• Sarah M. Neal

Polyamory Isn't Just About the Sex

"Polyamory is not a way to get away with cheating on your partner. Polyamory is not always the way to fix a broken relationship. Polyamory takes an excruciating amount of work."

Originally pulbished 05.24.2017


A few months ago I had a good, long conversation with my dad about polyamory. I don’t remember what brought on the conversation, but I spent much of the time explaining to my father that it isn’t just about the sex. Polyamory is about allowing yourself to love more than one person and exploring fantasies you might not be able to explore with one partner. Polyamory allows you to have more than one person help take care of your needs. It also lets you off the hook from having to be the sole fulfiller of your partner’s needs. When you take the time to get to know yourself and allow yourself to share love (whatever that looks like) with more than one person, it enables you to gain more perspective on the world. To better see it from another’s eyes. Polyamorous relationships aren’t just about the sex, they are about so much more.


He thanked me for sharing all of that with him and I was pleased with his response. I was thankful that I had at least one parent who loved me for me and was willing to listen to me and hear my perspective in an effort to understand my life.


Then, on a Thursday several weeks ago I received a nonchalant text from my brother saying he dropped our dad off at the ER because he wasn’t feeling well. Two days before my dad informed me that he went to the doctor because he wasn’t feeling well. It had turned out to be his second bout with congestive heart failure and was sent home with Lasiks pills to try to pull the fluid off his heart.


I immediately called my brother who was trying to pass it off as no big deal because that is what we do. If we are sick or injured and it does not appear to be immediately life-threatening, we just brush it off. He was trying to convince me that I didn’t need to call our dad or rush to the ER to sit with him because my dad is quite stoic and doesn’t like to worry people or have them in his business. I get it. I get stubborn like that too. However, did I mention the congestive heart failure?


I then sent a text to my dad trying to be slick with my inquiries. He called me immediately. It took very little effort to persuade him to let me sit with him in the ER. That was enough to set off all my red flags.


A few hours later, he was admitted into the Number One Heart Hospital in the state where they immediately set to getting the fluid off him. Phone calls were made to the appropriate family members and his associate priest came to visit. All the while he and I did our best to remain stoic and optimistic.


I attended the Heart Failure class with him in the hospital the next day and stayed close by through that day. My sister and co-priestess came to visit and my dad asked us to pray over him. My (now former) co-priestess and I stood with our hands on him and I felt deep darkness and despair. She said nothing to me about anything she saw or felt as we left the hospital. She simply gave me an embrace and told me she loved me. At that moment I knew I was not alone in what I felt. I fell apart once I reached my car.


I was supposed to go stay with Tyler that weekend but obviously plans changed so I could be closer to the hospital. John, who was supposed to take time for himself that weekend , suggested Tyler come stay with us for the weekend. Tyler arrived at my house early enough that day to drive me and my daughters down to meet their father. John had given my ex-husband a head’s up to let him know that Tyler would be with me because he had to work and I didn’t need to be left to my own devices with an SUV. On the drive home from dropping off the girls, I fought a raging battle within myself to keep my tears at bay. I hate crying.


Once we were home and I was safely in the care of both John and Tyler, with no one else around to witness, I came undone. I would cry, then calm down, then cry again and again and again. John has never seen me quite like that. Being the “doer” that he is, he focused on doing whatever needed to be done at any given moment whether it was to get me some food, hold me, make/field phone calls, anything. Tyler, on the other hand, did everything he could to just keep me wrapped up in his arms, at least as much as I would let him.


I usually fall in between two ways of dealing with tragedy. My M.O. is to MAYBE cry a little (in PRIVATE of course!) and then go do whatever needs to be done. I am also a little notorious for holing myself up and separating myself from offers of help and support. I am the eldest child, a mother, a wife, a priestess, a lover, a caregiver. I do not allow myself to fall apart. I keep that urge/need deep in the Shadows.


That night though, I was safe. I was safely flanked by my lovers. When John could no longer keep his eyes open because he had been working hard all day, Tyler stayed up to keep watch. I found solace in the hot tub watching television with Tyler. I didn’t want to leave the safety of surrounding myself with warm Water. We were in the tub for several hours that night. Not saying or doing much of anything other than watching television. I was safe.

The next day, the three of us went to have lunch, bought my dad a couple of books he requested, and went to visit him. My dad seemed ok and my two men were holding me up energetically. That night, the three of us went through a bottle and a half of Scotch. I was able to put my pain to the side for an evening and just enjoy the company of two of my favorite men.


The following morning, I received a text from my dad that he was having a bad day and was requesting a no visitors. As I knew my dad was having his own personal, emotional, physical, and spiritual struggle, I respected his wishes. I spent the morning on the couch between John and Tyler binge watching a house flipping show. Then the sky fell.


I received a phone call from my dad’s cardiologist saying that his heart output was incredibly low and they were putting him into the Intensive Care Unit. She told me they would do all they could to get him through this but that I might want to get family to come and see him. John and Tyler immediately jumped into action. Tyler guarded my body while John made the necessary phone calls after I could no longer form sentences through my sobs. Once all of that was taken care of, the three of us left for the hospital.


Upon returning home, we waited for my ex-husband to bring our children and my sister up from Middle Georgia. Once everyone arrived, John and Tyler immediately split up duties: John stayed home with the children and Tyler drove my sister and I to the hospital. Tyler sat in the waiting room as we visited my dad. My aunt, my father’s big sister drove over from Alabama and the four of us sat in the waiting room as the nurses in the ICU did their assessments and whatnot. Tyler sat in another section of the waiting room, reading a book my dad gave him until I finally waved him over. I introduced him to my aunt as a close family friend and my chauffeur. I cannot tell you the pain I felt when I had to introduce this man, whom I love very much, who has been an amazing part of my life as my lover and friend as “a good family friend”. In that moment I would have given a great deal to be able to say, “I would like you to meet my boyfriend, Tyler. He and John have been working with each other to hold me together for the last four days.”


Fortunately, my dad and Divine decided it was not yet time for him to go. After 3 weeks in the hospital, a quadruple by-pass and two stays in the ICU for cardiac patients, he was finally deemed fit to come home.


Living with a sick parent living isn’t easy. I was tethered to my dad for a month and a half. Granted, I wouldn’t have it any other way. If anyone is going to take care of my dad, I am going to make sure I am the one to do it. However, it is far from an easy thing to do, especially on top of life in general. Yet, I am so incredibly thankful he is here with us, sharing our home.


As my father has gotten stronger and more independent, things have been much easier. I am able to focus on the other things begging for my attention-like this blog entry I have been trying to write for over a month.


After the worst of his time in the hospital, once he was past the worst of everything, towards the end of his hospital stay, he told me that he had been skeptical about this whole poly thing. However, as he watched how the dynamics of my relationships worked, he began to understand more. He told me that he could see how, with a strong foundation, a poly relationship can work and be beneficial.


My dad was able to see firsthand how my two men worked together to hold up his daughter and take care of her. He watched as I navigated through an evening with him and the girls when John went to spend a night with Jewels. He saw how John navigated through an entire weekend with the children after insisting I spend the weekend at Tyler’s for a much-needed break. He has seen how John and I have been working hard to make sure we are getting what we need from each other through all the chaos that is our lives.


Polyamory is not a way to get away with cheating on your partner. Polyamory is not always the way to fix a broken relationship. Polyamory takes an excruciating amount of work. It is more than lip service. It is more than just talking through and communicating with your partners. It is showing up when your partner is in pain. It is sitting with your partner while s/he processes the myriad of emotions life throws us into. It is doing some messy work on yourself, on your relationships, or just being there while your partner is doing the messy work on his/herself.


Over the last 8 years, I have done some of the deepest, darkest Shadow work I have ever had to do in my 40 years. I feel like I have only just scratched the surface and it both terrifies and exhilarates me. This has not always been a walk in the park on a beautiful afternoon. This journey with polyamory has been rocky, inspiring, treacherous, beautiful, messy, fierce, amazing and life-changing. And I wouldn’t go back to monogamy if someone paid me to.

If you and your partner are considering opening up your relationship, remember that it takes a great deal of work to make it successful. It isn’t just about the sex.

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