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What I learned from my introduction to polyamory & BDSM

I’ve always considered myself to be monogamous. Yes, even through my promiscuous university years. I never thought of polyamory as a legitimate lifestyle choice. In fact, I never even knew what it meant. That has since changed.

It all started about five months ago. I met a guy on a secret Facebook group for kinky people who was explicitly looking for a submissive girl. I had been single for a couple years and was pretty discouraged after a series of either emotionally or sexually disappointing spurts of dating. So I had just decided to say “fuck it” to dating and explore something I’d always been curious about — Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism (BDSM).

I responded to his ad, which read: “ISO an enthusiastic, female submissive. I’m 28, 6’4”, athletic, downtown, and Dominant / Primal with about 6 years of experience. Looking for a delightful muse to build an intense, ongoing dynamic with, do unspeakable things to, and make it all better after.” I was intrigued.

Our entire interaction from the very first “hello” was undeniably captivating. The guy who was “loving my political activism” after creeping my LinkedIn profile was the same guy who would later have me tied up, spitting on me, hitting and aggressively using me. But before that happened we talked about how difficult it is to explain to someone (who isn’t into that kind of stuff) how independence, strength and confidence as a female doesn’t mean you can’t be sexually submissive.

Not only did he pique my interest with each depraved message he sent, but we were also aligned on so many levels: our career paths, our sense of spirituality, our taste in music and our openness to things that many people might choose to shut out.

Picture: aaron-mcelroy.com

I had no idea how open things really were. I met him right at his place rather than going for drinks, because we both decided we wanted an exciting and anonymous inaugural experience. Because of the nature of how we got in touch, we both knew we were going to have sex the first time we met. The difference between this situation and other experiences I’ve had was that we wanted to avoid the generic dinner date and simply get down to business. So we just skipped that part. We were meeting to fuck, and initially, that’s all it was going to be.

When he met me outside his condo I was happy with my decision. He was tall and muscular, with dark blonde hair, a scruffy beard, and a loose scarf tied around his neck. Classy, but unpretentious. He put his hand on my back as we walked upstairs. It didn’t take long before he had me bent over his leather sofa– inspecting my body carefully — calculating his next move. He forced me down on my knees, and things progressed quickly from there.

The beginning of our encounter was fierce and fiery. He had me tied up in ways I’d never even imagined. He was rough and aggressive — throwing me around like a rag doll, just how I like it. He played on the fact that I was fucking a stranger too. Made me feel how truly promiscuous and ‘easy’ I was being. And sometimes I’m into that kind of thing. On occasion I like to be recognised for my dirty mind and sexual nature.

But then when it came to the physical sex, we experienced some difficulty. My new friend wasn’t able to achieve a full erection. While this is something I’ve definitely witnessed many times before, it’s a bit different when it happens with a guy who is explicitly “dominant”. No judgement on my end though. I’m totally fine with it as first encounters can be difficult to navigate. I just wish I could have helped, you can’t really do much when you’re tied up on your stomach without the use of your hands, mouth or anything else for that matter.

So naturally the fire subsided a bit, but we still had a good time exploring each other. The chemistry we experienced was undeniable. He was a little embarrassed, but still confident, which I liked. And I was completely unfazed, which he liked. All in all, it was a great night, even if there wasn’t much of the hot and heavy stuff we originally planned for.

After a couple hours, we finished off in his bedroom. I had a moment of clarity and looked up at his walls, completely bare except for a jewellery hanger filled with gold, silver and turquoise necklaces.

“What are those necklaces for?” I asked. I already knew the answer.

“I was going to tell you about that,” he said, “But it got tricky once we decided this was going to be an anonymous experience.”

He went on to tell me he’s married — in an open relationship with his wife.

My mind went blank and my immediate reaction was to run. I did not imagine that being with a married man was something I could ever accept, or even wanted to for that matter. I never wanted to be the “add-on girl” that people used to relieve their sexual urges. Not to mention, the sex wasn’t all I’d hoped it would be… yet.

I put on my knee-high socks and black skirt, skip the panties (special orders), and headed for the door. But somehow he got me to stay. I’m glad that he did because the conversation that followed opened my mind in a very big way.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” he asked, “Are you scared you’re going to fall in love with me?”

“Of course not,” I said. But the truth was, that’s exactly what I was scared of. How could I ever develop a relationship or real feelings for someone who was already in a committed relationship with another person?

That night we talked about how love doesn’t have to be a finite resource. We talked about how someone can love multiple family members and friends at the same time, and that doesn’t take away from how much they love each person individually. We talked about jealousy and how it appears to stem largely from insecurity and fear. For instance, I might be upset that my partner slept with someone else because I’m scared they might have been better than me. Maybe that person is prettier, maybe that person is more skilled in bed, maybe that person can give them something I can’t. We discussed the potential solution of giving partners the freedom to be with other people, and addressing fear and jealousy internally. At the end of the conversation, I told him I understood and largely agreed with his point of view, but that it wasn’t something I was sure I wanted or could handle.

Picture: unsplash.com

Fast-forward about five months and surprise — we’re in love. Like, really in love. Now comes the hard part — coming to terms with two big changes in my life: 1. My boyfriend is married, 2. I guess that makes me polyamorous too.

Briefly, polyamory means forming intimate, loving, sexual relationships with more than one person at a time. I believe the difference between this and the current state of dating is that you’re actually honest about it. In theory, polyamorous people talk about EVERYTHING in an open, clear and straightforward way. And that’s the thing — over the past few months, I’ve discovered many wonderful things about polyamorous relationships: the honesty, communication and directness are highlights for me.

But the reality of my relationship is that it’s hard. Not only does my boyfriend live with his wife, but he’s truly free to sleep with, get to know and fall in love with whoever he wants. It hasn’t happened yet, but it could. Putting the jealousy piece aside for now — this shit is logistically complex. The other day he introduced me to his coworker as his “friend who lives in the area” because that particular coworker knows he is married. Whenever we spend time together at his place, it also has to line up with his wife’s schedule.

Picture: unsplash.com

The usually exciting process of introducing my new partner to my friends and family has been quite difficult too. I would compare it to a “coming out” of sorts. I’ve chosen to tell very few people about the reality of this relationship — my best friend and my brother are the only two. That’s because I know how it looks from the outside. It looks pathetic — like I’m settling for less than I deserve, or that maybe I don’t think I deserve better. That isn’t the case, but deep philosophical discussions about relationships are just too much to get into with every person in my life. So I mostly stay quiet about it.

Then there’s the jealousy part. When I think of my boyfriend fucking his wife, however infrequent it may be, it really hurts. I’m not one of those people who are immune to jealousy — who can brush it off and go on with their day. It eats away at me. The feeling extends past fucking, by the way. When I think of him sharing the intimacy he gives to me to someone else, it’s a shock to the system. Like a cold shower on an even colder day.

One night he said something to me that’s a pretty common phrase in the polyamorous community: “jealousy is simply fear of loss”. I agree that’s part of it, but there has to be more to it than that, right? Just because something intellectually makes sense, doesn’t mean I can just neatly file it away in the appropriate corner of my brain for it to never have any effect on me again. I feel jealousy often, no matter how insignificant or silly the situation might be. Whenever I feel it though, I tell him, and he’s just as supportive and helpful as I always imagined he would be. He reassures me that our relationship is special, and the things I bring to his life are things that no one else could give him. Sometimes he feels pangs of jealousy too, and I’ll always respond in exactly the same way.

Picture: unsplash.com

To date, my strategy for fighting jealousy is to focus on what I’m gaining in this relationship rather than what I’m losing. A polyamorous lifestyle has opened my world to the possibility of looking at all people as having the potential for love, sex, intimacy or friendship. I like it because it establishes honesty as the framework for a successful relationship and it grants me the freedom to explore whatever I want without having to hide or give up other parts of my intimate life. In a way, it sort of feels like having my cake and eating it too.

One thing I’m actively trying to avoid is dating other people merely as a reaction to feeling jealous about my boyfriend. I have the freedom to build my life with whoever I want, but I find it really challenging to avoid going on a date or sleeping with someone new just because I need to distract myself. I want to add people to my life because they bring value, not because they fill a hole (no pun intended).

In the beginning when my boyfriend and I spoke less about the specific boundaries of our relationship, I was dating him as well as other people and we didn’t really talk about it. But now I only regularly spend time with him and a girlfriend of mine (her boyfriend joins sometimes too, which is fun). We’ve now created a rule to tell each other whenever we want to date someone else, but that desire simply hasn’t sparked yet for me. Right now I feel really satisfied with what I have: a loving, sexually fulfilling primary relationship with some variety on the side. And by variety, I mostly mean girls.

Picture: unsplash.com

On that note, over the past few months I’ve gotten to explore a lot of new things. I’ve been able to sleep with women and couples for the first time, had sex in public bathhouses and watched my boyfriend make out with my girlfriend (unfortunately she was not down for a threesome). In October I’m attending an all-female orgy (I’m a little scared for that one) — the list goes on. And yes, apparently you can sign up for all-female orgies several months in advance — talk about anticipation. It’s been a lot of fucking fun. Really, this all would have never happened for me if I hadn’t been introduced to the polyamorous community. The best part is, I haven’t had to trade fun, excitement and novelty for love, support and affection. I get both, regardless of whether he might give these things to someone else too.

So rather than focusing on what he does with his time, I’m trying to focus on the excitement and liberation that I get to experience in my own life. This situation has helped me live in the moment more — to appreciate each minute I spend either with him, or enjoying my own sexual adventures, while trying to avoid the trap of projecting our relationship into the future. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. Would I like our relationship to last? Of course, but I have no idea whether that will happen or what that will look like if it does. However, isn’t that the case with monogamous relationships too? Nothing is guaranteed.

Regardless of what happens, I’ll take a lot of the lessons I’ve learnt thus far into any future relationships, whether they’ll be monogamous or polyamorous. As an example, I’ve come to learn that relationships ebb and flow. We’re always changing and so are our relationships. The expectation of a perfect “forever” situation has really taken a back seat for me and I find that super liberating. I’ve been surprised to see how happy I can be even during some of the most uncertain times.

Picture: unsplash.com

Another lesson I’ve learnt is about jealousy. I now see jealousy more as something that I can acknowledge and potentially overcome rather than a complete deal breaker. Jealousy seems a lot less scary to me now, whereas before I avoided the feeling like the plague, to the point of ending perfectly good relationships over it. Now when I feel jealous, I try to remind myself that typically the idea of something or someone creating jealousy is a lot less terrible than the reality of it.

And finally, the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that there’s no ‘normal’ when it comes to sex or relationships. I’ve been inspired by how open and loving people can be. I mean, my boyfriend’s wife is now open to meeting me, which blows my mind. I’m still not there yet, but having seen that level of confidence and acceptance will impact my relationships with both friends and lovers in the future.

In the end, I have no idea where I’ll be. Maybe with a husband and four kids in a little house in the country. Maybe with four boyfriends and a cat in a giant commune in the city (just kidding). Even though I enjoy the excitement and sexual variety that’s possible in polyamorous relationships, I’m not sure I want to give myself emotionally to more than one person at the same time. What genuinely excites me is now I can see a world full of exciting scenarios to choose from outside the model of one partner fits all: options that include kinky sex, vanilla sex, men, women, romantic love, affection and companionship. And even though it’s all kind of scary, it still feels pretty fucking great.

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Originally published on Cambyo. Cambyo is a collection of trailblazers who share stories and struggles to help people develop their intimate lives. Sign up for their free newsletter so you can continue the journey of learning about intimacy through real stories.

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