• Sarah M. Neal

The Truths Behind "Happily Ever After" in Polyamorous Relationships

Many people go into the world of polyamory wearing rose-colored glasses. It doesn’t matter the reason we decided to take the journey, many of us visualize not one, but several “fairytale” perfect relationships with lovers, and little to no effort. Somewhere in the beginning, I did too. And then, the truths set in.

Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash

I wanna talk about Relationship Fairytale Culture for a minute.

We all know about fairytales of “Happily Ever After” in the monogamous culture, but how often do we REALLY talk about the idea of “Happily Ever After” in polyamorous relationships?

We grow up hearing fairy tales about the “traditional relationship”: boy meets girl, boy marries girl, they have children of their own and they live happily ever after. They raise the perfect family, live in the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood. Mom is crafty and is able to raise perfect angels, preparing the perfect meals, accomplish cute ideas on Pinterest, stay fit, keep her man happy, hold a dream job (only if she wants to work), be the room mom and/or on the PTSA council, and not lose her fucking mind. She and her husband never have arguments and the world is a happy place.

The LGBTQ Community has managed to switch up the “traditional relationship” paradigm as far as who meets who and falls in love. Many women are coming out and encouraging each other to throw the Stepford Housewife attitude out with the dirty dishwater. Yet the fairytales still seep into our predominately cis-hetero, monogamous culture affecting not only how we look at relationships, but also ourselves as partners (both men and women).

Similar fairytales are perpetuated throughout monogamous relationships regardless the sexual orientation or gender identification. This brings us back around to the idea of what types of fairy tale lives are sought after in the Polyam Community. What are some of these ideas? Why are these inaccurate portrayals of successful polyamorous relationships as inaccurate as the portrayals of successful monogamous relationships? What are some of the hidden antagonists in these fairytale ideas of ours that we are blind to when looking into non-monogamy?

There are people who are adamantly against polyamory as they believe it is immoral; there are people who say, “That’s cool. Not for me, but it’s cool if it works for you.”; there are people who venture into consensual non-monogamy because the idea of all the sex you can dream of sings to them like sirens; there are people who venture into polyamory because they feel like something is missing from their lives; there are people who stumble into it; and there are people who venture into polyamory because it just makes sense to them.

For those who hold dearly onto the ideals of monogamous relationships, the Polyamourous stories come out sounding more like a sinister fairytale than anything else. My mother is plagued with the tormenting thoughts of John and I engaging in constant orgies and that I don’t think he is enough for me or that he thinks I am not enough for him.

For others who view polyamory as a fantasy or a marital fix, they fall into the fairytale ideals of how adding more people to the mix will solve all of their individual and marital problems. I have heard people say, “My partner and I are looking for a third and it is going to be a closed Triad and everything is going to be great.” “My partner kept cheating on me, so we figured that opening things up would save our marriage.” “My partner and I want to spice things up, so we want to bring another person into our bed.”

Many people go into the world of polyamory wearing rose-colored glasses. It doesn’t matter the reason we decided to take the journey, many of us visualize not one, but several “fairytale” perfect relationships with lovers, and little to no effort. Somewhere in the beginning, I did too. I think I saw myself being able to explore all sorts of desires with little to no emotional investment or consequence. As we moved into the emotional realm, I was probably very naïve about the insecurities that would pop up on John’s end and even more so, my own. And then, the truths set in.

In the world of Polyamory, we tend to see the fantasies, the horror stories, and the success stories. When we hear about the horror stories we only hear the tragic end result. We don’t hear about what exactly went wrong. We don’t hear about communication, or lack thereof. We don’t hear about unresolved and/or undiscussed insecurities. We don’t hear about the unethical choices of those involved.

Likewise, when we hear about success stories, we only see the outside. We see a couple, triad, or polycule all happily coexisting and loving each other. I have heard things like, “If only I could find someone like xyz, we could make this work and I (we) would be happy.” “If only my partner would find someone to date too, this would settle everything.” “I just wish my partners would get along and become good friends.” “My partner and I are looking for a third to come in and join our family so we can live happily ever after.” We don’t hear about the millions of conversations that took place. We don’t hear about the bruised egos and broken hearts as partners came and went. We don’t hear about the heated discussions that take place behind closed doors as insecurities reared their ugly heads. We don’t see the tears. We don’t see the frustrations when calendars collide and don’t match up the way we would like them to. We don’t see the negotiations that take place to insure everyone is feeling as loved and secure as possible. What we see are happy people living with and loving each other and everyone is happy.

We cannot talk about fairytales without talking about the gremlins lurking in our Shadows (the major antagonists of any non-monogamous relationship). These gremlins are the ones who whisper to us our insecurities. They tell us that our partners love their other partners more than us. They tell us that we aren’t worthy. They tell us that our metamours are sexier, better lovers, smarter, prettier, more fun, generally better than we are. They encourage us to have meltdowns, start fights with our partners, be resentful of our metamours, beat ourselves up, question the honesty of our partner(s), question our decisions to continue on the path of non-monogamy, etc., etc., etc.

One of the sneakiest of these gremlins is the “Double-Standard Gremlin”. You know the one. The one that tells you it is perfectly okay to go spend the night at a lover’s house during the week, but then it isn’t okay for your partner to do the same. The one who tells you that it is fine for you to go out on a date when your partner doesn’t have a date, but not okay for your partner to do the same. The nasty little gremlin that says you can bend an agreement/rule to your benefit, but they are unbendable when your partner might try to do the EXACT SAME THING.

This nasty little shit can have you thinking that all will be perfect with your polyamorous relationship if only your spouse would find someone to start dating, and then come and hit you in the face once your partner does. The things that you felt were okay to do with your other partner, may not feel so good when your partner does them with their other partner. You may end up finding yourself picking fights with your partner over things seemingly unrelated (the dishes, finances, family/kid affairs, work, whatever). You will more likely than not try to make it your partner’s fault. Your partner may end up feeling like they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place and can do nothing right to please you. You might begin to pick apart their new/potential partners and find numerous reasons why your partner should not date this person. You may tell your partner, you may not.

I am going to let you in on a secret. I wrestle with my gremlins constantly-especially with that “Double-Standard” bastard. I think truly wrestling with them instead of letting them get the upper hand, or just pushing them under the rug is the stuff personal growth is made of. This goes across- the- board, because you know EVERYONE has gremlins lurking in their Shadows. I don’t care who you are. If you tell me you have conquered ALL of your gremlins, I will laugh in your face and call you a liar while blessing your heart.

There are still times when John will call me out on my “double-standard gremlin” and I will look him in the face and say, “Yup.” I know it is a double-standard. But by recognizing that double-standard, I know that is an upcoming wrestling match. Sometimes I don’t have the energy for that particular match, yet I am keenly aware that it is a match that will have to come. Usually, after a few dirty looks from John, I’ll concede and agree that it is something I need to work on. We will then come to terms as far as what I need from him and from our relationship in order for me to work out and win the match. I still have some long and probably brutal matches in my not-too-distant future.

There have been times when I have gotten smacked hard in the face by that “double-standard asshole gremlin” especially once John would start to date someone new. He would get swept up in NRE (New Relationship Energy) and bend a few agreements-just as I did. He would try to negotiate things I wasn’t sure I was ready for - just like I did to him. There were multiple times I was able to keep myself in check and remind myself I had done or attempted to do the same thing. There were multiple times when I was not able to keep myself in check and John would have to do that for me (once the RageFire simmered). I think those are the ones that were the hardest to swallow along with my Ginger Leo Goddess Pride.

The difference between fairytales and reality is that the antagonists are always beaten and everything is seemingly effortless in the fairytales and fantasies. In reality, nothing truly worth doing right is always easy. In reality, we are dealing with REAL people and REAL emotions. Once you take on the responsibility of any intimate relationship, you also take on some of the responsibility of taking care of that person/persons. This happens even if you live in a “la-la land” in your head. We are responsible for OUR actions in a relationship. If we constantly put the pressures of fairytale relationships on ourselves and our partner(s) we risk destroying potentially wonderful and healthy relationships AND people (ourselves included).

My advice would be to sit down and REALLY figure out what it is you want in a relationship. What does that relationship look like? What are the roles of each person in that relationship? If you find yourself playing into a fairytale relationship, find a trusted person to help give you a reality check. Fantasies are awesome and wonderful things to have. Sometimes, we can definitely make fantasies become reality. Just think real hard about the potential consequences of working to make certain fantasies and fairytales a reality. Because things are definitely not always as they seem


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