Alien Encounter (AKA: A Non-Monogamist Goes to a Wedding)

“’Til death do us part,” has always been replaced in my mind with, “’Til next Tuesday, then…we’ll see.”

When I was a child, I used to play house. Like most children, I would mimic what I grew up with, so, of course, I was often a single mother. I did have a healthy example of a relationship through my grandparents who to this are completely and madly in love. While I realize that high levels of commitment are possible, I tend to find them improbable, and have never desired them in my own life. I haven’t entertained the concept of marriage or long-term monogamy since back in the days of cabbage patch kids when I would receive pretend phone calls from a pretend absentee husband (who was always named after the boy I had a current crush on) telling me he’d be late again and to go ahead and start pretend dinner without him.

In my more recent romantic endeavors, which are slightly more real, I still never pretend to say forever. I’m the kind of person who changes so much from day to day, let alone year to year, that I think it’s unfair to make such a promise when you know it can’t be kept. I believe that marriage is great for some people, but fewer than we’re willing to admit, and definitely not me. “’Til death do us part,” has always been replaced in my mind with, “’Til next Tuesday, then…we’ll see.” So the thought of weddings seemed as make-believe as the phone calls I was receiving from Scott when I was seven years old in my playroom kitchen.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of queer friends, who up until recently didn’t even have the legal right to exchange vows, in addition to a lot of nomadic wanderers like myself who are equally either against or afraid of commitment. Those I know who are married were already in their matrimonial state when I found them, and lucky for me, I’ve never had to buy a dress just to watch them prove their love for one another. This luck has lasted for about fifteen years, but came to an abrupt end this last winter.

My current partner, like so many others, has a family. And his family, also like so many others, likes to get together around the holidays. His cousin happened to plan her wedding on January 2 in Florida. A strange date to me, but who am I to judge? This date happened to be a great way to ensure that everyone’s holidays revolve around a one special bride. Because it’s really the only time of year his family sees him, he was guilted into attending this silliness. Now, I’m not big on holidays, but I love New Years Eve. I also love trips to Florida, hotel sex, and free cake. I was promised all of these if I were to accompany him on this journey. So I went. And I discovered a few things, including but not limited to: weddings are weird.

The first thing I learned was that weddings have websites. As if the bride and groom are comedians trying to get road gigs, they’ve got an “about” page, a bio, and a schedule of events. Upon visiting their dot com, I discovered many things about the bride and groom. Apparently the bride was romantically sleeping off a headache before she came out of the bedroom. That’s when the groom got down on one knee! They like each other because they both like board games. Amazing that two people with such distinct similarities could ever have found each other. The schedule of events page at one point actually read, “the bride and groom will then go to their room, and be in there for approximately a half hour, before coming down to the reception…” Did they just tell us they were gonna fuck?! I’m sorry. “Consummate?” And a half hour? I can’t tell if they’re joking.

Before the ceremony

So we drive from California to Daytona where we meet his family with the usual, “hey how are ya, nice to meet ya, please don’t think of me as your next daughter-in-law…” greetings. Oh, did I mention I hadn’t met his parents yet? Yeah, so that happens. It’s fine. When you’re in a place surrounded by alligators, your partner’s parents don’t seem so bad.

The next day is the big event. Until now the only weddings I’d ever attended were Catholic, so I’m expecting a long ceremony including a full mass and no kiss at the end. I’m wrong. I’ve already had much of the hotel sex I’d been promised so I’m in a fairly good mood. It also helps that the wedding was not at a church, but rather held on a large patio at a hotel with a nicer pool than ours, making me wish I’d worn my swimsuit under my dress.

The ceremony

As soon as we get there, I feel as though I’m being sized-up by the entire family. I wish I’d brought a sign to wear around my neck that reads, “I’m not trying to join. I’m also not the reason he got divorced.” But I hear signs are out of fashion for weddings these days. In an attempt to keep it cool and casual, I stuff my face with hors d’oeuvres. I look around and there doesn’t appear to be any free cake just yet. Then I remember from the few weddings I’ve been to that the cake comes later. I decide I can wait, but not long.

Everyone eventually starts to head over to the chairs, set up in two separate columns, as if to say, “we like each other but we’re not family YET.” All the guests are asked to grab a rock from a basket. I think my question, “are we going to stone the bride?” is a fair one at this point. We take our seats and I learn something else about weddings: they have programs. Great, I love plays! I look for the bride’s headshot and bio with a blurb about how she’s been doing off-Broadway projects for so long and she’s super grateful to join the touring cast of RENT. It’s not there. But a schedule is, which is nice because I’m able to treat it like a countdown to cake.

The music begins and I can’t help but be distracted by a couple making out on the beach. They look like they’re really going for it, and I don’t understand why we’re all looking back at a bunch of girls in bad dresses walking awkwardly down an aisle when sexy fun times are happening right in front of us. The bride is wearing white, adding to the ever-growing list of things I don’t understand. I mean, we all read the website, right? They were living together. Am I being presumptuous when I say she’s probably not a virgin anymore? Maybe it’s possible with this couple, but honestly, why are we all so inclined to pretend? It’s like the “ooos” and “aaahhhs” that come out of everyone’s mouths as they look at the people marching one by one. It all feels so rehearsed, and why? BECAUSE IT IS! They rehearse these things! “Ooooo, the bride is glowing!” Well sure she is, and so are all of us. This is Florida, and that’s not glow, that’s sweat.

Dad symbolically kisses the bride goodbye forever, like he’s never going to see her again, before sitting in the front row where he’s got a better view of her now than he did when she went to college. “Goodbye forever…or until you move back in with me and your mom because you realize you shouldn’t have spent so much on a wedding and should’ve used that money for a down payment on a house.”

The next thing that happens is possibly my favorite thing in the world. The bride’s aunt gets up to speak. She reads a passage from one of the bride’s favorite books, which happens to be a Winnie the Pooh book. It’s cute because it’s about friends that last forever, but that’s not why I’m so psyched. The passage begins with the words, “Pooh is in me, Pooh is in all of us.” How am I not supposed to laugh?!?! WHY IS NO ONE ELSE LAUGHING?!?!?!

The man wearing the white collar tells us to think a positive thought for the bride and groom and put that energy into the rock before we pass the rock toward the middle of the aisle where someone with a basket will collect it. Great, I don’t even get to keep the rock?! Fine, I wish them good sex for as long as they can stand each other and the courage to get out of it if and when they ever feel it’s time before passing my rock to the middle.

As people are talking about forever, I can’t help but think to myself, how can you be so bold? How can anyone make a promise even for tomorrow, in a world where literally the only thing that’s for sure is change? How do you know you’re still going to be boring two years from now? Let alone fifty?! Why are you doing this to yourself? You’re an American woman who can buy her own land! You don’t need this. And his family doesn’t need goats in exchange for you. So why go through all of it? If you need the attention, become an actor.

The wedding is officially over and it’s time for cake! No? Still no cake?! Oh great, pictures. My partner’s mom tries to get me to pose with the family. I politely decline, three times. After two it feels a little less polite but I just don’t want to be a part of this memory. I want to be like a ghost. You feel my presence but you can’t quite put a finger on just how I look or what I say or how much cake I eat. Speaking of cake…

The reception

We head up to the reception and the bride and groom theoretically head up to their room to fuck like they said they would. I finally get some free food, and quickly realize that nothing’s free. My asparagus and potatoes come at the cost of waiting through several speeches before my partner’s mother switches her seat so she can sit next to me and attempt a Spanish Inquisition about her son, and myself, and how we met. It’s as though she’s expecting a sweet, romantic story. I tell her “online” and am vague with my answers in hopes to shut it down.

Throughout the evening, people cling on their glasses prompting the bride and groom to kiss. That’s right, like dogs with a pre-conditioned response. It’s Pavlov’s kiss. I can only hope this trained response carries over into their day-to-day lives. Maybe after the honeymoon, he’s at a work meeting and someone at the conference table accidentally hits their water glass with a pen. Next thing you know, he’s planting a big wet one on his boss. “Oops. Sorry about that, boss. I just got married.” “Ahh,” everyone gets it and laughs it off because he’s trained now.

I think it’s important to mention that I’m a person who likes to play games when she’s bored. So, I begin to play a game with my partner. I tell him that every time we hear the group say “Aw” at something adorable and/or sickeningly sweet, it’s one more guy that gets added to the gangbang he owes me for coming to this wedding. We may not be quite as traditional as the bride and groom, but we like games just as much!

So, we’ve watched the ancient tradition of a woman being given away as though she’s switching owners. We’ve also watched a series of awkward dances while I successfully avoided the dance floor myself, not because I don’t love dancing, but because I feel twerking is inappropriate in front of Christian grandparents with heart conditions. I’ve also successfully avoided pretending like I care about catching fake flowers at the end of the night. And best of all, I finally get my cake!!!

So, why do we get married?

The night was as successful as it could be, but I can’t help but wonder why this all still happens? Why do we still feel the need? I understand there are tax breaks that come with marriage, and certain rights that a married couple has that no one else does, like insurance coverage and other protections. But it doesn’t seem to be about that. If it were, everyone would just do this in a courtroom. So why? Why do people who are supposedly utterly and completely in love feel a need to go through this whole charade? And why is it so highly valued by some? I’ve grown up with girls whose main goal in life was marriage, and who feel like they’re not whole until they find someone to take through this archaic ritual.

It’s my understanding that love is between the people who are in it, and if it’s real, it doesn’t need to be shouted about. If you happen to be a person who needs a promise of forever, why do these particular traditions stick around? Why does the female need a rock that was probably found by an African living a terrible life just so some woman living across the globe can have something shiny on her finger? Why does she wear a big white dress to pretend like she’s this pristine, virginal thing when really she’s someone who should be proud of her past, whether it’s peppered with mistakes or not, because it’s what got her to where she is now? Why does the groom dress like all the other men and just stand there while he’s “given” a woman, “his” woman? Why is there an aisle? Why do all of these people need to be here to watch? When you look at it, really look at it, the only thing that makes sense about a wedding is the cake. I know why there’s cake.

The entire event left me feeling like an alien or a time traveler who knows the truth but can’t say anything because it’ll mess with the time space continuum. So I’ll say it now: if you’re in love, just be in love, for however long, with whomever it happens to be with. Be nice to each other. Listen to each other. Talk to each other. And if it fades away or becomes less fun, then allow each other to go your separate ways amicably and know that you’ll always have those beautiful memories of great hotel sex.

5 Things you Didn’t know About Polyamorous Relationships

I didn’t set out to be Polyamorous (poly). It just…sort of happened.

For the first 5 years of our marriage we were a pretty typical monogamous couple. One day, everything changed.

My husband told me he was attracted to a mutual friend of ours and she felt the same way. That was 5 years ago (and a few new lovers) ago.

Since then I’ve become a bit of an ambassador for this relationship style because it’s made me and my marriage better. So, here are some things you might not know about what it’s like to be in multiple loving relationships at the same time.

1. Polyamory is becoming more mainstream.

When CNN’s homepage features an article called Polyamory: When three isn’t a crowd and Business Insider features an article on how to make a polyamorous relationships work, you get the feeling this oddball thing might be going mainstream. The feeling was confirmed in a more scientific way when Google revealed that two of the top relationship searches of 2017 were about polyamory and open relationships.  

Stories of couples who looked the other way while their spouse slept with someone else are as old as the institution of marriage. And while the idea of openly dating and loving multiple people may be just as old, it’s only beginning to find acceptance in American culture today.

2. Poly relationships are different for everyone.

When my husband and I started down this path, one of the more difficult things was that we had no model for this kind of relationship. It wasn’t until then that I realized how much we learned about dating from “Saved by the Bell” and Seventeen magazine. We had others to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do. But with poly, we were pretty much on our own.

Sure, there’s Opening Up and The Ethical Slut. Even after reading that and more, it still felt like the blind leading the blind. As those books will tell you, there is no one right way to go about this.

Some couples never spend the night with their Other Significant Other (OSO), some couples have rules that they got to meet the OSO, other couples never want to meet or hear about the OSO. How were we supposed to know which rules were right for us?

There’s no easy answer. You just go with what feels right and occasionally make mistakes and learn from them that what you thought was acceptable doesn’t work after all.

3. Jealousy can be a challenge … sometimes.

Some poly people have a tough time with jealousy, others almost never experience it. I had a really tough time with jealousy in the beginning. But as I saw that my husband did come back to me, that our life wasn’t destroyed by his having a date with another woman, I began to trust him. And perhaps more importantly, I began to trust this new type of relationship.

Then I found someone. I truly felt comfortable having experienced, for myself, that I could date (and maybe even fall in love with), someone new who doesn’t  take anything away from my marriage.

These days, I don’t feel any more jealousy over my husband having a date than some other social obligation. I’m happy that he’s happy — really!

young couple in swimwear

4. Just like regular dating, it’s both fun and heartbreaking

When I started dating my OSO, I had been married for 6 years and had been with my now husband for 10. Falling in love with someone new was a seriously glorious experience. I never thought I would get the opportunity to feel the thrill of being asked by someone I liked on a date. “This is actually going to happen!”

Getting to know someone on that level was enlightening in so many ways. Most importantly, I learned a lot about myself and became more confident. My confidence grew not because I was dating but because there was something I wanted and I was courageous about going after it.

Of course, when that relationship ended I was heartbroken. And it’s been challenging to watch my husband be hurt. But we’ve grown closer and kinder to one another as we’ve supported each other through breakups. This benefit is one of the best things about polyamory; when you break up with someone, you aren’t alone!

5. It can be just as mundane as monogamy sometimes

Anyone practicing polyamory these days will tell you that scheduling can be the single most annoying part of the lifestyle. However, scheduling and time management is something we all navigate, poly or not.

Being stretched too thin and having too much to do is one of the less fantastic attributes of polyamory. But you probably already know what that’s like! Whether you’re spread too thin because of your kid’s ballet lessons or because you want time to spend with your OSO (or both), it’s a drag.

But you have the consolation of knowing that the reason (one of them at least) you’re so busy is because you’re doing something fun, enriching, and outside the bounds of what’s “normal.” “I don’t have as much time as I wish I did to have fabulous sex with my husband and my boyfriend” is a fun “problem” to have.

Exploring Your own Relationship Style

Whether you’re poly, thinking about being poly, or totally happy with monogamy, the good news is the world is becoming a more accepting place. Any relationship style is going to take some work and balance on your part but it’s always worth it in the end. Making connections with other wonderful people (however you go about it)  is what life is all about!

If you want to read more about polyamory check out Monogamy = Monotony?—Why Couples Go RogueMillions Trying Open Marriage, or How an Open Relationship Can Possibly Work.

Should Polyamorous Couples Be Welcome During Pride Month?

Big strides have been made in acceptance of alternative relationship styles but there’s still work to be done.

There’s an old joke in which someone (usually a child) says the alphabet and leaves out the letter P, prompting someone else to ask “Where’s the P?” This of course gives the child a reason to declare “running down my leg” in a fit of giggles.

But during this wonderful month of LGBTQ Pride, I too am wondering “Where’s the P?” Where are the polyamorous in all this celebration of love in all its varieties?

And don’t forget, if you’re struggling with relationship challenges or working on finding the right person, we’re here to help. Join LOVE TV today!

Progress Made

Many (though certainly not all) of those who fall outside the traditional, heteronormative spectrum have found acceptance. The amount of progress made on this front in the last 15 years is staggering (though this is not meant to ignore the places where there is still work to be done).. But those of us who are polyamorous still do not have even this level of acceptance.

Should polyamorous relationships be welcome at LGBT pride

How Did I Get Here?

I remarked the other day that I find it interesting that of my high school besties, all of whom happen to be either gay or bi, now have lifestyles that are more accepted than mine. The four of us had wonderful adventures after school and during the summer. Now it’s mumble mumble (don’t make me add it up) years later and we all lead different, happy lives. One is a lesbian couple, married with a beautiful child, another is a fun-loving gay man who wouldn’t be caught dead at a Mardi Gras party without a costume, and the third has been dating both men and women for years.

None of us would have predicted that I would be the one hiding my romantic proclivities. A few close friends know my husband and I are polyamorous but we are selective in who we tell. Even some friends who do know would be made uncomfortable if we talked openly of our Other Significant Others.

From the outside, my marriage looks like everyone else’s. We get up, go to work, and commute home like most people in their 30’s. Except that my day might end with my staying the night with a great guy who isn’t my husband. My husband knows where I am and every one is quite happy with the situation.

Sure there are stories of this “thruple” or that “thruple” but these are still viewed as oddities and in most cases are not legally binding marriages. I know it’s inevitable that I’ll run into a coworker or family friend while out on a date someday. They will likely assume I am cheating on my husband as anything else is actually unthinkable. Happily if they happen to be judgy they aren’t the kind of person whose opinion I would value anyway.
Let’s Celebrate

Should polyamorous relationships be welcome at LGBT pride

If “Love is love” (and indeed it is), why is it so different if it’s more than two?

As we saw very clearly demonstrated with gay and lesbian acceptance, once people realize a friend or family member is part is this “other” group it becomes harder to hate that group and easier to have a productive conversation about our differences and commonalities.

As Poly individuals “come out” we’ll begin to see more acceptance and understanding. I would love it if my friends knew that my guy friend and drinking buddy is actually my boyfriend and I love him dearly.

Read more in our A Beginner’s Guide To Ethical Non Monogamous Relationships.