- I’ve always been interested in polyamory but previous partners have never been up for exploring it.
- In March, I found out I was pregnant. After I had my child, I brought up polyamory with my partner.
- We started dating other people, and how we coparent together has changed.
Since I was young, crushes have often developed between me and my friends, and I always found it hard to discern the line between platonic and romantic feelings. I’ve loved exploring those intimate dynamics without committing to a relationship. But as I got older and settled into monogamous relationships, I felt guilty for the romantic feelings I was still harboring for other close friends in my life.
In all of my relationships, I’ve brought up the idea of polyamory. When I did, I felt my partners were often immediately suspicious of my intentions; they seemed to assume that if I was thinking about exploring relationships with others, I must have already been doing it without their consent. But no one I knew was polyamorous or anything other than monogamous or single, so I had no one to talk to about these things, and monogamy was too ingrained in me to untangle on my own.
My new partner was curious about polyamory but needed time to get comfortable with it
Finally, in 2016, I met the person that would eventually become my coparent. I brought up non-monogamy a number of times to him, and he was curious to try it but needed more time to build trust and get comfortable with the idea. I thought that was a fair request and wasn’t fully convinced that I was ready for it, either. So I kept my interest in polyamory where it had lived the majority of my adult life — buried.
Occasionally, we would flirt with another couple or single person together and fantasize what it would be like to have sex with them. It was exciting when those moments came, but when we would start to consider developing an actual relationship with someone else, the communication would break down and insecurities would stop us from bringing a third person into our relationship.
Then, in March 2020, we were living in a small studio apartment when the pandemic lockdown hit Oregon. The same week we began working from home together, I took a pregnancy test — and it was positive. Over the next two years, our life circumstances changed drastically. We ended up moving into a small farmhouse in a rural town, and I quit my nonprofit job to stay home with our baby full time.
After a few months of living on the farm as a stay-at-home parent, I had a conversation with my therapist about polyamory. I realized through that conversation how much I had suppressed my desire for a polyamorous life. I daydreamed of having a network of care for both my child and myself that monogamy and the nuclear-family model couldn’t offer. I knew I wanted different partners who could fulfill different needs, instead of putting all my expectations onto one person and fighting for support.
So, like many neurodivergent people, I did an endless amount of research. I compiled a document filled with resources, testimonies, frequently asked questions, and even relevant terminology that might make my desires more understandable. In a moment of bravery, I emailed it to my partner.
Giving polyamory another shot
To my surprise, he agreed that it sounded exciting and we decided to try it out slowly. We started dating profiles on various apps, and we each began to schedule one date night a week with other people. I remember the night he called me on his way home from his first date. Instead of jealousy, I experienced an overwhelming sense of compersion — the feeling of happiness when someone you love experiences joy or pleasure.
We continued going on dates and meeting new people, all while being intentional about putting our kid’s needs first. What I quickly realized about polyamory was that watching your partner date other people shows you everything about them that you can’t see from inside your own relationship. I saw the things I love about him be loved by others, and I saw some of the red flags I had avoided addressing during all the years we were together.
I also learned right away that polyamory takes extremely proactive and honest communication to be successful. We now had to address both practical and emotional matters routinely and as they came up, instead of waiting for them to reach a boiling point; these things included our schedules, new emotions we were experiencing for each other and others we were dating, and how to successfully coparent.
That’s not to say that monogamy doesn’t also require great communication, because it does. But when you add more people to a relationship dynamic — especially when there are children involved — there are more places for communication to break down and cause tension and conflict. It becomes harder to push things under the rug to deal with later. Ultimately, exploring polyamory together taught us that we weren’t the most compatible communicators.
I learned so much about myself — and my relationship
In shifting from a mostly monogamous relationship to a polyamorous one, I started to think of myself more as an individual person outside of my romantic relationships. I saw how much of myself I had let fade into the background for the sake of avoiding conflict with my partner. I started to see that conflict, while uncomfortable, is important and can bring certain things to light.
Through this process, I began to realize that I needed time and space to process big emotional conversations, where my partner tended to want to talk things through all at once. I also was starting to see that allowing myself to address my own needs first was a way of addressing the needs of my relationship, too — these things didn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
It was difficult to find the space to process things I needed to at home with my coparent. Even when I took time for myself in another room, he was still around and there was an unspoken pressure for me to continue our conversations before I was ready. Together, we started to entertain the idea of living separately. I knew that if I continued to live with my coparent, I would be overstimulated by any attempt at communication and shut down, taking away my presence and energy from being a parent. The idea of having separate living spaces felt complicated, with a toddler and the social pressure of maintaining the nuclear-family model. But I was already going through my medical gender transition, and queerness disrupted that family structure anyway.
We decided that having separate living spaces would be the right decision for us, challenging everything we thought we had to be as a family. My coparent moved into a place in town, which is more convenient for his job, and I stayed in the farmhouse. During this process, I advocated for my own needs in order to foster a safer nest for both myself and my child to thrive.
I do worry that others will assume that by living separately, we are a “broken family,” with our child split between us. But now my coparent and I get to choose when we want to be together, without an obligation to be together all the time. We can demonstrate what it means to give consent to sharing our time and energy, even with those we love.
I am still deconstructing compulsory monogamy and internalized shame around my queerness. As I look toward the future, so many roadblocks have been upended. I can realistically consider a life where I parent with multiple people, or where I can entertain crushes on friends if they’re into it.
Through dating other polyamorous folks, I have found like-minded people who see a vision of family that rejects the model of independent families doing everything on their own that colonialism has forced onto us. Already, so much mutual care has appeared just by opening this door. This transition has its challenges, but my toddler is amazed by both the church bells that sound every hour in town at their dada’s house, and the roosters that wake us up in the morning at mine. Our sense of home is always changing, and I can’t wait to see our kid learn what home and family means to them.