Q: You felt it necessary to be anonymous for this interview. I think it says something about our so-called freedom of speech. Why do you feel the need to be anonymous?
M: I live in a small town, and I have children. I’m not sure that I want the judgment of my church-going neighbors to be carried out on my innocent children. Who knows what reactions might take place? Would my children be teased or shunned at school or in the neighborhood? This isn’t their choice, so I don’t think they should be held accountable for my actions. Additionally, I work for a living. I am extremely hesitant to have my exploits become public knowledge in the workplace for fear of backlash that could impact my very livelihood.
Q: Do you mean backlash in the form of harassment?
M: I suppose harassment is possible. Currently I am not working in an office every day so perhaps that is less of an immediate concern. Still, it is apparent that even in 2014 there is a huge double standard between openly sexual men versus similar conduct women. Men still brag of their “conquests” and get the proverbial high five from the boys in the locker room. Sexually nontraditional women are viewed suspiciously at best. I’ve been open with a chosen few at work and the response is generally something like, “well I could never do something like that.” I don’t believe that there really is a “never.” I do believe that what they are saying is that, “if I did something like that, I sure as hell wouldn’t tell anyone.” In many ways, society is still living in the 1950’s with an idealized view of women and their role in society. If you venture outside of that, the risks are great. I don’t feel in a position to assume those risks at this point in my life and my career. Don’t ask, don’t tell is the order of the day.
Q: You have been in open relationships since 1999. You haven’t given it up. Why do you persist?
M: Because it’s fun. Duh. In addition, I think I’ve not wanted to live my life in fear and I’ve not wanted to miss out on connection and intimate experience. It isn’t always the easiest path, but with a limited number of years on the planet, and with apologies to Bon Jovi, I want to be able to live while I’m alive
Q: Have you noticed any recurring problems with the men you date?
M: One thing I’ve noticed is that many men initially feel that open sexuality is a fabulous idea. It is almost as if they’ve been waiting all of their lives to find someone like me, and they start off being very grateful and appreciative. But then reality kicks in. Often they are not prepared to experience the level of jealousy and insecurity that sometimes arises for them. They often experience both joy (when we are together) and despair (when we are apart and their minds kick in with fear and doubt). In some cases they seem to miss that were it not for the open relationship, we would not have been able to experience the joy at all. It is not uncommon for someone to go from, “this is the best thing I’ve ever done” to “I don’t want to do this anymore” all within the same week. In these cases they seem unable to reconcile their joy with their preconceived ideas about love and relationships. They do miss that the sexuality is not harmful in any way, but their minds insist on torturing the joy out of them. I find this to be exceedingly sad and frustrating.
Q: Knowing what you know now, would you have done anything differently?
M: I would probably try to be more loving and patient. I used to be very impatient when someone’s mind would kick in with doubt. I could not understand why they would insist on agony when they could just be experiencing the joy. And let’s be fair, I wanted the joy! So I’d get annoyed if I felt like I had to “talk someone down” from their fears and doubts.
Q: Can you give an example?
M: I can think of one example where there was great love, tenderness and affection between Henry and I. We had such a wonderful time when we were together that at times we experienced tears of love and gratitude when in each other’s arms. But after a time he was unable to let himself love me. He simply couldn’t grasp how I could love him and yet want to be with other men. This didn’t fit into his world view and no matter how many conversations we had about it, his mind was made up. Eventually I didn’t want to have the conversation anymore. It was clear that I didn’t fit his model, so we could not be together. So sad. Interestingly, he married the next woman he dated and I periodically get a text or phone message telling me how much he still thinks about our time together and how he still loves me. He just couldn’t let himself be with me. Sigh.
Q: I want to speculate a little bit. At one point in the last couple of years, you took a trip where you experienced five lovers in the same week during the time you were traveling. It is interesting because these men would not be with you when you lived close by. I remember you having a great time and wondering why they waited until you had moved away to embrace you as lovers. What do you think was the reason?
M: I can only speculate, as you mentioned, but my guess is that they were afraid. One of them even told me directly that the only reason he was with me is because I had moved. Had I stayed, he imagined that I would have put pressure on him, wanting to be his girlfriend, etc. I was stunned because I have no idea how he got from point A to point B there – it was truly fiction, and very creative at that.
Q: Do you think that because you were distant, they could not possibly use you as a means to their expected ends, so the joy got to be an end unto itself?
M: Yes, I think that is the case for most of them. When I left, they were able to relax a little and let go of all the bullshit expectations that generally surround romantic relationships. They didn’t have to get caught up in what they wanted, what they thought I wanted, all of the mental gymnastics that people put themselves through. Once they let go of this, they were able to just relax and enjoy the connection that we had. Ah! That was very sweet.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?
M: For me the part that I find somewhat frustrating is the preconceived notion that because I am open, I am only willing to have casual relationships. An open relationship must “mean” that I’m not willing to have intimacy or share my heart with someone, just my body. This is a common belief and it seems to categorize the relationship as one where they don’t have to give their hearts either. This is bullshit. Getting laid is great, but I’m looking for intimacy and connection. Having multiple lovers and sharing true intimacy are not mutually exclusive!
Questions asked by Todd Vickers
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“M: I live in a small town, …” that’s probably why, Pot Stirrer. She doesn’t have that many choices.
Not wanting to speculate on what M’s reasons might be, which is for her and her only to judge, I am also disturbed by the lack of recognition that mono is a viable and valid orientation. I feel sorry for the Henry of the story. I prefer poly to be about letting others be and love differently with understanding and compassion.
This site promotes dialogue about open relationships being viable and valid. Yes, we don’t have to put down monogamy, but our society is monogamous as the norm. It’s not necessary to remind people that they can be monogamous on a site that supports nonmonogamy.
But also, a great reminder that there’s no one-size-fits-all way to practice poly.
I tend to agree with you Melissa and I would add this point. I think beliefs that are questionable, be they traditional or not, should be questioned publicly. Particularly when the ideas are publicly thought ‘good.’
Many traditional ideas find they way into supposed new alternatives with a coat of paint on them. If you would like an example of what I mean here is a piece where I thought the criticism due. https://noshameinsex.com/culture-critique/the-polyamorous-caravan-part-two/
Sounds like “M” is fishing in the wrong pond by dating men who don’t already come from a place of already being “poly” or “open” themselves. This is a bit of a stretch, but I question why does she feel the need to “convert” men to her way of thinking or living when there are ample poly men out there who do not need convincing and wouldn’t go through the jealous “head trip” that she describes.
Perhaps she is setting herself up for frustrating relationship experiences so that she, herself, doesn’t have to meet her own jealousy when her lovers take on their own side partners.
Just a thought…