I must have been around nine at the time. Or was it ten? I heard some boys talking behind my back about a girl who was described as “the local bike”. I thought I knew what that meant, and I knew who “she” was; but I didn’t know that “she” was having sex with anyone, let alone that “she” was having sex with more than one boy.
All that I knew about her up until then was that she was attractive and confident; a kind of goddess in the background of my life at school. She was often there but never close by. I liked her...at a distance. As a matter of fact, I liked her a lot; everything about her. Rather than thinking less of this girl for having sex with more than one boy, she went up in my estimation. I just wished that I could be one of the lucky ones. But I was too young. I was still a kid, and she was a voluptuous young woman already; mature beyond her years.
But this remark that I overheard by chance set me thinking about my values regarding sex and love. For a start, I thought that the kids who were talking about this girl in such a demeaning way were probably not among ‘the lucky ones’. I was sure that none of them had had sex with her. They were younger, like me. If any of them had had her, I thought that they deserved a good kick up the arse for betraying this nubile goddess in such a vicious way.
Even if they were mad with jealousy, why weren’t they grateful that such a person existed...in their small town; someone so courageous and generous of spirit that she was willing to take on the risks of having sex before it was even legal, let alone safe! Did she do it for money? The question never entered my head.
I made up my mind at that time that, if I should ever be lucky enough to find someone whom I truly loved, that I would let her have the boyfriends she wanted. From that time onward, I truly believed that a lover was somebody that deserved gifts and respect. And if the gift that a lover wanted was another lover...or maybe even more than one, well, if it made her happy, then what was the problem, besides the obvious?
I soon learned that having more than one lover was not a socially acceptable thing to do. Yes, you could change girlfriends and boyfriends, but the rule was that you only had one at a time. The done thing was to break up and move on. Anything else was taboo. It meant that someone was ‘cheating’. The word hasn’t changed, and neither have the attitudes.
So, reluctantly, I embarked on a course of serial monogamy, just like everyone else I knew. That lasted right through my twenties. I didn’t like it. To me, the whole idea of a monogamous sexual relationship with just one person, for life, was crazy. I could not see how it would possibly work for either me or the vast majority of people. It seemed like monogamy was a kind of straight-jacket that everyone had to accept so that society would function. In the decades since then, the divorce statistics seem to back the views that I had as a boy.
There were glimpses of other things. I tried very hard to live a polyamorous lifestyle in my late twenties. At one time I was sleeping with two women in the same house. It was a nightmare. I still remember the shirt being ripped from my chest. The two women didn’t talk to each other; they just communicated through me. It was always the same question: “What did she (i.e. that bitch) say about me?” It didn’t work for me, or either of the women then, and I thought that it could never work with anybody. Polyamory seemed to be in the ‘too hard’ basket. In fact, I had never heard of the term ‘polyamory’, and it’s only a recent addition to my vocabulary.
As an older man, I can look back on a life of...what? Well, I just can’t say, exactly. My ex-wife, if she is still alive, would probably sue me. She was one of the two women in that torrid threesome. And, no, I wasn’t married to her in the turbulent days when I was trying to have a relationship with two women in the one house.
I had several major live-in relationships after my divorce. Yet I can truly say that sex was not an essential factor in my deeper emotional connection with a certain woman. She was old enough to be my mother and we met later in life. We were together for twenty years. It was never romantic or sexual, but it was a deep soul connection nonetheless.
In my days as a soldier I saw that things could be different. Some of the army wives had other lovers when hubby was away in the bush playing war games. But it was all very hush hush. It was the kind of thing that you heard about as an item of gossip if you were not in ‘the club’; not something that was an open and upfront lifestyle.
Why the secrecy? Here we had a profession that was actively engaged in taking the lives of strangers in a foreign land--and doing it on a massive scale--yet here they were, keeping quiet about what goes on in the married quarters when hubby was away. It was such a disappointment. Yet what was being reflected was the values of society at large. That was the problem. So maybe secrecy had a point?
I thought that social attitudes were going to improve when I left the army and went to university. It was the early seventies; Vietnam was pretty much over; and social experimentation of a kind was almost compulsory. For example, if you wouldn’t partake of a joint when it was handed to you, it wasn’t going to do much for your sex life; at least, not in the circles that I mixed in.
Did that mean that people were swapping partners and having orgies? Not in my neck of the woods. Yes, there was sex with different people, at times. But in the end, couples formed and that was, well...that! So much for sexual liberation. Coupledom became the norm along with the denim and the left wing politics.
All along I stuck to my guns: If I had a girlfriend that wanted other lovers, she could have them, and I said so. I wasn’t going to complain if I missed out and she was out there having fun. Sexual freedom wasn’t a trade so far as I was concerned; it was a right. As a matter of fact, I thought that it was just inevitable that two people in a relationship were going to get bored with one another; couple sex gets boring, no question. So it’s only fair that each person should be free to have a good time.
Eventually I got married, and, yes, my wife did have other lovers. Did I complain? No. But my wife refused to discuss her other relationships with me. I didn’t pressure her. Was I disappointed? You betcha. We had spent the seventies doing therapy and she still couldn’t even mention her sexual stuff, let alone talk about it freely. The worst thing was that she blamed me for the breakdown in our relationship.
Our marriage was built on deceit and secrecy when it came to sex; just like everything else. The final straw was that she thought that I didn’t love her because I didn’t get jealous about her secret love life; a love life that I wasn’t supposed to even know about in the first place!
She had it all wrong... I just didn’t love her any more, because of the other things. The relationship was over. It had been for a while. Sharing the same bed with someone when it’s all over can be torture and a very lonely experience. Many of you have probably been there.
The idea that polyamory was a reality that could actually happen (with little effort from me) was just not on my mind. Yet that's just what's happened recently. And I'm so deeply grateful. So I'm going to make an effort to understand polyamory better, and to help people find out whatever they need to know about it. It’s a learning curve; but one that I happily embrace