My longest-term partner and I had an interesting conversation last Friday night. It revolved around firsts, more specifically around sexual and emotional firsts. It is such a big deal here in the US. The first kiss, the first time, your first love. But in polyamory does it make sense to throw so much weight behind firsts?
In many ways firsts seem to be just as important in non-monogamous circles. There are first poly relationships, first poly books, first partner. First poly relationships are usually pretty disastrous if the parties only discovered open relationships from within monogamous contexts. The first poly books are usually the ones we’re familiar with: Heinlein, Sex at Dawn, Ethical Slut, More Than Two, etc. And the first partner is usually the one who receives an elevated status, whether that’s through intentional or unintentional hierarchy or privilege. And no one wants to be anyone’s second choice.
For me, just because something came first doesn’t carry any inherent or automatic value. Just because something came first never meant that it was best, or meant to be, or even good. One of the first things I questioned as a child was the notion that since you met one person first you must forsake all others. Marriage was based on finding “the one” but what happened when you met someone else you clicked with? It didn’t seem fair to bet on your future like that, without accounting for the possibility of meeting anyone else. And since marriage is still so highly regarded, the married partner automatically receives social, legal, and relational benefits. That didn’t sit well with me at all.
Even now people who are secondaries, or who are solo poly, or single tend to defer to the first partner. The established couple is a bit of a dirty secret. If it’s not unicorn hunting then it’s that insidious couple privilege or veto power. By default the first partner tends to get more attention, more recognition, and more consideration and choice in the formation of new relationships.
That’s never been the case with me. Each situation, each person, each encounter is evaluated and formed based on the context that organically arises.
Not all firsts are good or valuable firsts.
But whether we consider it wholesome or empty, whether it takes us forwards or backwards, every single moment is new. When each moment is new it can be properly integrated for what it is and not for what it “should be”.
But not everyone thinks like me. My longest-term partner, for instance. He placed a lot of stock in firsts. I was his first kiss, his first sex partner, his first love, and so much more. He was the first person I experienced an orgasm with, the first person I wanted to have a child with, the first person to last more than three months with me, and so much more. I still experience new types of orgasms with him; it’s like we discover a new first every so often. The list of our firsts together keeps growing and expanding in unbelievable and seemingly impossible ways.
Yet for a person who values such firsts so highly, it hit him hard when I experienced my first sense of absolute peace and constant understanding with my other male long-term partner. It broke his heart to know that the other partner was the one who remained with me and nursed me to health after my surgeries. It confused him that my other partner and I could be perfectly awkward with one another all the time yet have it be the most amazing thing. It saddened him that I could sit in beautiful, full silence with him.
Until he realized that first didn’t necessarily mean better. Or rather, that each first must be taken for what it is. Because my other partner was also the first male partner I had to die. The first girlfriend I had died as well, though it was after we’d transitioned back to friendship. And my first sexual encounter? Forced. For me, in many ways, firsts were terrible. Maybe that made me immune to defaulting. I don’t know.
Anyway, so he began to see life in a different way.
And last week I finally had a different set of firsts that he would have found extremely difficult to come to terms with even a few years ago. I spent time with a beautiful new friend. He was the first mono person to be fully comfortable with my polyamory from the first moment I mentioned it. He’s the first person I’ve been able to tell about my past without feeling sad about it. He’s the first non-black person who understands what I go through as a black woman. I was actually thoroughly surprised that any Asian could ever be so truly comfortable around me and openly attracted to me. But when I found out why, I was relieved and delighted; we talked about issues of race and our experiences. And where he comes from there are actually many black people. He’s the first truly laid-back person I’ve ever met (in that we can already literally speak about anything and are just so ridiculously comfortable around one another, even if we’re both naturally awkward).
I knew I liked him from the moment I first met him. And I think he felt the same.
And last week, after my first time asking a man on a date, I had my first time having sex with an intact male (which I’ve been absolutely DYING to do), my first time having sex with a person of an Asian nationality, and having an orgasm during the very first time with someone other than my longest-term partner. We don’t know where we’ll end up, if we’ll become something besides friends, or how long we want to know one another but that’s okay. We’re enjoying what is right now and letting each other know where we stand.
My longest-term partner knew that it might come eventually. That many firsts would be experienced with other people. But it can be hard when you expect to be someone’s everything, or their first everything, even if you later became poly. I don’t know what that’s like; I’ve never felt those romantic feelings, I’ve never been monogamous, and I’ve never placed any emphasis on arbitrary competition.
In many ways, his uncertainty has been a constant since the moment he met me, simply because he knew that his “status” as first didn’t mean anything and didn’t guarantee anything. There was never any chance to get comfortable and to take our relationship or one another for granted.
To me, everyone comes first. Because you can only ever compete against yourself. I’d never settle for anyone that would place one person or another first and I’d never do that to anyone else, either.
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Oh, yeah. I went there.[/caption]
I don’t care so much about the order or the number. I don’t quantify my partnerships, friendships, or experiences. It has always been about quality over quantity. The qualia of a first time will only be determined by the qualia of the factors and people present. My first threesome with a woman and a man was wonderful. My first threesome with two men was a nightmare (because the second male was uninvited and they ended up raping me).
Numbers simply clarify location but without context based on reality instead of expectation, they will only ever be numbers.
Keep the firsts if you like but be mindful of them.
I’ll keep the present/presence.