How I Got Into Polyamory and Polyamory Got Into Me
By Millie Jackson
The concept of polyamory intuitively made sense to me even before I had a word for it. However, it seemed more like a futuristic utopian approach to loving than a viable option in the real world.
In the late 80’s, I had a relationship with two other women. At the time, I didn’t have a context to grasp that this fun-loving trio was my first polyamorous relationship. It felt very natural to me. I wondered why more people weren’t having relationships like this, and why the three of us were being judged so harshly. I was surprised that people even cared, and I didn’t understand why they felt threatened.
In the mid-90’s, I attempted to openly and honestly have two relationships at the same time, but the dramas that ensued fueled my doubts about this being a practical approach to relating. Pursuing polyamory with proclaimed monogamists wasn’t working, no matter how much we liked each other and no matter how honest I was.
Fortunately, in the late 90’s, I befriended some polyamorists who happily answered my many questions. Seeing them make this life-style work intrigued and impressed me.
In 2001, at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival, I attended a polyamory workshop with my monogamous partner of four years. This gave us a context to discuss polyamory and what that might look like for us. We agreed that poly was in line with our philosophical and spiritual beliefs, but we didn’t know how to access the life-style.
Our relationship ended after seven years before we had an opportunity to experiment with polyamory. My unwitting role as a serial monogamist was still prevalent. This led me to deeply examine my life, love and pursuit of happiness. I decided, once and for all, to determine if I am polyamorous and if it could be a healthy life-style for me.
Around that time, a local support and networking group was forming for polyamorous and poly-curious people. I attended the kick-off meeting and have been an active member ever since. The group now has over 140 members.
I immersed myself in all the group had to offer including poly-themed movie and book discussions, educational events, social outings, and a support group. And I started cultivating some great friendships. As I began dating within the poly community, it quickly became clear that I would be learning a lot about myself, especially in regard to preconceived notions about love, sex, relationships and gender.
I started identifying as bisexual after 18 years of identifying as a lesbian. This created a discernable vibe within my LGBT community that I was somehow letting them down. I don’t know if they took issue more with polyamory or bisexuality; but I felt disillusioned, alienated and alone. Thankfully, I received support from Indiana University’s GLBT Student Support Services. Their compassionate listening and openness to talking about polyamory helped me through a difficult time. I‘ve appreciated the opportunity to educate them about poly and about the resources available to those interested in this love-style.
More than looking for compatible lovers, I was searching for an inclusive community with a shared desire to transcend cultural programming like jealousy, possessiveness and co-dependence--people open to creatively structuring relationships based on honesty, consensuality and mutual respect while considering the distinctive needs, preferences and circumstances of those involved. I was looking for like-hearted individuals, more so than like-minded ones. After all, I want to be around people who think differently than I do because that’s how I grow and broaden my perspectives, but I want heart-centered connections with people interested in expanding our capacity to love.
The last three years have undoubtedly been a whirlwind of self-discovery since I started actively pursuing polyamory. It hasn’t been the path of least resistance. There have been bumps and triumphs. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been worth it.
I’m more self-aware with a clearer sense of my needs and desires, which I am better able to express. I have learned to be more authentic and transparent about what I bring to relationships and what I desire from them. And I’ve gotten to practice negotiating and compromising while setting healthy boundaries.
Polyamory has given me the opportunity to reclaim my sexuality and my individuality—not just who I love, but how I love, and how I choose to design relationships. Despite the challenges, I remain enthusiastic about exploring and cultivating viable alternatives to monogamy.