Never Have I Ever: Been In A Polyamorous Relationship
Did you ever play “Never Have I Ever” in college? Here are the rules: Everyone puts up ten fingers, and you go around in a circle and one by one share something that you’ve never done (and as human nature goes, the experiences shared are usually sexual). If you’ve done it, you have to put one finger down, and of course, drink. The first person to put all 10 fingers down loses or wins, depending on how you look at it.
One day we all have to become grown-ups, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop playing Never Have I Ever, or better yet — checking things off your bucket list. AskMen is still playing, and the rules are simple: In each edition of this column, we speak to a couple about something they’ve always wanted to try in bed. They tell us about the fantasy, and why it turns them on. Then, they actually do it, and we get the lowdown on how the experience matched the fantasy.
Sara and Jared met in 2010, before Tinder even existed, and pretty much fell in love on their first date. They moved in together and began to plan a life together. About six years in, Jared slipped and cheated. At the same time, Sara had become very distant from him as she was growing closer and closer to a coworker.
They were going to break up, until they did something incredibly hard: They made the decision to forgive one another, learn from their mistakes, and stay together. And for them, that meant switching from a monogamous relationship to a polyamorous relationship, despite neither of them having any experience with the relationship format.
Over the phone, the New York couple got ultra-vulnerable and honest about their decision, how hard it was (and is) and shared advice for other long-term couples considering their options.
AskMen: So, what prompted you to try polyamory?
Sara: Well, my point is proved by you writing about it, but basically, polyamory is everywhere. We live in New York City and know plenty of poly people but having been together since 2010 when it was still sort of underground, we just never tried it. But then, as happens in long-term relationships, we had our issues and decided to try opening up rather than breaking up.
Can you elaborate on what you mean by “issues?”
Jared: I cheated, basically. Not basically, it’s the facts. I was out of town for a concert with friends, Sara and I were going through a rough patch, and I went home with some random girl. It meant nothing, but it killed me. I knew I didn’t want to lose Sara and the life we built, but I also was scared to promise that it would never happen again. So, after many, many talks, and couples therapy, we decided to open up our relationship.
Sara: I wanted to die when I found out that he cheated. But honest to god, the idea of him having sex with someone else didn’t bother me. However, the fact that he kept it a secret for weeks, unknowingly possibly exposing me to STDs, and feeling like an idiot for living in the dark while his friends knew, killed me. It was the dishonesty, not the sex.
So why go with polyamory? Polyamorous is a Latin word that translates to more than one love. Most poly people date more than one person. Why not just sexually open up?
Jared: Well, on the flip side, not to totally call you out, but Sara wasn’t the perfect partner at the time either.
Sara: I didn’t sleep with anyone else, but I was having what I realize in retrospect was an emotional affair. I became super close with a coworker. We wrote each other intimate emails daily, and he became the person I turned to, not Jared. I just wasn’t present. I thought I was falling in love with my coworker, but I also still loved Jared, and oh God, it was so confusing. I did love more than one person. So after many, many long nights and difficult conversations, we decided that even if we called it an open relationship, at least for me, feelings may become involved with other partners at some point. Polyamory is a more honest term for us.
Jared: It’s funny, what was hard for me was thinking of Sara f*cking other men. I can be sexually jealous. I didn’t really care if she became close with someone, as long as she didn’t just disappear from me. But for her, it was the opposite. It was about the time and emotions. Different people process jealousy differently.
How long ago was this, and how has your relationship changed since you began life as a poly couple?
Jared: This was about a year ago, and honestly, we’re still figuring it out. We still disagree and get jealous. We still go to couples’ therapy. I have two secondary partners I see regularly, whereas Sara dates less, but has sex with more people. Ha, it’s hard. I tell you. It’s more honest than monogamy, at least for us, but I don’t have an easy answer for you. We’re still figuring it out.
Sara: As a quick side note, we’ve also become involved in New York’s poly community, which has been a lifesaver. Having other people to talk to to remind you that yes, you can be poly and still feel jealousy, and friends who don’t judge is everything. Plus, the pool of people we date and sleep with are most often also poly and seeing others who understand the lifestyle saves you a lot of time and possible hurt feelings of bringing someone new into the lifestyle. I mean, we’re already new.
Jared: Yeah, we don’t use dating apps much. We go to poly cocktails and events and meet other people in real life. Old school dating for the modern lifestyle.
First of all, thank you for being so open about how difficult it’s been. I think a lot of people assume poly people just live in an alternate universe of constant sex and no hard feelings. Any advice for monogamous folks considering it?
Sara: Well, ultimately, we decided to open up because we didn’t want to lose one another. People break up all the time over coworker jealousy or cheating that was just meaningless sex. I think such things happen far more often than most want to admit. What I’ve learned from the decision to try polyamory is that love becomes a decision. Yes, at first, it’s a spark and a feeling, but that NRE [new relationship energy, which is a term the poly community uses] doesn’t last. At some point continuing a relationship is a decision. It makes me really sad to think of all the couples who genuinely loved one another but broke up over a drunk hook-up. We became poly because we decided we wanted to be together while accepting monogamy can be really unrealistic and hard as hell.
Jared: She’s better spoken than I, but yes to all that. And just like you said, it’s hard. Get ready to talk about your relationship… a lot.