It’s a funny thing, never feeling like you’re enough.
“I know I’ll lose you eventually,” I told my husband Justin when we first started dating, “but things are wonderful now, so I’m just going to enjoy you while I have you.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” he told me. But I didn’t for a second believe him.
I was a busy poly person – living with 3 lovers, one of whom I was legally married to although separating from and another my Dom, with a long-distance lover thrown into the mix. Justin was lover #5. I didn’t have much time for him, so I cut into my alone time and gave him what I had.
He was seeing a few others but less frequently, and I looked at our availability and thought he’d undoubtedly eventually find some nice girl to mono up with and that would be that.
Little did I know I’d be the girl he monoed up with (for a time anyway, we’ve since reopened and never really stopped being poly in outlook in a number of key ways).
But even before then, when I felt impossibly busy and would steal away to his house on a Monday night, he’d tell me, “Even though I don’t see you every day, you feel primary to me. There’s so much love here.”
And for a brief time, I felt every bit a woman with 3 primaries. It didn’t last. I divorced my husband (something that had been in the works for 2 years) and broke up with my Dom (that story is here), but the one thing I really THOUGHT would happen… well, it didn’t. I didn’t lose Justin. In time, he became my Dom, and we married. It’s awesome. Our relationship continues to grow and be amazingly fulfilling.
But I still have days, even now, 5 years into Us that I stop and think “What the ever-loving fuck is this man doing with me? He’s too good for me.” I honestly don’t know that I ever would have had the courage to approach Justin if we’d both been monogamous – I wouldn’t have thought I had a shot with him. But being polyamorous made it much easier to flirt in a low-pressure way, to be casual, have fun, and see what happened. In a monogamous model, there’s so much pressure to be someone’s “Everything,” their “One and Only.” But at the time I first became interested in Justin, he was seeing or pursuing something like 4 other girls casually, and while I never would have thought I could be satisfying for him in any serious capacity, being his “Everything,” I could easily envision being his “20 Percent.”
That was the gig I showed up for.
Joke’s on me, I suppose.
“Do you even KNOW where your husband is right now?” Greg asks.
I slap him before I even know what I’m doing. I’m instantly apologetic about the physical violence but remain furious for hours.
Furious of course because he’s judging me for what my husband is doing, reinforcing the cultural bias toward monogamy. It’s a sore spot of mine, the idea that others close to me might think I’m a fool to allow my husband to take other lovers (and to do so myself), especially since I get enough of that from society, from the masses, from wherever. Of course I’m furious. But it’s not just that. I’m outraged that this dig came from him.
Earlier Greg and I had bonded over our mono/poly leanings, i.e., our ability to be comfortable being monogamous with a person who is taking other lovers. As odd as it might sound, I really do find the dating process more stressful than sharing my lover. Provided they’re good folks (and typically my lovers choose very well), I love having metamours in my life. Dating people is exhausting though – since for real emotional intimacy to occur, it involves opening myself up to people and being vulnerable. It probably doesn’t help that I’m quite selfish with my time (my job takes a lot out of me these days, and I enjoy alone time) and can be difficult to schedule. So these days I tend to be mostly casual and friends with benefits while being open to emotional seriousness if it shows up and makes sense. It really depends on your lens, I suppose, what exactly this makes me. Some would call me mono/poly, some would call me poly but picky and busy, and still others would call me a swinger. It’s all fine with me.
Greg expressed different reasons – lower libido and the fact that all the people he was closest to were poly even though he found that when he cared about someone that he became hyperfocused on them in a way that didn’t lend himself to multiple relationships.
Different reasons, but still it had felt like the best kind of camaraderie, united in our mono/poly, or at the very least united in the fact that dating multiple people at a time was harder on us than our partner doing so. I thought Greg got it. And that felt great.
And then my husband makes out with the object of his affection, and it is on. I think. I’m not really paying attention. There is some sort of cuddle/makeout pile underfoot somewhere at the party, and I am chatting people up and being my ebullient self. I don’t care who Justin kisses. But Greg cares that the girl he’s crushing on is kissing a bunch of other folks and takes a claw to my face.
So I hit him. And it’s wrong to hit people. It happens so quickly. And it’s not just because we’re different and I’ve realized that we’re different (which I have), it’s also because I realize that we’re the same. Neither of us thinks we’re enough, and he’s gone off in a different direction with it. And I’m so angry because I’d rather he take his claws to his own skin and rake himself until he’s numb with adrenaline and he can rise from it and be better and stronger – I’m so angry because he’s scratching me in his insecurity, me who has done nothing to him and am fighting my own battles.
We talk later, process, make up. It’s a good conversation. He owns his mistakes, I own mine. Our friendship survives. He has a lot going on and has been in a bad way. This excuses nothing but explains much.
It’s a funny thing, never feeling like you’re enough. Poly writers tend to address this in a number of ways. Here are a few that I see all the time:
- When you like another person, it’s not because the first person wasn’t “enough.” It’s not like you stop being attracted to other people when you’re in a good relationship. Human biochemistry doesn’t work that way.
- It’s unreasonable to expect one person to meet all of your needs all of the time.
- Variety is a good thing and the contrasts between people help you to really appreciate each for their unique characteristics.
And I’d like to offer one I haven’t seen as often (I read enough random poly stuff though that it’s possible that I’ve seen this in passing) – there are actual benefits to not being someone’s “Everything.” It’s a lot of pressure to be the sole source of someone’s happiness and fulfillment.
What is “enough” anyway? That might be the key there. Instead of worrying what they might be getting somewhere else, agonizing over our inability to be the entire romantic world to our loved one, perhaps it’s better to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Am I happy? Yes. Are they happy? Yes. Are we both able to manage our adult responsibilities adequately? Yes.
Fuck it, that’s enough.