“We’re a package deal,” the profile reads. “My man and I come together or not at all.”
The package deal is so common that it’s a cliché. A couple opens up, advertises for that magical third person to join them, a third with no needs, fears, or insecurities of her own that will come in, be attracted to both of them equally, create no jealousy or feelings of discomfort in either partner, blow their minds in the sack, and be ready and waiting in the wings for whenever the couple feels the it’s time to play with her. The most common iteration is the heterosexual couple on the lookout for the “hot bi babe.” She is simultaneously a sexual object that will do anything, no matter how filthy and depraved – and an infinitely patient and selfless martyr who will understand that she will never be equal to The Couple, that she can be discarded at a moment’s notice, that you will hide her when the family visits or pretend she is the maid – and an emotional self-control guru who can will her emotions to be exactly what is needed at the time and can thrum up or diminish sexual attraction and emotional connection when they are threatening to The Couple.
You seasoned poly folk familiar with the package deal have surely been rolling your eyes for some time now. Those of you who haven’t heard of it and/or are newly curious about polyamory might be thinking it sounds like the one form of non-monogamy you could probably do.
Admittedly, I began my first foray into all things poly with a package deal. I’d been in a monogamous relationship for 8 years with my partner at the time when we found out mutual friends of ours were polyamorous. We’d never even heard of the term. After some soul-searching and a lot of deep processing, my then-husband Seth and I began a relationship with Megan, this female friend of ours (who was married to another friend of ours, who also had his own extramarital entanglements). Seth and I had a lot of rules. We were a package deal, and our relationship came first. Anything that even remotely threatened us could be ended at any time by either partner by unilateral veto.
The rules and the hierarchy and the package deal, well, they were very reassuring in the beginning when we were most terrified. However, as time went on and we got more experienced, we realized we didn’t need all of that. After several months of dating as a triad, we broke up because the chemistry wasn’t quite right between Megan and me. I sulked for a little while about the whole thing, but once I saw how sad Seth and Megan were, I decided to deal with my insecurities and feelings of being excluded and encouraged them to date without me. I’m not saying it was an easy adjustment. The first time he spent the night over at her place was an especially trying experience for me. However, with a little struggle and patience, I eventually adjusted — and even set out on to date some on my own.
When I became a free agent (so to speak) was when the adventure of poly truly began… and sometimes, I was the one joining an established couple for fun and occasional seriousness (coincidentally how I generally approach life).
For me, there is nothing on this earth quite as intense as couple energy — good, bad, or otherwise. Whatever is going on in their relationship, the sum of their years, it comes to bed with them. There’s nothing quite like being physically in between two people who are crazy about each other, basking in that love, affection, and mutual respect. One couple I was involved with, even though I wasn’t very physically attracted to the guy and was mostly fooling around with them because the wife had a smoking hot body and a good personality, I’d still get warm fuzzies being wrapped up in both of their sets of arms and seeing the way they looked at each other.
Conversely, a dysfunctional relationship… Well, that gets intense, too. I dated Rob and Michelle, another couple with a very competitive and adversarial dynamic. Where the default straight male’s MFF triad fantasy involves the male being the center of sexual attention, group encounters with this couple instead involved him begging her to do more with us both and her denying him and throwing him crumbs and my pleasuring her – which actually was pretty fun for me in the short term. However, as my relationship with him grew, and she fell harder for me than I did for her, the shit truly hit the fan. It didn’t help that her attempts to assuage her insecurities by acting in a way that hit me as controlling and invalidating completely sabotaged any connection that could have been nurtured. I started to feel like I was buying an incredibly expensive add-on to experience what I really wanted (which was turning out to be him). I cared deeply for Rob, but dealing with Michelle wasn’t worth it, although I tried to make it work, tried to convince myself that it was all going to be fine. Not only that, but I saw the strain I was putting on their relationship together. I was also polysaturated and in a new thing with Skyspook that was going very well and taking incredibly little effort, which framed things even more starkly. When Rob and I broke up, things exploded spectacularly. The three of us aren’t on good terms and don’t talk to each other.
But at least that was fun for a bit. Prior to poly, I had a number of MFF no-strings-attached group situations that were never fun. I once slept with this couple waaaay back in the day where the girl was super pissed that I wanted to fool around with her. She wasn’t even attracted to women — she was only bringing me into bed to please him. She was worried if she didn’t that she wouldn’t be able to keep him. In the moment, I ended up setting very hard limits with him and then never hooking up with them again. He could grope me and kiss me while they mostly did stuff so she could get her “cool girlfriend” points and head out on her merry way. It was a shame because I really liked her (she’s the reason I was even down for it, he was kinda “meh” in my book), but she wasn’t so much into girls as it turned out, despite the fact that she’d been the one to seduce me and convince me to do the whole thing.
Another time in my pre-poly days, I went to bed with this other couple where the girl basically begged me to join them – and she was cute and she and I had been fooling around on our own with her boyfriend’s blessing for a bit (she had a free pass for girls but no guys, one penis policy, that whole can of worms) – and then when we actually hooked up the 3 of us, she got jealous and completely hulked out seeing me kiss her man and kicked me out.
Now that I’m steadily partnered in a very passionate and stable relationship, I find that my background with couples — my experiences of being outnumbered in bed — comes in handy when Skyspook and I have dated people together.
“We’re not a package deal,” I explained to one prospect. “We can and do date on our own, although it’s terribly convenient and wonderful when someone is interested in both of us. For one, it makes scheduling a snap. But no package deal. You’re never forced into buying something you don’t want. No all or nothing here. Think of us as a BOGO deal. You connect with both of us? Fantastic. You get a second lover basically for free. Buy one, get one. But if you don’t want the second one? No problem. Leave it in the store. I personally think we’re a great value if you buy us in bulk.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the 4-hour sales pitch for timeshares that someone sits through to earn their free dinner and a show.