Condoms. A crude reminder of my unwillingness to be only with her. After a night of passion I had hurried out of the house, rushing from politics tute to French class, to lunch, to work, to dinner and finally I am in her arms and we are making out and then the pillow moves and there they are. Two guilty condom wrappers sit on my mattress, symptoms of something that isn’t infidelity, but which I know hurts her almost as much.
Out of distance, convenience and what I thought was a mutual desire to hook up with others, we decided not to be exclusive. Neither of us was really happy with it, but living in different cities makes it harder to stay on the same page. She felt threatened by a guy who I was sleeping with regularly, and I felt threatened by an ex she’d hooked up with since meeting me. Later she revealed that she didn’t really want the open-ness. She hadn’t wanted to look too keen, and more than anything she didn’t want me to feel bad for wanting other people. In the end she made me think I meant less to her than I did.
Lying there in bed, legs entangled, the condom wrappers beside us were awkward witnesses to the scene; the deliberate action of throwing them in the bin would be too strained. The last thing either of us wanted was for the other to feel uncomfortable, and yet, as we discussed what we could call each other, and the ideal situation for each of us, the awkwardness was tangible. I, like the condoms, witnessed the situation, a central character but unable to express my true feelings.
In the past I’ve been committed to the point of being almost insular, and perhaps I’ve developed a fear of doing that again. I fear the idea of long distance, imagining that I would be either too distant or completely besotted, abandoning work, friends and academic commitments to take spontaneous bus trips to see her. I don’t want to end up spending nights swooning through the phone, my social life becoming something of the past. I’ve never been one to find the healthy medium.
When I first started seeing two people, I was surprised how many friends said polyamory would be too hard for them. I thought that with enough communication it would all work out, and besides, I felt so lucky to have two different people keen to be my non-exclusive lovers. In the end, my emotions would be my own enemy. It isn’t easy to defy ingrained societal expectations and let your love for one person remain just as strong as you fall for another. Somehow no matter how much you communicate, someone ends up confused. The condom wrappers were the symptom of a bad idea, at least from his point of view.
Now I understand why so many of my progressive, intelligent friends don’t think they could handle polyamory. It isn’t so much the communication factor: as things evolve, particularly in large, interwoven-community style relationships unlike mine, this can be complex and time consuming, but worth it to keep everyone happy. In fact the norm of honest, detailed communication should exist no matter how many people you are seeing, to lessen the risk of jealousy, heartbreak and betrayal. It’s hard to communicate your emotions when you’re not sure how you feel. My mind was a confusing place as all this happened, and eventually I decided it was easier to figure out myself by myself. Maybe it will work someday, but I’m not in the right place for polyamory right now. So I went from two lovers to zero.