Polyamory, Getting Beyond the Name

a closeup of an opal ring on a finger

“Page,” she says. “You’re not wearing a wedding ring.”

“Mmmhmm,” I reply, lifting the trash bag out of its can.

“Why not?”

“The opal is sensitive to temperature changes, so I don’t wear it out much these days.” It’s also alarmingly snug due to some post marriage weight gain (you really do put it on all over), but I’m in no mood to discuss this, since she’s already criticized my food choices twice. We have just started day 2 of this volunteer gig. Charity brings all sorts of folks together.

“But doesn’t your husband get mad that you’re not wearing a ring?” she asks.

I swallow. I know where this is going. “Nope, not at all,” I say.

“But what if other guys flirt with you?”

Yup. I was right. “That doesn’t bother him,” I say.

“Really?” she asks incredulously.

I weigh my options carefully before proceeding. I could out myself as non-monogamous. I don’t even have to potentially ambush her with the kooky-sounding word “polyamory” (seriously, it spooks the normals; my mom’s reaction to it was “That sounds made up, is that something from the internet?”). People usually get the point with “open relationship” or the right tone of voice and “we have an understanding, my husband and I.”

But something about the way she balked when I said I didn’t have children and answered her follow-up question of why not with “because I don’t want to” tells me that this is not the time to volunteer that sort of thing.

Instead, I talk about how secure and trusting my husband and I are with each other. Every word I say is true, although I don’t comment one way or another on whether we’re exclusive or not. I talk about how both of us maintain friendships with exes and share that my husband’s ex-girlfriend helped me pick out my wedding dress.

“I really admire you,” another volunteer says. “I’d like to get to that place.”

“It’s a good way to be,” I agree.

It is these kinds of values, of compassion, of compersion, of security, of community… of boundless, mutually supportive love… it is these things that I initially learned from polyamory that continue to inform my meaningful relationships, whether I’m in 1 or 100 at any given time.

They define me.

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