PQ 25.1 — Do I have access to a social support system is friendly to and knowledgeable about polyamory?
My discovery that polyamory could be a viable way for people to do relationships and my very first polyamorous relationship happened quite close together, for a very simple reason: The friend who introduced me to the idea when coming out to me as polyamorous also dated me very soon afterwards.
And interestingly, her introduction to polyamory was similar in some aspects. She’d been hanging out with another friend and his girlfriend when the girlfriend came on to her. This necessitated a very awkward conversation in which polyamory was explained to her. My friend had been confused and a little offended, but after reflection later took the opportunity to open up her own marriage. She never did date this particular woman, the one who initially hit on her, but her husband would go on to, if only briefly. And she’d later take on other partners of her own, including me for a time.
Dating as a polyamorous person was tough in rural Maine, especially a decade ago, before the concept became so well known due to media articles, advocacy, and the Internet. After my initial relationship with my friend, it was another year before I met another potential dating partner who I had any chemistry with that I didn’t first have to explain what polyamory was to them and basically sell them on it before dating. And even that person (who would go on to become my girlfriend), didn’t identify polyamorous per se and more polycurious. She had a friends group back in Ohio with many polyamorous and kinky folks in it. And was mostly trying to make friends in the new place she lived after she’d moved to Maine for work.
So I became friends with this polycurious woman, and then more happened.
And leading up to dating her, I mostly dated monogamous folks who were leery of polyamory as a relationship style. It was certainly not anything they would have chosen. And while they cared for me as a person, they were quick to move on from our connection when literally any other opportunity presented itself because polyamory wasn’t the kind of relationship they really wanted. They assured me that I was lovely, it was the format that was the big downer. They wanted monogamy, traditional entanglements. The only relationship style they believed had a future.
In those early days in Maine, I had a hard enough time finding partners… finding friends and a social support system that knew anything about polyamory and viewed it positively actually seemed a step or two harder. Friends who had known me before I opened my marriage were often very quietly judgmental, leery that they too might be asked by their partner to open up their own. And aside from that first friend who had introduced me to the lifestyle (and her husband, who I had a distant friendship with, where we were friendly but not close-close), I couldn’t meet fully polyamorous people at all.
For anything. Friendship or dating.
It wasn’t easy to get the social circles I have now. All told, it took me about two years of expanding my social connections to get there, to the point where I had a polyamory-friendly social group. Where a good portion of the folks in it were polyamorous, and the ones who weren’t polyamorous at least viewed it in a positive light. Two years and a 900-hundred mile move to a metropolitan area. Hundreds of hours of chatting with new folks at parties. Friending each other up on social media platforms. Corresponding virtually. Getting to know one another. Laughing at each other’s jokes. Learning how much we had in common.
It took time, energy, and big risks — in putting myself out there on the hope that people would like and accept me. And in other, more tangible risks… like literally pulling up and moving to somewhere where I only knew a few dozen people — and none of them very well.
It was costly. But I can tell you it was worth everything I put into it.
The difference between my life now and my life back before I had the friends I do is night and day. It’s much easier to separate out what’s a relationship issue and what’s just a life issue. Not to mention I feel so much less defensive about my relationship choices and being polyamorous (because I’m not constantly having it second guessed by people close to me and am instead seeing them also engage in similar behaviors).
I like to joke sometimes that I hit a point where I threw my hands up in the air and ran off to Poly Land, which depending on the day and who’s around is either the Epcot Center of Love or a Sex Circus. But there’s truth there.
There came a time when the life I knew didn’t seem to fit me anymore. At first, I tried to change that life — to influence the people around me. To make everyone accept me where I was. By stumping for polyamory and acting as its poster child and public relations rep. And it worked okay but never quite the way I wanted it to. Plus, it was exhausting.
And then a time came when I saw the chance to make a new life among people who were more like me. Who instinctively just “got” a lot of what I’d normally have to spend hours explaining to people, only to have them wrinkle up their nose and go, “I don’t know…”
It was a game changer, finding people who just got it.
If you haven’t found your folks yet, I can’t promise you that it will be easy to find them. Because that wasn’t my experience at all. It took a lot of time, a lot of effort. A lot of trial and error. You may have to put yourself out there and take some pretty big risks.
But what I can tell you is that when you do find them, it will be worth everything you had to do to get there.