In Order to Be Polyamorous, I Had to Get Over the Idea That It’d Make Me a Bad Bisexual

the landscape of a rocky alien planet. The sky is blue, but there are two moons in it.
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I Kept Having the Same Two Conversations, Over and Over Again

Growing up bisexual, I’d end up in an unpleasant conversation every time I told a new partner my sexual orientation. And it usually went one of the following ways:

Conversation #1: 

Them: Oh, you’re bi? Next thing I know, you’ll be telling me you need to have a boyfriend/girlfriend, too. I’ll never be enough for you.

Me: I’m bisexual, but I’m also monogamous, and I’ll be faithful to you. It won’t make any difference.

Them: [proceeds to be jealous and insecure about my bisexuality, assuming it means I need to date both men and women simultaneously, otherwise I’ll be unhappy]

*

Conversation #2: 

Them: You’re bi? Yessss…. Let’s have hot threesomes.

Me: I’m bisexual, but I’m also monogamous. So I’m not really looking to have threesomes. I’m interested in just having a relationship with you.

Them: [proceeds to pressure me nonstop to recruit an additional person to have a threesome with us]

Me: (wondering to myself) Do people only want me because I’m threesome bait? Because I’m a stackable resource?

I Developed a Fear That I Was Greedy & Worked Hard to Prove That I Was a “Good” Bisexual to My Partners

As one would expect, having these two conversations over and over didn’t exactly set me up in an emotional place where polyamory or having an open relationship seemed like an attractive proposition.

Conversation #1 always carried the subtext that being bisexual meant that I was a greedy person and that I didn’t really care about my sexual partners as individuals. Instead, my partner feared I had some kind of hidden sexual bucket list that was more important than my emotional commitments. To be fair, it was apparently a short bucket list they were accusing me of having: A man and a woman at the same time. So in terms of greed, I suppose it could have been a lot worse.

But as a person with a very tender heart who loved very deeply, I still hated the implication that I would approach relationships selfishly. And in truth, I’ve always been the kind of person who is satisfied with very little romantically. Even in the years I’ve been polyamorous, I spent several years functionally monogamous and not actively seeking out relationships. Typically, the additional folks I date are people who enter my life naturally that I feel a connection to, and if it makes sense to logistically, then I pursue it. These days, I don’t date polyamorously because I crave more. And I don’t seek out additional partners to correct deficits.

And this is how I behave now that I’m a polyamorous person, with all the freedom to seek out more (my current relationship agreements are quite nonrestrictive). If I were greedy, one would think I’d gorge myself. Because I could.

But I don’t.

Although to be fair, when I was monogamous, I was arguably even more restrained. I did everything to convince my partner that I wasn’t greedy, what they thought of as a “bad” bisexual. I went to great lengths to assure them that I was happy with them and them alone. Because I could see how much the implication that I could need — or even want — more than just them hurt them. And made them feel like they were fundamentally unlovable.

But no matter what I did… no matter how much I tried to never flirt or be inappropriate with people other than my partner… no matter how much I denied that I was even fleetingly attracted to others (of any gender), there was often no convincing my partner that I wouldn’t either leave them for or cheat on them with someone of another gender.

Being “Collected” for my Bisexuality Made Me Even More Worried About Being Greedy

Conversation #2 turned the tables. In that scenario, I felt like part of someone else’s bucket list. Expendable. Interchangeable. And yes, stackable, like raw resources in an RPG. Something like raw ore that you pick up not because it’s inherently valuable in and of itself, but because you can carry many of that same resource at once and perhaps turn the entire stack into something valuable when the opportunity presents itself (ingots or even weapons or armor). In such a framework, you don’t feel important but convenient. You feel like something that’s meant to be collected as part of a larger library, not prized on your own. A means towards an end. A pit stop, not the intended destination.

The stunning effect of Conversation #2 was that not only was this a terrible way to feel, it also made me deeply sympathetic of partners who I had Conversation #1 with. The ones who worried I was going to leave them for or cheat on them with someone of another gender. Because I knew how much feeling like you were “not enough” for someone hurt, albeit as a result of different causes. And the last thing I wanted to do was to make someone else feel that way.

This deepened my sense that to want more than one partner would make me a bad bisexual. The kind of bisexual that contributed to biphobia and the negative cultural stereotypes surrounding bisexuality: That we’re promiscuous, greedy, and very possibly confused.

I Felt Like “Good” Bisexuals Were Monogamous, But Partners Weren’t Making It Easy to Be Monogamous

I didn’t want to be any of these things. A “bad” bisexual, whose orientation hurt everyone I was with. My path was clear. I needed to be monogamous.

The only problem was that it was proving very difficult to do. And not because I couldn’t remain faithful. While I love having sex (and am more on the hypersexual side of things versus asexual), I actually have found it very easy to abstain from having sex with other people when I have a good reason not to (a few examples: because I’m in a monogamous or closed relationship, because I’m currently upset with them about something else, because I don’t know their STI status, etc.). True, I’ve always formed social and emotional connections easily with other people (and under some more restrictive monogamous setups, this tendency is perceived as being prone to emotional affairs), but I’ve found it easy to keep myself from physically consummating stray attractions.

No, the reason why it was difficult was that my bisexuality kept causing my partners to think I was incapable of monogamy. Partners who initiated Conversation #1 would become paranoid and upset and either outright end our relationship or eventually sabotage it via incredible jealousy and possessiveness — or in one extreme case, by cheating on me before I could cheat on them.

Partners who initiated Conversation #2 would also think I was incapable of monogamy but view it as a positive. However, in their zeal to take full advantage of my sexual range, they would continually violate boundaries and pressure and harass me to bring other people into our bedroom.

And it was too late to just keep my sexual orientation to myself. I grew up in a small town in the Maine woods. People liked to gossip. I’d already publicly been linked to both men and women at my college. The last few people I dated monogamously knew I was bisexual long before they dated me. Plus, I’d grown up in a closet and being bullied for queerness. I liked being out, being that queer person who owned it for kids who might be going through similar.

The only problem was that it kept screwing up my relationships.

The One Person I Was in a Long-Term Monogamous Relationship With Viewed It As a Large Compromise

I did manage to eventually settle down with Seth, a guy my friends had set me up with (as we were the only two single people they knew). We got along because we had the same sense of humor, were physically attracted to one another, and both liked playing video games, although we had little else in common.

He was someone who fell squarely into Conversation #2 land. He aggressively campaigned for threesomes from the very start. But I held my ground. And eventually he stopped pushing so hard and settled into monogamy with me. It was a big compromise for him, so I made a lot of compromises in return. I became the sole breadwinner. Did all the chores. And I tried not to take it personally when he told me that most of what I said was annoying and that he didn’t have any interest in reading my writing.

As dire as that sounds, we did manage to have some fun. Airplanes terrified him, so much to my chagrin, we didn’t travel very much. But he did fly to Florida with me for our honeymoon. And we had a good trip to the Maine coast for a poetry festival (about a 90-minute drive) as well as a nice trip to a Vermont skiing resort (his parents had gotten a free stay).  It was in the summer so no snow to ski on. But the trashcans were gold plated and the restaurant served the fanciest prix fixe menu I’d seen at that point in my life. One of those deals where I had to watch more ostentatiously dressed people select their flatware and mimic them so that I didn’t pick up the wrong fork.

I adored Seth. Despite our strained compatibility, I doted on everything he did. He was the center of my universe. The only problem was that he didn’t seem to like me very much back.

Looking back, I wonder if he resented that I’d demanded monogamy of him. He did frequently lament that he married too young, that he’d settled down before he’d “tasted all the flavors.” He admitted that he wasn’t sure if our relationship was any good because I was literally the second girl he’d ever dated. And the first had been such a disaster that likely anything would have been better.

In Order to Be Polyamorous, I Had to Get Over the Idea That It’d Make Me a Bad Bisexual

It was over this emotional background that I discovered a close friend of ours for a couple of years was polyamorous. That she and her husband had an open marriage. I’d stumbled into this knowledge by being nosy. I’d noticed that this friend’s husband was acting strangely with a coworker of his and worried that he was having an affair. When I went to express my concerns to my friend, she laughed. Said yes, my instincts were right. The husband and coworker were seeing one another — but with her blessing.

I was really confused by this revelation. They were buttoned up. A homecoming king and queen. I actually had thought she was kind of a prude. Neither seemed particularly sexually liberal.

And I was conflicted. Because she was someone I’d had a crush on for quite some time. But I hadn’t done anything at all about it because I was a “good married lady” and more importantly –what I considered at that time to be  a “good bisexual,”i.e., the kind that is monogamous.

I was torn… because I saw an opportunity here to explore a connection that had seemed off-limits just moments before. But if I did that, wouldn’t I just be proving everyone right? Everyone who said I was greedy.

I would be the kind of bisexual that gave bisexuality a bad name. I would be lending credence to the irrational fears that destroyed some of my earliest relationships.

No. I couldn’t do it. It seemed unthinkable.

And yet, as the months wound on, I found myself becoming more and more drawn to her. And as Seth had always been someone who had Conversation #2, he pushed me to let go of my fears and explore it.

I Enjoyed Being Polyamorous When I Tried It A Lot More Than I Thought I Would

While it’s true that Seth had an ulterior motive for encouraging me, it’s also true that exploring polyamory led to a more complex understanding of myself as a sexual being:

…when I was monogamous, I never really looked bisexual to others (although it was always there, moving inside me). To others I evidenced gayness or straightness.

And because I’m a femme, I passed especially easily as straight.  No matter how many women I pleasured in darkness, heterosexuality seemed to be what everyone rounded me up to. My mother hoping I would “settle down” and get over chasing girls. And my female partners  in their anxieties and fear that I would develop a sudden craving for dick and abandon them like a hairstyle that’s no longer trendy (a reasonable fear; I was discarded that way myself, by women who had loved me but missed men).

I felt quite disingenuous. Fragmented. It was easier, somehow, to believe others’ dismissal of one side of my sexuality or the other as a “phase.”

Until I found myself in a triad, literally connecting those two aspects of myself, kissing my girlfriend’s mouth while my husband held me from behind. My body acting as the bridge between these two previously disconnected facets of myself. Connecting what used to be islands of desire.

It was impossibly strange. Impossibly wonderful.

 A polyamorous expression of my bisexuality made contiguous continents of previously separate islands of desire. It was stunning. It felt like an epiphany.

Enjoying It So Much Made Me Feel Guilty, Like I Was a “Bad” Bisexual

However, any joy from the epiphany was short lived. It was quickly joined by guilt and confusion. Cognitive dissonance. Because I had done the thing I’d been bitterly accused of wanting in the past. I was having a sexual relationship with a man and a woman at the same time — in the same relationship— and it had turned out to be one of the most intense experiences of my life thus far.

Could my past lovers have been right? Could I have been settling for a lesser thing? Denying myself the one thing that would make me feel whole?

I felt sick to realize I could be what others had accused me of being. What I had vehemently denied I was.

More Experiences Helped Me to Make Finer Distinctions & Understand What Really Made Me Tick

The months wore on. I had more experiences with consensual non-monogamy. More relationships with more than two people in them. More threesomes and even some group sex. And as the shiny newness wore off, as the facades fell, I came to make finer distinctions, especially after I discovered the kink scene through a woman I was seeing:

  • Being sexual with more people at once had a way of scrambling my brain, especially when there was a gender mix involved. I’d become overwhelmed with stimuli, disoriented. Being in bed with more than one person at a time was akin to a drug high. But it wasn’t substantial in and of itself. And the high didn’t last. It created chemistry that could translate to beyond the bedroom — but didn’t always.
  • Kink and BDSM with a single partner could have a similar effect to multiple partners at once, provided that the person I was with pushed the right buttons and knew how to work my energy, and I, theirs.
  • Kinky sex with someone I had an emotional connection with was better than sex with multiple vanilla people at a time who I didn’t have an emotional connection with.
  • Kinky sex with multiple people I also had an emotional connection with… well, that was the strongest rush of all. And typically translated beyond the bedroom rather nicely.

It didn’t seem to be so straightforward as what I’d been accused of, after all: “If bisexual, male plus female partner at the same time equals perfect sex and love.”

No, it wasn’t like that at all. There were many things that made me feel whole, sexually and romantically. Sure number and gender of sexual and romantic partners were a factor. But so were kink and emotional connection.

In actuality, it was a pretty complicated equation, with multiple factors all affecting one another in varying amounts.

I Don’t Think About “Good” and “Bad” Bisexuality Anymore — Instead of Explaining, I Explore

It didn’t happen overnight, but over the years, I stopped viewing monogamous bisexuality as “good” and non-monogamous bisexuality as “bad.” And with time I also stopped thinking that “good” and “bad” bisexuality was even a valid dichotomy.

And as I worked through the feelings that came with this change, I came to realize two very important things:

I realized there were other paths to take. Entire strange new planets to explore… and with the best company.

Is it possible that my past self might think that the person I am now is a “bad” bisexual?

Sure.

But I don’t need to explain it to her. She’ll get it one day.

And I don’t need to explain it to anyone else.

I’ve learned there are places you can go that evade description. Places that never look quite the same in photographs or videos that you take.

Sometimes you have to travel to a place yourself to really understand.

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Books by Page Turner:

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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