I am a firm believer that all relationships should be allowed to find their own relationship level. Change is good.
From the time I started this journey of polyamory and ethical non-monogamy, I have been what is often called, “Solo-poly.” I made my own decisions. I did not co-mingle money, nor did I cohabit. I traveled when and where I wanted to, without ever asking my partners for “permission.” Rather, I might ask what they thought of my ideas or locations, but no one but me had the final say in when or how or where, etc. I’ve even written a few pretty popular posts on the topic.
But last year while living in Medellin, Colombia; I met a man. He and I are drawn together like I haven’t been connected to someone in a very long time. He makes me laugh and feel strong and beautiful and brave. All things I already know I am, but he just makes me feel MORE. His love is light but strong. He knew who I was as soon as he met me. He saw my travel lust, he saw my polyamory, and he loves me FOR those things, not in spite of them. So, when I moved back to Medellin after a few months of traveling around the world, we moved in together.
Even when we were “just dating” we spent almost every night together and we hung out all the time. But we always had our own spaces to go back to if needed. This was a whole new adventure. We talked about not being primary partners because I don’t believe my relationship with him is more important than my relationship with my other partners, it is just different. It has always looked more traditional, it has always felt more on the “relationship escalator” despite my usual orientation as a solo but partnered person.
Relationship Escalator. The default set of societal expectations for intimate relationships. Partners follow a progressive set of steps, each with visible markers, toward a clear goal.
The goal at the top of the Escalator is to achieve a permanently monogamous (sexually and romantically exclusive between two people), cohabitating marriage — legally sanctioned if possible. In many cases, buying a house and having kids is also part of the goal. Partners are expected to remain together at the top of the Escalator until death.
The Escalator is the standard by which most people gauge whether a developing intimate relationship is significant, “serious,” good, healthy, committed or worth pursuing or continuing. – Amy Gahran
Obviously, being polyamorous, not all of these markers apply to us, but the way we were moving forward, the way we felt about each other, moving in together, planning our long-term lives definitely has the feel and many of the markers noted in the definition above.
Living together, regardless of your take on hierarchy, tends to bring its own set of complications (and most likely at least some level of couples privilege-hierarchy) into a polyamorous life. If either one of us wanted to go on a date with someone else, we have to arrange time away. We both have expectations of discussing our other “opportunities” with each other during the process, not just spring a new “love interest” on the other the night of a first date. These were new to us both, as in each of our previous lives, we didn’t have these agreements with our partners.
My polyamory is no longer solo. To be honest, I am ok with that. I think all relationships need to find their level. (If you read my writing, that is a common theme.) Our level right now is an enmeshed living together, basically primary relationship. Maybe because it is his first polyamorous relationship, maybe because it’s my first one living with a partner since I’ve been polyamorous, maybe it’s because we live in a very traditional culture here in Colombia, who knows? But that’s the thing. Why do I have to explain it? And to whom?
It works for us.
I am not going to assume it’ll work forever and one thing we have always considered built into our relationship is the ability to change it. We each reserve the right to ask for and make adjustments to our agreements at any time.
When I met DJDM, he was a swinger. He still is but now he’s a polyamorous swinger. Swinging is really important to him, it’s part of how he identifies as a sexual person. I am polyamorous and I enjoy occasional group sex. Part of finding our level has been finding a balance in this, (still working on it.) But another balance has been “allowing” each other (primary partner language for sure! EEK!) opportunities to also have polyamorous relationships that are more than an occasional sexual encounter. That kind of relationship is new to him, so it’s a learning curve.
For me, the learning curve has been difficult too. I knew a man here in Medellin before I met DJDM. We have crazy sexual chemistry. I think I would enjoy going out with him again, but I never did because I was worried about trying to manage it. I was worried about how to be that open while I was living with my partner, who was new to poly. So I never went out with him. (Of course, our extreme lockdown during COVID-19 means that much of this just didn’t have the opportunity to get resolved before we had to stay home, indefinitely!)
But, all of this is part of being in a more enmeshed, more traditional, less solo, polyamorous relationship. My polyamory has changed. I am learning and growing and making adjustments. It’s not always easy, and let’s face it, living together monogamously (during COVID quarantine reality) is hard enough! Throw in different languages, different cultures, different ethical non-monogamy values, non-monogamy, and the waters are definitely more turbulent. But I would also argue, they are more rewarding in many ways too.
I firmly believe each relationship has its own life, it’s own level. It can start one way and end another, it can flux back and forth… whatever that looks like. There is no one right way to do relationships. This particular relationship has changed my practice of polyamory. I’m not sure we’ve found our level yet, but we continue to take the road less traveled and are determined to figure it out.
Don’t be afraid of change. Don’t be too settled on a label. DJDM has asked me more than once for a label for our relationship and I am still reluctant to try to give it one. I don’t want us to get stuck if we ever feel like it should change. Once you apply a label to something, it’s difficult to let go of it. Be open to the winds of change, fall in love, take risks. Change is inevitable. ENJOY the ride!