I’ve been in a polyamorous relationship for a little over 2 years now. It isn’t my first polyam relationship, my ex and I were polyamorous in an M/s relationship. My experience has been that folks in the BDSM community have a stronger negative reaction to a submissive woman having other relationships then the ‘vanilla’ community does. If the vanilla person isn’t completely against such a thing on the spot they tend to respond with an attitude of what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Many in the BDSM community were confused by the fact that I was allowed to play with others and was even ‘allowed’ to have feelings for others. Which is really frustrating, so often the service and love a submissive can give is treated as so finite that it is assumed that a dom couldn’t be satisfied with just one submissive and that a submissive could never truly be with more than one dominant.
In the parts of the BDSM community, I have interacted with* the attitude is that either no real dom would ‘share’ his submissive or if she was allowed to play with others it would only be for a scene and not a relationship. This is so frustrating because this is always framed in a very hetero-normal way of a male dom being able to carry out several relationships but a true submissive woman would never want that! A true submissive just gives all her love and submissive to one man and waits for when he wishes to spend time with her, even when he has several subs because that is always totally healthy and never dysfunctional! Okay, I’ll stop with the heavy sarcasm now, it is just annoying to see these tropes play out over and over.
Since I’m in my 30’s I do have more of a relationship history then that but my lack of self-esteem and dysfunctional behavior meant they were toxic. Since I write my own story I only consider those relationships when talking to someone about lessons I’ve learned or trying to let someone know they are not alone or uniquely stupid for having made a mistake I have also made. Because of that, I start my dating history with my ex, not so much erasing my history as removing any power it could have over my present.
My current and my last relationship were both long distance. The reasons for why are complex, and I don’t think they would be helpful to share. I meant both men in Second Life. A game with the reputation of being a shit game. Since I don’t think it is correct to call SL a game, they aren’t wrong it is more of a graphics heavy chat service with a LOT of verity and different rooms (in world they are called sims) to go too.
Being in a polyamorous relationship has shown me the troubling ways we as a society frame relationships. Ployam folks often hear things like “You let your partner do that?” or “They let you do that?” it frames a relationship as ownership or some sort of custodial situation. From what I’ve seen of healthy relationships they view it as more constant communications of wants and needs but even folks that have those types of relationship will use ‘let’ language because it is so pervasive in our society. It isn’t something I think am knowledgeable enough to unpack at this point, but it is interesting to notice.
One of the more toxic things I’ve noticed in the polyam community is the idea some promote that polyamorous relationship are more advanced and mature then monogamous relationships. Which is just bullshit. In my opinion, some people are just naturally monogamous and others are naturally polyam. I think my ability to be polyam or mono depends on what I think of as my ‘base relationship.’ I don’t like the primary language because it suggests they are worth more to me then my others. I understand the usage when folks are married and have children though. My base relationship is with my daddy dom, he has supported me as I built up my self-esteem and has learned by listening to me and through experience how to communicate with me in a way that helps me feel secure.
This idea that polyam relationships are more mature leads to folks getting the wrong message when they decide to try polyamory to save their relationship. They can be welcomed in such a way that no one prepares them for how opening the relationships can just make the current problems worse. If a relationship is on the rocks it is going to be much more likely that a partner will feel threatened when they aren’t the first to find a new romantic interest. This always puts the new person (often called a metamour) in an awkward position. This metamour gets caught in a push and pull situation that isn’t fun for any of the folks involved. I haven’t personally experienced this from any of the sides involved I just know from talking to others that have.
I think it would do folks new to polyam that are coming in hoping to save their relationship to be greeted with honest compassion. Show them the real polyamory instead of all the glorified version we feel we need to present because of how it is frowned on in society at large.
I find my polyamorous relationship to be incredibly fulfilling. It gives me the freedom to be a what amounts to a phone sex worker without the restriction of ‘don’t enjoy it too much.’ I can be emotionally and sexually available for my clients without my SO feeling threatened. I also find comfort in knowing that when I have a bad fibromyalgia flare and can’t be there for my partner that he won’t be alone. It helps me to fight any guilt I have when I’m dealing with so much pain or fatigue that it gets difficult to communicate.
*Much of my interaction with the polyam and BDSM community has been online. Some are quick to dismiss this as not the ‘real BDSM community’ but I disagree since many of the folks I’ve spoken too do go to in-person events and meetups.