebrows betray just how uncool/un-hip I am with and to the entire scenario.
I close my eyes and try to picture my partner and I in a relationship with multiple people. Walking around calling each other “primary partners” and seducing unsuspecting people. I try to imagine not having the urge to slap somebody. The image is foggy at best.
Much clearer, though, is the fact I’m ever grateful not be posed with the possibility. This option that seems to be an enigmatic reality of new age dating. I must be old age because I’m thankful for my boring one to one type of love.
The old way feels equal or at least that there is good chance that my partner loves me as much as I do them. I don’t know if that’s possible in this other type of love.
I have another sip of whiskey and let the gratitude wash over me.
I don’t fancy myself a traditionalist. Never thought conventional marriage was for me. As a little girl, I fantasized about being a writer. I would live in a loft apartment in SOHO and there was a man with a key but he didn’t live there. Yet, the idea of sharing my intimate partner makes my skin crawl. I might be in the minority of my friends, at least the single ones.
It wasn’t a full two weeks after the Brooklyn conversation that I found myself in the same conversation. This time, I was letting the warm sunshine of the Caribbean beat on my face as my good girlfriend explained that she, too was open to the idea of having a polyamorous relationship.
She is firmly in her late thirties and has been single for awhile. I want to ask why? The words freeze on my tongue and I just listen a bit longer.
She’s dating a man who says he wants to be in an open relationship. My other friend said polyamory isn’t the same thing but I sit there listening to her describe her version of it, it sounds eerily familiar.
She is okay with the idea of an open relationship as long as each partner is receptive to the possibility of falling in love outside of their primary partner.
It was at that moment that I realized that none of this was becoming any clearer to me. Furthermore, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to understand. After all, none of it appeals to me. It’s hard enough having a healthy relationship with one person. How were they expecting to do so with many?
Perhaps, I’m too tethered the idea of monogamy that has for at least a century dominated mainstream Western norms and mores. I’m conditioned and my conditioning has been conditioned. Maybe as this cultural shift continues, it will start to make sense to me. Nevertheless, I’ll continue to listen and support my friends with their relationship choices.
After all, love is love, right?
Melissa explores life, love, food and navigating the world as a Black woman. Follow her here for more.