Lately, our subscribers have received exclusive access to first-person accounts of what it's like to be in an open relationship. We heard from one woman who recently opened up her marriage and we heard another raw and honest tale from a girl who has had an open relationship with her boyfriend of 7 years. But I wondered what it was like to be a man in the polyamory world and to be in love with a married woman with a child. This is Harry's story.
HOT: How long have you been involved in the polyamorous scene?
Harry: It was an accident. I broke up with my monogamous girlfriend that I'd been with for quite some years in 2012. It was a rough and tumultuous time. I spent that year dating, had a few random casual things. I’d been going out on dates with people from OK Cupid. This is a dating site that has a relation to the poly community but traditionally it was the dating site for nerds. I think being nerdy made me more likely to experiment.
HOT: And that’s when you met Anna? Did you know she was married?
Harry: Yeah, she was entirely up front. She was older but she seemed interesting. She had a five year old daughter and a husband. I thought it was a little bit crazy but I thought I’d just see what happens.
HOT: When did you meet her husband and child?
Harry: It was probably about a month later, we'd gone out on some dates and she'd come over and stayed at my place a couple of times. We then organized to go out together with her daughter and then it was some weeks after that that I met her husband, Adam. I’d already slept with Anna when I met Adam. It was the first exposure I’d had to a poly relationship so I'm wondering “how does this work?” When I did meet him, it was anticlimactic because he's a fairly introverted person.
HOT: Jealousy is something most people have to deal with. What’s it been like for you?
Harry: Jealousy is often talked about in the poly community. It's very much a thing but not in our relationship. Anna and Adam had been married almost 20 years. It was only maybe a year or two year before meeting me that they decided to open their relationship. I don’t feel jealous, and I am not quite sure why that is.
HOT: I can tell you have very strong feelings for Anna, what of her feelings for you and her husband?
Harry: I’m very much in love with Anna and she is very much in love with her husband. That's actually been one of the more interesting things for me with this relationship because talk about polyamory and the questions that immediately come up are usually about sex. Yes we've had threesome but it's not just about sex.
There's another part of the relationship that's been really interesting to me and that is that Anna and Adam have very much welcomed me into their family. They migrated here from the U.K. about 15 years ago and they have no relatives here. I have a messy awkward relationship with my parents so it's actually been wonderful that she's let me into her family. It's also been great for their daughter who doesn't have immediate aunts and uncles in her life. I actually think being part of their family is probably the biggest and most emotionally overwhelming thing for me.
HOT: In polyamory you talk about primary and secondary relationships. You are obviously Anna’s secondary relationship and she your primary. How does that work?
Harry: Yes, I am Anna’s secondary relationship but it doesn’t really feel that way. It’s certainly not secondary in terms of how we feel about each other but it is secondary in the sense that I see her twice a week as opposed to everyday. She doesn’t live with me and that actually works fantastically well for me because I work an obscenely large amount.
HOT: Having limited time to spend helps to maintain desire and intensity?
Harry: There is definitely some of that. I think you have more appreciation for something because it's limited and finite. I think for Adam and Anna, that has really helped their marriage. It feels dumb calling it “injecting spice into the relationship” or something but it makes you value what you have. My time with Anna is finite so I appreciate it more. If you're in a monogamous relationship, there's always some sense of the grass is greener, you’re wondering what it would be like if you had another partner but if you're polyamorous, you can have another partner and then that's an answered question.
HOT: You make it all sound very easy but I’m sure that’s not the case...
Harry: I read this blog that described polyamory as doing relationships at a harder difficulty level. Everyone can do a relationship, we're doing relationships extreme. And in some ways it is. There are many issues to deal with and often people come with emotional baggage and attachment to the idea of monogamy because that's what everyone's grown up with. It's not easy. You’d have to be crazy to put up with all this drama and uncertainty and difficulty for something that's just frivolous. It's not that you really have to believe in it but it's difficult to go through it if you don’t really believe in it.
One thing I find interesting is that when you talk about conventional relationships, you sometimes hear it described as the relationship escalator - you meet someone, start dating, and then within a set amount of time, that relationship needs to go on to the next level or it needs to be cast aside. If you're not “the one”, then I need to find “the one”. Then you get married, have children, get the house and whatever. That says that the traditional value is one of a linear process. Relationship goes in at the beginning and then ends with you both dying. Polyamory offers an alternative model, where it doesn't just have to be a progression of steps.
HOT: Do you discuss your relationship with your family and friends?
Harry: I told my mom. It didn't go well. About 6 months into Anna’s and my relationship, I was talking to my mum about my life and the things that I'm doing. I thought, well, if I'm going to tell you about my life, I'm should tell you about this. My mom goes to church every day and because of that I'd been thinking this would be a difficult conversation to have about this. I basically tried to paint the picture with as much non-controversial language as I could. She reacted really poorly to that. She said the relationship sounded immoral and sinful. So we swept it under the rug, and I just haven't talked about it since.
HOT: And what about your friends?
Harry: It has been interesting talking to my friends about this because their reaction is that it’s fine. Some people are like, “that could be crazy!” but they just want to ask you all the questions because they want to understand it and then some people are just curious about the sex. I sometimes describe myself as "the crazy anthropologist, charting out the uncharted world of polyamorous relationships. And then reporting back to the Imperial capital, what the landscape is like and the exotic creatures found therein."