We just got engaged and we’re trying polyamory for the first time
How our first threesome made me realise he’s ‘The One’
“I need to find a sexy Sicilian man before I go back to my husband in the Netherlands.” Rewind a year-or-so and I’m being given lessons in non-monogamy from 52-year-old Heidi. I did not expect to be learning this while studying Italian in Palermo on my break-up hiatus but after a traumatic three years trying to convince someone so not into commitment to commit to me (and failing until I finally call it quits) my interest is piqued.
Much like my ex boyfriend, she’s convinced that the most important thing in a relationship is to be happy for the other person and if that means they (or you) do the horizontal tango with someone else, then all’s fair in love and war. Armed with the argument that it’s human nature to want a physical connection with more than just one partner, Heidi’s left her husband and teenage daughter for two weeks and is on the hunt for a Sicilian Casanova to satisfy her appetite for “a hit of Italian” on her holiday.
Judging by the success of Chris Ryan and Cacilda Jetha’s 2010 book Sex at Dawn: How we mate, why we stray and what that means for modern relationships, which essentially argues the same thing, Heidi might well be on to something. “Forget what you’ve heard about human beings having descended from the apes. We didn’t descend from apes. We are apes,” begin Jetha and Ryan in their book, which debunks modern relationships and every last romantic notion I might have had regarding them.
The book outlines that since the beginning of time until the advent of Christianity (and Disney!) in the West, both men and women have satisfied their instincts to copulate with whomever, whenever they wanted. In some Amazonian communities even now, women have sex with an assortment of men and each of them will, in some small way, ‘father’ her child.
The idea that we might be any different to our randy, hypersexual ape cousins or to these tribes is labelled by the pair as a “false narrative” that denies the laws of nature. “If we’re “above” nature, it’s only in the sense that a shaky legged surfer is “above” the ocean,” they say. “Even if we never slip (and we all do), our inner nature can pull us under any moment.”
That would explain statistics that indicate up to 70% of people in monogamous relationships have admitted to infidelity. Not to mention the steady incline in divorce rates over the course of three decades. It comes as no surprise then, that the concept of polyamory — literally translated from Greek as ‘many loves’ — in which we enter into sexual relationships with more than just a single lover, is entering our mainstream vernacular, our Tinder feeds and our friendship groups.
In the media, Artform’s Editor-In-Chief David Velasco speaks openly about being in an open-relationship while actor Thomas Middleditch is a self-proclaimed swinger. In Hollywood, even Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have recently raised eyebrows in their ‘relaxed’ approach to their relationship while Brad and Angelina famously let the other ‘do what they wanted’.
Suddenly, racy movies like Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Dreamers, Vicky, Christina, Barcelona and more recently, Netflix drama Me, You, Her involving threesomes or ‘throuples’ do not seem so pie-in-the-sky or contrived. More people are actually coming around to this way of living and for good reason.
“Monogamy is so often not monogamy because of infidelity,” says Laura Mucha, author of Love Factually. Spending ten years interviewing people on their perceptions and experiences of love for her book exploring who, how and why we love, Mucha found that the stats point to the fact that monogamy more often than not does not translate to fidelity. “Polyamory requires such a huge amount of honesty, vulnerability and trust,” says Mucha, that often those in polyamorous relationships prefer them because more openness exists between partners. “For some people, it’s not the sex itself that’s problematic, it’s the deception,” she outlines.
Having been in an ‘open-relationship’ I hadn’t chosen, I can attest to this. No trust meant anxious nights or days apart in which I anticipated ‘the worst’ because I was never really ‘let in’ on what may (or may not) have happened. “You do what you want, I do what I want” was his motto but he never really outlined exactly what he wanted.
Cue jealous rages, tears and bouts of insomnia. A few years on in my very committed relationship (we’re getting married next year), I’m all threesomes and “darling, why don’t you find someone to entertain you while we’re apart for a month?”
We had our first threesome (my first one ever) very early into the relationship and I felt not even a twitch of rage in the moment. I was exhilarated by what I’d instigated and our night with a plus 1 fuelled so many more steamy moments between just the two of us. It was a game changer. It made me realise how much trust there was between us — more so than in any other relationship I have had before this one.
It may seem ironic I would end a relationship because of infidelity then enter into a new thing happy in the thought that it might occasionally include third parties but as Heidi (now my go-to on all things ‘open relationship’) puts it, “communication is everything.”
From determining ‘the rules’ (who? how often? tell or don’t tell?) to practicing safe sex and being smart about STIs, open relationships require exactly that — an openess. “Intimate relationships thrive on authenticity and vulnerability,” says Chris Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn. “Where that leads is up to the people involved, but being open with each other about our desires, fears, and curiosities can only lead to more intimacy and happiness.”
The obvious worry that does creep in is that I’m opening up a door to being abandoned for someone else, which is a sentiment shared by others. “Men like the idea and then I am cut out by their wives — my friends! — because they think I’m going to steal their husband, which is bullshit,” Heidi tells me. The other way to view this is that leaving that door open means less boredom and complacency in a relationship — the very definition of being ‘kept on one’s toes’.
I can’t think of a better way to go into marriage — knowing we’re going to be open and honest with each other forever. It’s a promise to never abandon who we truly are.
“It reflects a paradox in humans. We want safety and novelty and we want both at the same time,” says Mucha on the subject of having our cake and eating it. Ultimately, polyamory allows us to have both — and who doesn’t like cake?