Some long-time readers of my blog might know this (after all, it was a major plot line in my first book, a memoir of my first couple of years of polyamory when I didn’t know what I was doing and neither did anyone else), but for the rest: Once upon a time, I dated the couple from hell.
Seriously. I was mistreated as a unicorn in the worst possible way (part of why I wrote an introductory guide to polyamory targeted towards geeky couples). The gory details are available many places (most thoroughly here), but ultimately, it didn’t work out. I broke up with them, and I haven’t talked to them for years, although we kept some mutual friends in common, so I’ve had news about them filter in here and there when people tell me things.
(For what it’s worth, I wish them well and for them to be better to people in the future.)
I Fully Expected Them to Break Up
On some level, I’m amazed they’re still together. The first few years after I left the lives of the couple I used to date, I fully expected them to break up. Because it was clear that neither of them was happy, and it seemed like they’d never been. Even in the old photos and videos, they never looked happy together. They posed awkwardly, with a rigidity in their movements, unsure of themselves even as he put his arm around her. They both wore forced smiles, not Duchenne ones where you could see the contractions at the corners of their eyes. These smiles were just for the camera; they looked like they didn’t mean it.
If anything, I realized as I grew close to them that they seemed more brought together not by a mutual love for the world or each other — but due to disdain over the same things.
She withheld affection, warmth, and sex to have some semblance of control over him whenever he’d drag his feet. And he’d respond by dragging his feet even harder. So she’d cut the supplies back even further, forcing a kind of winter in which he was supposed to starve unless he relented.
And perhaps he would have relented this one time, right then… had he not met me.
But I basically fell from the sky. Idealistic. Attentive. Warm. Reliable. And in those days, utterly without guile. I started dating him after we met through someone we both knew.
I said precisely what I meant and gave exactly what I wanted to give. There were no games.
And she did not like this. Even though they’d been polyamorous for 8 years when I came into the picture and she’d had her own serious relationships in the past, including one that had lasted for years and years, I still managed to upset everything.
They responded to her upset by pressuring me into dating her as well. I never had a deep emotional connection with her but found her physically attractive (I tend to be more attracted to women than men and always have).
I did become involved with her. But even this was not enough. She turned on me while we were together.
The damage was immense.
They’re Still Together and Still Importing Girlfriends
I can’t imagine that either one of them is happy, but they’re still together.
And looking back — and talking to people who still know them both — I think I’m beginning to understand why.
For them, it will always be a game of us versus them. They will always be united not by a love — but by a mutual disdain of certain things.
After I left, she wrote about being confused that I did. Yes, even though I wasn’t shy about how unhappy I was and why before I left. Even though I tried to work things out and was rewarded with insults and double binds for my efforts.
She was still confused. Surprised that I left.
But it’s plainly obvious. Why would anyone want to give themselves vulnerably and invest themselves in a couple who wasn’t really capable of love, only mutual disdain? Who would be eager to sign up for a situation in which it was going to be us versus them — and as someone who wasn’t part of this original heckling couple, you would always be in the “them” category?
No one, that’s who.
And interestingly, the same pattern has played out with them multiple times, even in my absence. A woman from far away moves to be with them, charmed by their quite enchanting qualities, and once she gets local, they turn on her. She flees. And then they complain to anyone within earshot that they’ve been jilted yet again. Why can’t they find anyone good? Isn’t it a tragedy?
These are the kinds of polyamorous couples that frankly give the rest a bad name.