Polyamory for Neophytes
Or "What I Learned About Love When There's a Lot of Love to Share"
What follows is a true story, but names have been changed to preserve the integrity of its players.
We had been seeing one another for about two weeks, I guess. One night I logged onto social media, and there they were: three words haphazardly thrown into a comment on a shared music video that Ben tagged me in. My heart raced, it hadn't been long enough, but I felt it too! And his eyes! His grin when he laughed! It was right, even if it was soon. The next night, we shared those words in person. I stumbled right into his empty spaces, and he graciously came to dwell in my newfound empty nest. I had never lived with a lover before, never really felt this way. We stayed like that for two months, cheek-to-cheek we slept. We shared Christmas together. The world was bathed in a soft, taffeta glow.
Until the morning when the taffeta was yanked unceremoniously from beneath our feet. I woke up next to him, felt his warmth, felt my thoughts slip into reality from dreams, heard the thoughts in my head, saw her face, sensed her brightness, heard the words. "I'm in love with Sarah." Float softly in my cerebellum. I smiled, and at the same time felt my stomach launch itself into full-tilt anxiety. I slipped quietly from the bed and into the kitchenette to set right my thoughts over a glass of cool water. They would not slow down. How could this be? Suddenly my thoughts were turned to her. But before, it was him. It had to be him! And all at once my love was for Sarah, my best and oldest friend on this Earth. My heart shattered. I had professed my love to Ben too soon. But I was gay! I had been for fourteen years. I felt like a flowerpot knocked from a ledge by a cat. Little did I know then, that I was only building more rooms in my heart.
Eventually I told Ben that I loved Sarah, and I told Sarah the same. It slowly drove a wedge between Ben and me, but only for a little while, and the friendship between Sarah and me remained the same: verdant, compassionate, and enriching. Sarah was and is in a deeply committed relationship of her own, and I refused to let feelings for this new man in my life go to waste. I dared not look in the face of this newly minted sexual fluidity of mine. I stayed with Ben for sixteen long months. Things changed. We got a cat. Sarah and her boyfriend moved away. Ben and I drifted apart, even though we shared the same 300-square-foot studio. In spite of all that, I still loved both of them with a deep love that would move mountains. Suspicions of cheating began to take root and grow. Untrust settled in. Hunches became truths. He and I each cheated in our own ways with other men, and we broke it off. We still lived together, so we had no choice but to remain friends.
During that year and a half with Ben, I felt trapped by my own emotions. I was crushed. Day after day I would wallow in bed, back in that musty cellar of an apartment with only two windows, and halfway underground. I would pace the off-white linoleum floors, wracking my brains, searching for that in-love-with-him feeling again, trying to claw my way out of my feelings for her, desperately hoping to see them as only the admirations of a deep friendship. When she and her man moved away, the distance seemed to bring some quiet to my life.
Ben and I were forced out of the apartment by a new landlord, and luckily for us, we were placed in a wonderful two-bedroom apartment with plenty of windows. We didn't have to share a bed anymore. He found a new boyfriend, and I threw myself at lots and lots of strange men found on the internet. For six whole months, the emotional triad I'd been clinging to was all but forgotten, shrouded within the folds of my heart. His new boyfriend came to live with us for a while, and this young man brought his own trials and heartache to the table. I'll never forget the rows they got into, all the while feeling a strange sense of peace. I had plenty of sex, but kept any new relationships for myself at an arm's length, at least for a season.
We had been relocated because renovations needed to be done on the previous apartment, and when they were completed. I moved back into the one-bedroom studio alone. I got wise and put the bedroom suit in the front room where the windows were. Things were looking great. I felt that I had truly dealt with those volatile emotions from the past year. I told myself that it didn't serve me well to think those thoughts, since they didn't bring me joy. I was ready to date again.
I met a man called Brian, who helped me out one day by giving my car a jump start. I took him on a date to repay him, and one date turned into many. We made blanket forts, and saw movies together, I told him I was bisexual and polyamorous, to which he didn't flinch. We fell in love and the six months that followed were among the best in my entire life. We made time for each other. We shared the most tender of touches, laughs and smiles. I loved that he showed me affection in public places. We had a reliable routine because I worked first shift, and he worked third. He even gave me another cat. We made it all work for a little while, and I would have married him, hands down.
Each of us knew that the other had felt deep depression in our lives, partially stemming from broken commitments. His depression returned in the form of numbness, and mine in those same old questions of "Am I in love with Sarah?" and "Am I really bisexual?" And a new question came: "Do I still love Ben?" Those questions brought our partnership to an abrupt halt, and we ended things mutually with an honest talk. Neither of us wanted to string the other along.
The next three months were a tremendous display of patience on Brian's part. I went back to him what must have been hundreds of times asking if we could try again, to which he would reply in his voice that could calm a tempest:
"It just doesn't feel the same, but I still love you, and I always will."
I could not understand it. I could not see past my own nose. Brian had been the most loving and affectionate man I'd ever known. I am forever grateful to him for remaining my friend, because I put far too much on his shoulders after we ended things romantically.
In all of this, I came to realize three wonderful things about life:First of all, I had often times mistaken joy for pain. I let myself be so surprised by new feelings that I was blind to the joy that they bring me every day.
I also began to see that our hearts are like houses, filled with rooms. There is a room in our hearts for each person that we love. Today, when I look back on it all, I can see three nice, big rooms with vaulted ceilings and bay windows... One each for Sarah, Ben, and Brian. They live in my heart as my three most important people. Knowing this brings me unparalleled JOY. We are all friends, and it is all love. There are no more expectations.
The final thing I've learned in all this, is that love is a thing that you do. People are afraid that when they lose that "in love" feeling, that all hope is lost, but this is not so. That feeling manifests itself when all parties involved are actively making the choice to love. I believe that love is the source of all things, and we should choose to do it every day, no matter how hard it is, and even if sometimes it punches us in the gut. The choice to cultivate love with always find us reaping abundance in our lives.