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By Angela Lemus-Mogrovejo
If you told me six and a half years ago that I would have a loving partner who makes me happy everyday, as well as amazing friends who I love and (sometimes) have sex and consider relationships with, I would have said you were full of it.
But that is my life.
Me, an anxious, nerdy transfemme with a transmasculine butch in a polyamorous relationship of six and a half years.
People tend to assume a lot about polyamorous relationships. Merriam-Webster defines polyamory as the “practice of having more than one romantic relationship at a time.” This definition does describe our current relationship model to an extent but it leaves out of a lot of the work and personal growth that got us here in the first place.
When I first met my partner Cricket, I was barely starting college. I arrived ashamed of my gender and sexuality, hoping that I could find someone who would tolerate my bisexuality and forgive me for being bigender. I assumed that one day I would get married and that we would both stay quiet about any sexual or romantic interest either of us would have in others. I thought, for the most part, that stifling those feelings while learning to intuitively know what my partner wanted in our relationship was the ultimate goal of a relationship. After spending time with Cricket, I found myself quickly realizing that this didn’t have to be the case.
Cricket is a talkative sexual health nerd, and, as much as I tease them about their talkativeness, it has really helped me grow and become more comfortable with myself in general. It has made me realize how needlessly stressful it was to hide my feelings about others. It has made me realize that a lot of my concerns about my partner’s needs and desires can be assuaged by checking in with them. And it has made me realize one of the three reasons why our relationship works: we talk out almost everything with each other.
I realize how trite that can come off to people but it is the best way I have to describe the boring work needed to make our relationship work. We didn’t start out monogamous and immediately switch to polyamory as a relationship structure, as hard as it is for some friends to believe. We moved into our current relationship structure slowly, having conversations along the way about what we felt comfortable doing with other people, including small things like kissing or cuddling. In the beginning, we were not even necessarily considering full on relationships with others and more figuring out our own boundaries around physical intimacy. In fact, I’m not even sure we would have moved into polyamory the way that we did had it not been for the mutual affection we shared for a queer femme we later became involved with. Even before that relationship moved into being a triad, we collectively had several conversations about one another’s desires and the boundaries we all felt comfortable having. And even after that triad ended, Cricket and I spent a lot of time talking about what dating other people would look like in future relationships.
In many ways, these conversations underscore how vital communication is to making not just romantic relationships work but really any relationships with friends, family members, lovers, etc.. Being with Cricket has made me value how much effort each person puts into a relationship. I love my friends, my lover friends, my family members, and my potential partners, and I appreciate how much energy goes into making those relationships worthwhile. This kind of effort is tiring, time intensive, and requires so much patience. But, ultimately, when everyone is on the same page, it makes for more fulfilling relationships overall, for me, for my romantic partner Cricket, and for anyone who I or they choose to get involved with.
And, in all honesty, doing our relationship this way has made me also realize the second reason why we work: we don’t treat jealousy like it doesn’t happen. Jealousy is something that happens all the time, whether you are in a monogamous relationship or (despite what some polyamorous people believe) in a non-monogamous arrangement. And while that can be frightening to realize, it is also useful to understand that jealousy is not an aimless, ungrounded feeling. Jealousy is jealousy of something in particular and is not an “indicator of true love” as monogamy tends to treat it. Instead, it more likely reflects basic needs that the jealous person is not having met, which often results in feelings like insecurity or loneliness that manifest through the jealousy.
We have both felt jealous, at one point or another, of the kinds of relationships the other has been able to have. We have both felt jealous about the time the other has spent with other people. However, when these moments do come up, we pull back and talk about our boundaries for interacting with other people and see if we are both comfortable with them. For me, that has led to many realizations about how I previously held double standards regarding how Cricket could interact with others-such as exes-versus how freely I could interact with my exes. In having these realizations, I have had to process my own insecurities and learn to do better by them as a result. More importantly, it has meant checking in with Cricket and realizing they don’t love me any less just because they kiss other people, fuck other people, or even love other people. They still love me in all my silly, nerdy, shy femme ways and are still happy to be with me after so many years. Addressing the jealousy as it occurs and remembering that everyone involved in our relationships has needs/feelings which can be different from one another’s makes it so this can remain the case.
Which leads me to the last big reason Cricket and I work so well together: we work through conflict in our relationship and accept the possibility we won’t last forever. If I am being honest, thinking about the end of a relationship with Cricket is not a pleasant thought for me and not something I hope happens anytime. If there is one topic I can imagine prompting immediate tension and anxiety in any serious relationship, it would be acknowledging the possibility that a separation is possible at any given moment. However, that is just it: I (and I am pretty sure Cricket as well) feel more comfortable staying together because of it. We don’t stay together just because we are trying to hold onto a sinking ship that should have been abandoned a long time ago. We don’t stay together just because we are used to being together and want to pretend things are fine when they aren’t. No, we stay together I think, in part, because we work through our problems and try not to placate one another with empty promises.
We stay together because we love each other.
We stay together because we want to be with each other.
We stay together because our relationship requires the kind of work we are both willing to put in to be with each other.
And this has been true for several years, through the many changes, traumas, and stresses we have both experienced in our life. Even in a relationship as seasoned as ours, there are still times when we lash out at one another or act petty over trivial problems. There are still times when we bottle up our emotions for fear of hurting the other person and spend time later talking it all out. But we make it work because we want to. We feel safe and secure enough in our boundaries and history with one another to do the “emotionally-precarious and vulnerable work conflict resolution can often be.”
At the end of the day, Cricket and I have lasted so long not because we decided to have a polyamorous relationship, but because we put in the time and effort to find the relationship model that worked best for us. In our case, that just happened to be a polyamorous relationship. In reality, any type of relationship takes communication, patience, and a willingness to grow with and love the other person as someone who can turn into someone who is vastly different from who they were when you first met them. Cricket and I have many years to grow, change, and develop new interests and, if it happens, maybe grow apart with other people.
That is scary but it is a risk worth taking. My partner Cricket is worth taking that risk with and I hope to keep putting in this work together for a very long time. And I hope, should anyone fall in love with them along the way, that that person is also willing to put in the effort that I know Cricket deserves.
So much so that, like me, they are in too much disbelief to realize they have someone as great as Cricket.