David’s story: First, be a strong individual

2

September 27, 2012 by aggiesez

I’m David Chastity: 25, female and apparently single. I keep discovering that last attribute at random intervals, like when I was sitting in my boyfriend’s living room with him, his wife, and his occasional lover, talking about something or other. He suddenly announced, “Well, David’s single!” — marking me as the only such person in the room.

Sure, I was the only person in the room who’s not married. But I didn’t think that was the definition of “single.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: As part of this blog’s mission to portray a variety of solo poly voices, here’s a guest post by David Chastity — who also blogs at In Our Words: Salon for Queers & Co. Want to share your story in SoloPoly? Here’s how.

Near as I can tell, I’ve got a full love life. Normal language doesn’t always capture it right, though, so I’ve taken to saying I have two committed romantic partners: Thing One and Thing Two.

Thing One’s twice-married, living with both those wives, and his first wife’s second husband, and raising babies. Thing Two’s got a primary partner (I agree with Aggie’s definition of that term), and a collection of other lovers of varying degrees of seriousness, and prefers smoke and mirrors to straightforward names for relationships.

I’ve been with Thing One for two years now, and am at almost a year with Thing Two. I date (and hook up with) other folks intermittently when my schedule and interest allow. These days my schedule is terrifying — although I do seem to be falling for one of Thing Two’s people, so we’ll see how that develops.

I didn’t intentionally wander into relationships only with folks who have other partners.

When Thing One and I started, I was excited to have someone so definitively poly, and I had a lot of free time to date lots of other people. As time went on and my life filled up, I liked having someone so stable and reliable without having to feel like I should be finding more time for him (because it’s not like he has all the time in the world for me).

I did reach a point where it felt more natural to be dating people who weren’t single — because I’m so committed in so many aspects of my life, I get a little freaked out by people who have too much free time. If someone can drop everything to spend time with me, I worry they’re going to expect the same of me. Or at the very least, I worry that I’ll get bored if I’m the most interesting thing going on in their life.

Mostly I really love the way my relationships are right now. Sure, I’d prefer to have a warm body in bed every night — but I can’t make the other sacrifices to get the time to find that right now.

Plus, I really love all the metamours my partners have brought into my life.

There is something really cool about having someone who totally gets your partner’s ridiculous quirk, something no one who’s not also in love with them can really understand. My life would be much less rich without these amazing people who my lovers love. I feel really lucky that I have such a huge family. I don’t mind making do with less time with my partners; I value their other relationships, and I want to do my part to keep those relationships strong.

There are definitely drawbacks to not having a primary, though.

People, poly and not, often make a lot of assumptions about how relationships should look, and those assumptions are very couple-focused. For instance, couples attend things together. But I don’t often bring my partners along on my outings — either they wouldn’t be interested, or they’re busy, or whatever. That’s just not an important part of my relationships.

People also often assume that being someone’s secondary partner means they love you less, or won’t pay attention to your needs. While it’s true that I’m not my partners’ number one priority (and they aren’t mine!), they are still very loving and attentive toward me. I don’t look to my partners for all my emotional and other support. I have a huge network of friends, and am very well taken care of. The nice thing about polyamory is that no one has to depend so heavily on one person.

Thing One and I have been sort of arguing around this topic for a little while. We tell him he’s a “U-Haul lesbian” — the kind of person who falls in love fast and only can imagine deeply committed, all-encompassing relationships — despite that we’ve been successfully carrying on a secondary relationship for two years. He knows he’s not my everything. I know his family takes up a lot of his time. We’re still very happy.

…And when Thing Two moved in with me for the summer, Thing One was shocked to find that Thing Two and I didn’t immediately become each other’s primaries.

Thing Two has a long distance primary partner. Our relationship is quite solid, and I move slow, so I’m especially glad that we didn’t go forcing too many changes on ourselves at once. Thing Two now has their own house, where I spend a lot of time. We’re now settling into a new rhythm of being people who are dating each other and living down the street from each other. It’s all evolving very naturally, and it’s well-suited to who we are and how complicated our lives are.

But Thing One has qualms about my solo status. He’s saddened by the fact that I don’t have a primary partner; while I am not.

I understand that Thing One loves me and he wants me to be happy. He’s trying his best to understand how I’m different from him. But his perspective on (and feelings about) my being solo are, I think, symptomatic of the wider culture: the social emphasis on couplehood makes it very hard for people like me to work out our alternative relationship models.

Thing One isn’t the only person I need to convince that, as a solo person, I really can be happy and loved and cared for. Many of my monogamous friends, upon hearing about my relationships, have expressed concern that my needs are not taken care of or that I am being treated poorly.

Of course, sometimes I do get lonely on a weekend because everyone else is away. But people with primary partners get lonely sometimes, too, when their partners have lives and go away. Scheduling is hard for all of us; my monogamous friends can attest to that.

There’s much we can do to make the world more friendly to folks without primary relationships. We can watch our assumptions, and listen harder.

People who are in primary relationships and are seeking to start additional relationships can try to remember what it was like to be single, and to work with that. Sometimes I feel like I get less of a vote than my partners and their partners, simply because I’m not part of a household. This is often fine (appropriate, even). Still, I appreciate being able to offer, or being asked for, my opinion — or to sometimes get to be in charge of something.

For example, I’m ridiculously good at calendars — but I can’t get anyone in my life to be good at calendars with me. I schedule all my stuff and color-code it and stay on top of it, yet I’m still at the whim of everyone else’s last-minute haphazard. (To be fair, one last-minute haphazard can screw up the whole network. But without a culture of good calendaring, it’s easier for haphazards to get away with nonsense.)

Every group of people is different, and I expect to negotiate differently with each group I interact with. I also expect that I won’t immediately get the same weight in a conversation as the partners who have been together for a long time. I don’t expect that. I do expect that my system will also be respected — and that we can be mutual even if we aren’t striving to be equal.

To me, polyamory is about breaking down the relationship assumptions we’ve been handed. The degree to which monogamous culture insists that one’s partner should “complete” a person disturbs me.

As a polyamorous person without a primary partner, I’ve been able to avoid this tendency; my partners are fantastic additions to my life, and I’d be very sad to lose them — but I would know how to go on. I can share as much or as little with them as I want, but I don’t expect them to provide me with meaning or identity.

I think people in primary relationships can learn from this. I think we would all benefit from focusing first on being strong individuals — and only then inviting other strong individuals into our romantic lives.
Want to share your experience as a solo poly or open person? Here’s how.

2 thoughts on “David’s story: First, be a strong individual

  1. Gned the Gnome says:

    Yep, I can relate. For quite a while I was “just single” but I now have a secondary girlfriend. I don’t have time for a primary. I might want 1-2 more gf’s, all secondary. And of course they can all have as many bf’s/gf’s as they want. We’ll see how it goes.

  2. [...] David’s story: First, be a strong individual [...]

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