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My Advice for People Considering Polyamory

Polyamory won't fix your problems or save your relationship, but it may help you grow.

by Jeff Leavell
Sep 8 2016, 4:00am

The author poses with his husband and boyfriend. Photo courtesy the author

I have been with my husband, Alex, for four and a half years. And our boyfriend, Jon, has been with us for a year and a half.

Before I found myself in one, I resisted the idea of a polyamorous relationship—I made fun of my friends who were in "triads." I thought the whole concept was ridiculous. But when we met Jon, my perspective shifted.

As Jon entered our life, Alex and I tried to control the situation as best we could. We agreed to only text him in a group, so everyone could see everything we discussed with him, while Alex and I maintained our own separate conversations. Alex and I would confer together on the major decisions of our relationship, and then we would bring the results of those deliberations to Jon.

Basically, we tried to treat a relationship developing between three people like it was developing between two, with Alex and I as one party and Jon as the other. This, of course, is untenable. Equality is essential to making relationships work. If we were really going to do this new thing with Jon, Alex and I would have to change how our own relationship operated. But I had no role models to teach me how to do this thing—a problem I hope to address in writing about our relationship publicly.

People reach out to me all the time with questions about open and polyamorous relationships based on pieces I've written. A disproportionate number of them revolve around jealousy and insecurity: How do you avoid becoming jealous if your partner is sleeping with other men?

I've found that if I ever feel jealousy, the root of that emotion almost always comes from not feeling good enough for Jon or Alex. Jealousy always equals insecurity for me.

And jealousy is normal—it happens all the time, no matter what kind of relationship you're in. It's part of being human. But at the end of the day, it's how we react to that jealousy that matters. I constantly have to remind myself to shift the focus of my thoughts back to me: What am I really afraid of? Why do I not believe I am deserving of all this love?

Falling in love with Jon—and watching Alex fall in love with Jon—taught me that there is more love out there in this world than I had ever imagined. But we struggled in the process. Three-way fucking is hot; three-way fighting is a nightmare.

Once, I received an email from a reader who had started dating a new guy with his partner. The three of them had their first fight, and he felt like his partner and their boyfriend were ganging up on him—had I ever experienced that?

Sure I had. In a relationship between three people, it is almost impossible for someone not to feel like the odd man out.

I remember a fight Jon, Alex, and I had in Vancouver. Alex was about to go away for six months to work on a TV show, and we were spending a few days together, just the three of us. We were on Granville Island, and I remember a moment where I caught their hands touching. It was a romantic and beautiful image, but for some reason, it made me feel jealous, insecure, and afraid that they were falling more in love with each other than they were with me. That's when we started fighting, and though I can't remember what we fought about, I'm sure I started it. Even though all I needed to do to feel included was reach out to hold their hands, I closed off, shut down, and created what I was afraid would happen.

Later that night, I pretended to fall out of bed (in reality, I threw myself onto the floor). I stormed out of the apartment we were renting and marched to the elevator, waiting for one of them to come stop me, to prove they loved me.

People often ask me how we handled "coming out" as a polyamorous couple to our family and friends. There's no easy answer for that.

Alex and I introduced Jon to our family and friends at our wedding. It seemed, at the time, to be a good idea—everyone would be in one place at the same time, and we wanted Jon there, to be part of that experience with us.

Looking back, I can only imagine how hard that was for Jon, and for those closest to Alex and me. And today, my advice is to use caution and not open yourself up too quickly to the scrutiny and judgment of those who love you. While they may seem normal when you're part of them, polyamorous relationships are far outside the norm, and it's hard to expect everyone to just accept what we know: that love is vast, and that there are many ways to experience and express it. Polyamory scares people. For some, it challenges everything they believe to be true about love.

Once, someone told me I was proving every right-wing religious conservative's wildest fears about gay people true—that we were all amoral sluts, incapable of monogamy or serious relationships, who couldn't take marriage seriously. And this dude was gay. My response was: So what? Why can't I live my life on my own terms? Isn't that what we're fighting so hard for—the right to live how we choose? To not have my love and sex dictated by some arbitrary social structure? Why should anybody tell me how and who to love?

Then, there is the ultimate question: With all the complications and struggles, why do it?

I don't have a simple answer. I have been called greedy and selfish, even psychotic and monstrous. I don't think I am those things. Maybe this is just part of my nature.

I don't believe this kind of relationship is for everyone, and I don't think that polyamory is better than monogamy, or vice versa. I just think we find what works best for us.

And I am happier this way. I am happier with Alex and Jon, and I am happier that we are in an open relationship, and I get to meet and spend time with other guys. I am happier knowing that Jon and Alex get to explore and play and fall in love, too.

Being poly will not save your relationship. It won't solve any of your problems. Everything that scares you about it might come true. But it will also open doors inside you that you never knew existed—and it may even bring an opportunity to grow.

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