Well- this has been some year eh? The whole concept of a polycule and multiple relationships is suspect in a year when getting together and seeing other people was mostly against the rules, let alone meeting new people, yet… we endure. For now, let me gather all the words and present my annual end of year overview of the polycule as it is and has evolved this year. (For more links to previous updates- see the bottom of this page.)
Polycule- A romantic network, or a subset of relationships within a romantic network, whose members are closely connected. They can be intimate, familiar, romantic, or sexual in nature, or antyhing in between. The polycule created is unique to the people involved and the variations they create.
Stefan– We always start with Stefan. As my longest-term partner that is his place. Happily, after a little over 4 years- that is STILL his place. I figured out the other day that more than half of our relationship has been long-distance. (I currently live in the US and he is in Berlin.) That’s a long time. One of the things I love most about our relationship is that there is no pressure for us to BE anything other than what we are in any particular moment.
We go through periods of time where we text and go back and forth quite a bit, and others where we rarely speak at all. But we both know we are here for each other no matter what phase we are in. We just haven’t had an opportunity or necessity to “be there” in any other way than just checking in, for a long time. We recently had a little more digital sexy times. I sent him a pic of a new toy I just bought and told him how it made me think of my times with him, and he asked me for some photos and videos. We haven’t done that before! So that’s been a nice little holiday twist!
I’d say more than any other relationship I’ve had since starting this polyamory journey, my relationship with Stefan has taught me about being open to whatever evolves, to allow a relationship to find its level. This was never going to be a traditional escalator relationship, yet I stepped fully into allowing it to be what it would be, and I have never regretted it.
At this point, my hope is that I will FINALLY get back to Berlin this summer (hopefully by then the pandemic will be mostly contained and travel will be a more feasible option.) I would expect to see him then, even if just a few times. (He lives outside of Berlin now with his local girlfriend and their young daughter, so it’s a little more difficult than it was before for us, even when we’re in the same place.) But in the meantime, steady on.
Said- Said is my second longest relationship and currently the most complicated one. We have been together for about 16 months. I lived with him in Colombia for most of the pandemic lockdown months (8 months). In August, I left him and moved back to the US. I felt it was necessary for my emotional and physical well being. We were drinking way too much and fighting all the time. I truly could not do it anymore. Yet, since I’ve been here, we’ve been trying to find a balance and figure out what our relationship looks like now. It’s not going so well.
Our lives are so different, they always have been but while I was traveling my life was less settled and obviously much less American. Now, I am living in the US again for the first time in 6 years. I have settled heavily into this place, into my home, into being here. That means less travel, probably fewer chances of going back to Colombia (unlike Berlin, I have no friends in Colombia except for him.) The differences in our lives are much more noticeable now.
He is working. When we lived together he was studying full time and running his small business. Now he is supporting himself full time by driving Uber and he’s still trying to run his small business. This, in the middle of a pandemic ridden world, is even tougher than usual, and this man feels the pressure even on a good day. What that means to me is while I am enjoying my life, I feel good, and I am happy, he is absolutely struggling. He is not happy. He is barely making it work. That is a huge dichotomy.
I am always a positive person even when things really suck. He is not. This has manifested itself in him not communicating with me at all because he knows he doesn’t feel positive. He gets so deep in his head, he just cannot reach out. He is definitely a dark and broody kind of bloke. Also, I find it difficult to share my happy times and the things I am doing because I know how different my experience is right now from his. Our communication has trickled to a good morning or a good night text (maybe) most days and promises of talking but never actually doing it.
So, where my love languages are words of affirmation and quality time, I am not getting ANY of that. It’s very stressful and very sad. It doesn’t matter how many times I ask for more communication, if he is not capable of it because of the way he functions and handles stress, then he is not capable (and that is ok) and I cannot change that. I’ve been trying to change my expectations, but that is hard too.
From the very beginning in this relationship, there has been the idea that we would plan our lives around each other. Be together. Grow old together. It was especially deep and lovely because he knows me, he sees me. I could have my other partners, and so could he. We could be swingers together and poly together… it was powerful stuff. He is also the first relationship I had that was truly long term, committed, dedicated, looking forward to future growth, since my divorce. When my BFF pointed that out, I started to cry, that only made me realize the truth in those words.
That is a lot to give up. That is a lot to let go of. Especially in a pandemic, especially when I live in a new place where I have literally one friend and one family member and no one else yet (well you’ll see below that could be changing a little… but still.) It’s nice to have someone who loves you and you love. The problem is, do I really have him if we never talk? If all there are is promises of talking, but then it doesn’t happen?
Clearly, the expectations of this relationship are different than the one with Stefan. It has always been full of commitments, expectations, and plans. But what happens when none of that is happening? When none of it feels possible? When I don’t even know if I want it anymore. Recently this relationship causes me more sadness than joy, and that is not how I want to live my life. So well, there you go. I DID say this is my most complicated relationship- and what you just read is honestly the first time I am putting all these thoughts together and out there so, I suppose we’ll find out in the 2021 first-quarter update what the final outcome of this is. But I am not hopeful, to be honest. (We broke up just after I wrote this! As you see, I even changed how his name appears in the polycule image.)
Dexter Freedman- I’ve been seeing Dexter for about 6 weeks. I am fortunate that in the part of New York where I live the virus numbers have ALWAYS been low and continue to be some of the lowest in the country. This means that while I am taking all the precautions, I also felt comfortable going on dates with a guy who is also taking precautions. (Sadly despite his precautions, he is an essential worker and is now recovering from COVID! I self-quarantined an additional 14 days from the last time I saw him to make sure I was ok and didn’t bring any issues to anyone else I love!)
He is adorable and sweet and funny and all the things I didn’t know I kind of need in my life right now. I tend to think I only want edgy, kinky, deep people, but I realize for me, variety is the beautiful spice of life. He is super handy and I am 100% sure his love language is acts of service. He brought his tools over to my place on our second date and hung-up some window planters, weatherproofed my door, and tightened bolts and windows, etc. It was so sweet! The other day even though we can’t see each other right now, he reminded me that he would be over when he felt better after the holidays to hang up my curtains and put the mirror over my mantle and not to do it myself!
He is NOT kinky. He is VERY vanilla. In the end, he is also monogamous and wants that whole dream of a single life-partner, against the world together. But he also is open to just figuring it out between us and see how things go for as long as that works for both of us. He was in my office the other day and left me the sweetest “I Like You!” note, and today he texted that he misses me since he’s been sick and we’ve both been quarantining. I like him too!
We did have a good discussion last time we saw each other about boundaries around seeing other people. We agreed that when either of us meets someone else that we want to regularly spend more time with, we will tell the other person and figure it out from there. I don’t know exactly what that means for him, I know he does feel that he wants to be with someone monogamously where they are not sleeping with other people, but I don’t know what that means specifically for me in this moment. I guess I will find out because…
New Guy #2- I have only been on one date with NG#2, and that usually wouldn’t be enough for me to feature him in the polycule overview, but there is something about this guy. He IS the super deep, kinky, sexy guy I tend to want around. (The best part of polyamory is I can mostly have it all! LOL) He is a social justice crusader and a special education teacher. When we met in an empty local bar down the street from me, we barely remembered to order our beers because we had already launched into these deep crazy conversations!
I kissed him before we left the bar, it felt like I was literally just drawn into him by some other world energy force! Crazy right? He has struggled to date recently because he lives a bit out in the country and also has three little guys. He has found many women want more than he is able to commit to right now and they have expectations that a relationship is going to go up the escalator and into marriage. But that’s not what he really wants, nor what he can give with the structure of his life.
Fortunately for me, I do prefer to let a relationship find its level and I believe when we communicate what we are able to give or not give upfront, it makes it a little easier to understand and set the expectations accordingly. I know he won’t be the guy who comes over and just hangs out on a random Tuesday, and his littles will always take a lot of his time and energy. That all works for me.
I know, I know, after only one date why is this even a “thing?” I don’t know. It just is. We even had a conversation about how “quietly confident” we both feel in this relationship, whatever it is meant to be. We had to cancel a date because of Dexter’s COVID and me self-quarantining, and it didn’t feel “frantic” like “oh no if we don’t have a second date this is going to fall away and fade!” Because we both just knew, “I am not going anywhere. We’ll see each other again when we can.” And I really believe that will happen.
We also really connected physically. His kinks so far suit mine very well and we are looking forward to a lot of future fun and explorations together. We even did a little sexting- which is not usually my thing, and DANG! It was fun and hot! It was nice to kind of get to know his sexy style even while we can’t see each other and learn it in person. Stay tuned and we’ll see how this one goes!!
BFF- As you may know, my BFF is my platonic life-partner. She’s my person more than anyone else. Of all the plans and all the things either of us decides and does, we both know in the end, we will be growing old together, whatever that looks like. Now that I live in NY, I finally get to see her regularly again! When I came back in August, I moved in with her until I decided what I was going to do. When I decided to move here and settle down again full-time, I stayed in her city. I am actually only 1.5 miles from her place! It’s been so wonderful! I left NY for a job in Minneapolis 12-13 years ago, so we have a lot of time to catch up on! It’s great to decide to pop out and do some errands, call and see if she wants to come, then all of a sudden we’re on a BFF adventure.
I love us being able to support one another in little things like picking up her garbage cans from the street when she is out of town, or her bringing me soup she made, or she and her sister popping over for an impromptu dinner party. We have keys to each other’s homes as well as hearts! (Awwww) It has really made my transition from full-time traveler to full-time US resident again much easier being close to her.
Honestly, this has been a difficult but wonderful four months since I got home. I know how to make friends, all my traveling has helped me to figure out what to do to make a nice little community of people for myself. The problem is in a pandemic world, none of those methods are possible. So it’s lovely to have my BFF and my wonderful long-distance friends who keep me going and from feeling too lonely. Honestly, all the traveling I did, moving from place to place so frequently meant I have been alone this past 6 years, more often than not, so I am totally prepared and I love my solo life. I am looking forward to settling back into that and leaning into what that means to me here and now.
But, I am also looking forward to the time when we can get out and do the gathering needed to make new connections, to forge new friendships. I want to find myself again not as an adventurous ex-pat but as ME in my former American word, but with a different life than the last time I lived here. It is challenging, not just due to the pandemic, but learning who you are and how to be that person in new circumstances is generally difficult and requires intentional work. I am trying to do that and allow myself the grace to figure it all out.
In the meantime, Happy Holidays! Hoping we can put the trauma of 2020 to good use and that we can all have an amazing miraculous and beautiful 2021!
Check out previous “Evolution of a Polycule” posts to see how things have evolved over the past few years: