By Rebecca Jane Stokes
The first time I met my boyfriend’s girlfriend was over dark and stormies at a nice restaurant near my house.
My boyfriend was sitting facing me and I saw his girlfriend approach us from a distance. We’d never met, but I knew what she looked like because of the internet and my own deeply-rooted insecurity. Eager to seem cool and fun, I boisterously declared “You know her!” By this point she was standing just behind our boyfriend. She looked at him, “I was going to try and sneak up on you,” she said, and I sank in my chair.
Way to make a first impression, Stokes.
Buddy told me that he was falling in love with me on our second date. I knew he had a girlfriend before our first. Suffice to say, our courtship had been non-traditional.
Kind, thoughtful, and ridiculously open, he patiently answered all of my questions about his polyamorous lifestyle before we even met in person, after being matched online.
I’m not polyamorous, I find having feelings for ONE person exhausting enough, so the idea of multiple partners makes me feel panicked even in concept.
Men in open relationships or who identified as polyamorous had reached out to me online in the past, but I always took a pass. It just seemed like way too much work. But this time was different.
Instead, he and I kept talking online and I kept scanning my body and my heart for some panicked reaction to such a foreign situation, but no alarm bells were going off.
Against all odds, I wanted to meet this man.
I let myself relax. After three back-to-back relationships imploded into a storm of awful, I needed a break. To spend time with someone whose lifestyle wasn’t like my own, someone whose company I enjoyed, someone who was so open and honest about his feelings against all odds was such a relief I could feel it in my bones.
Naively, I couldn’t understand why he was in such a rush to introduce me to his girlfriend. Later I realized that some scummy guys say they’re in an open relationship when really they’re just cheating. He wanted me to understand that he was being totally honest, so that I could trust him.
Also, the dude loves him some threesomes. I didn’t feel pressured to hop in bed with his girlfriend, but I did begin to realize that if I was going to have a relationship with him, having a relationship with her (even if just as a friend) was going to be almost as important.
Buddy and I fell for each other quickly. I had to navigate grieving the slowly percolating love I still had for my ex with the new bubbly feelings I had for Buddy. A true introvert, I was shocked to find myself needing to be around him almost as much as I need time to myself.
My relationship with his girlfriend Merida grew much more slowly. I was overly chipper and enthusiastic around her, trying to prove to her that while I was a newbie at this whole polyamory thing, I had no secret dark ulterior motives. I wanted to spend time with her boyfriend. I wanted to take care of his heart the way he took care of mine.
I carry the baggage from my previous relationships around with me all by myself. Buddy seems to feel more comfortable getting into new relationships because when a relationship doesn’t work, his girlfriend is there to help. He’s not the only one there left to pick up the pieces.
That can be good and bad. It’s good because he has someone to help him through the heartache, it’s bad because it means she knows what it’s like when someone hurts him, and she doesn’t want it to happen again.
It took several blue drinks at a tiki bar during our next meeting for Merida and me to plow through our shyness and wariness and get to talking. I was struck by just how COOL she was, and wryly imaginative and funny. In past relationships I had discovered a jealous streak. In this one that wasn’t case. Playing with the plastic monkeys that came with our drinks, we talked about marriage, stand-up comedy, and people. It was like the best date of my life, times two.
It wasn’t too long afterwards that our group chat started. Our developing friendship felt just as normal as relaxing as my burgeoning relationship with her boyfriend did. To be clear, we aren’t dating. We have had sex (because when you are presented with the opportunity for a threesome, it is my opinion that one should never turn it down) and will again, but my romantic relationship is with her boyfriend.
If I were going to be crass I’d say that I’m having my cake and eating it too, but I don’t want to be crass.
I want to be totally honest: This is not always sunshine and lollipops. Merida is smart and funny and charming, she’s also been with my boyfriend for the better part of a decade. They live together, they have a past and a future, and are trying to have a baby.
Sometimes I feel like I get in the way, or that I’m the toy, the distraction from what’s real. Now that I care more about Buddy and now that I’ve got this relationship with Merida, it’s tempting to start thinking about the future. There are things I want (kids, living with a partner) and need for my life that I know will be major hurdles.
I’m not jealous of the love he feels for Merida, I’m jealous of the life they have created together. And even then, jealous isn’t the right word. I just want to share my life with someone full time.
Because of the type of relationship I have with both Merida and Buddy I’m not worried. Though I don’t identify as being polyamorous, they’ve done this sort of thing before. Frankly, I think being in our little “polycule” makes us do that sort of essential checking in on in each other more often than I would if I were dating someone who was only dating me.
One of the things I love about Buddy is his passion and his willingness to let himself take a leap. One of the things I love the most about his girlfriend is how careful she is around the people who come into her life. She doesn’t suffer fools, and the idea of someone hurting a person she loves is unthinkable.
There’s more enough room in my relationship for another person, but there is no room for secrets, hidden hurt feelings, or fears and insecurities that go unvoiced.
That’s what makes it special, that’s what makes it worth working for.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.
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