Deeply vulnerable relationships often include both joy and broken hearts

Deeply vulnerable relationships often include both joy and broken hearts

When people transition away from monogamy they’re inevitably going to make mistakes. I still do. Patricia Johnson and Mark A. Michaels are sex and relationship experts who outline how to create “designer relationships” that begin by acknowledging the unique needs of people in the relationship. When I dipped my toes into polyamory a decade ago, their book might have made the process less confusing.

But no matter how many books a person reads, transitioning to CNM is always challenging. It’s liberating. It can be more flexible for different people’s needs. It’s also hard. The transition inevitably triggers feelings of insecurity, fear, and self-doubt. For me, it was hard to figure out what my needs were beyond the life scripts I had been assigned. I couldn’t imagine why Per wanted more. Nor did I understand why I also wanted more.

Now, polyamory is an important and enriching part of my life. I still make mistakes: I hurt people and I get hurt. And it was often my metamours who helped me feel safe and cared for through the process.

On a cold, rainy day last fall, I was on my way home from work. It had been a long day of teaching, it was dark, and the bus wasn’t coming. Per and Rachel, his current partner, had a date that night. When the storm started, he texted to check in on me. They put the dinner on hold so they could pick me up, saving me a long walk in the rain. At home, I dried off, and they served me a huge bowl of spicy eggplant curry. I warmed up as we all laughed listening to Rachel’s report from her first visit to the Folsom Street Fair.

We delight in intimate relationships that remind us that love is an abundant resource

But polyamory is more than just hitching rides and eggplant curry. Per has struggled with depression and aimlessness, feelings that come with anxiety about late-stage capitalism. I can’t be his sole source of emotional support. Even when we’re not struggling, neither of us are able – nor want to be – each other’s only source of pleasure and joy.

For some people, friends and family offer this support. I also have loyal, committed friendships. However, my connections with my metamours are uniquely vulnerable and loving. My polyam community is my chosen family. We keep choosing each other and these complicated connections – with life-long loves, deep-seated insecurities, heartbreaks, and frequent tough conversations. We don’t choose each other because it’s easy.

This week, my entire polyam family was out of quarantine for the first time in weeks. My ex-boyfriend’s wife texted our In Pod We Trust text thread to plan a picnic. Together with Per, his girlfriend, her husband and boyfriend, my ex, and his wife, we feasted on a dinner of chips, hummus, figs, and pastries. We celebrated our recovery with the people with whom we can be the most vulnerable – and the people who know best how to care for me.

We choose each other because, through our complicated relationships, we can be deeply vulnerable and cared for

Now, these kinds of dinners are the norm and a source of joy. I practice “kitchen table polyamory,” which means that I hope all of my partners can, at the least, enjoy a nice meal together from time to time as friends. We have a group chat titled “In Pod We Trust,” a hold-over from when we were podded together earlier in the pandemic. We use it to share memes, BritГЎnico mujeres saliendo plan potlucks, and request cat sitters. Last month, we all got COVID-19, one household right after the other. We texted In Pod We Trust to ask for help and make plans to deliver groceries and medicine.

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