I Have Two Boyfriends—And They Know About Each Other!

Can you imagine being in more than one relationship at once?
PHOTO: istockphoto

When women think about The One, they might imagine a meet-cute in a coffee shop or running towards a beautiful man in cinematic rain. For some people, finding one amazing person and being in a relationship with them is great.

Finding a second one? Yes, please. And keeping both of them? Definitely.

What Is Polyamory?

People like thiswho seek and maintain more than one committed relationship at a timeare polyamorous. Time defines it as "having more than one consensual sexual or emotional relationship at once." As you might have guessed from the "poly" part of the word, it means that a person might have one boyfriend, then a second one, even a third one, or maybe a girlfriend, too. And the really mind-boggling part is this: All these boyfriends and/or girlfriends? They know about each other.

This is polyamory. And we found some people who were willing to talk about it.

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Glerren Bangalan

Age + Occupation: 28, writer, events coordinator, host, and performer

Courtesy of Glerren Bangalan

How did you know you were polyamorous?

When I realized that I wanted to have an intimate romantic connection with more than one person and not have it hidden away.

I just felt like I just had so much love and affection to give that I could afford to share it with other people.

Have you been in monogamous relationships before? How did you know it was not for you?

No disrespect to my previous partner, but there was a point when I found myself wondering about pursuing romantic connections with other people. It wasn't because I didn't love my partner, I just felt like I just had so much love and affection to give that I could afford to share it with other people.

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How is polyamory different from being in an open relationship?

The way I see it, open relationships cover just the sexual side of things. But poly people want more than thatwe want to pursue intimate connections, romance, domesticity, the whole shebang, but with more than one person.

How many relationships are you in right now?

Two. One is long-term and one that just started.

How do you make it work?

Scheduling, combined with lots of patience, understanding, and communication.

Does it get complicated for you?

It only gets complicated when the people I date aren't polyamorous themselves or [are] unfamiliar with the concept. Given that our culture still leans toward the conservative side, some find it hard to wrap their heads around the concept of polyamory.

Don't you worry that you spread yourself too thinly? Why or why not?

It's always a concern, but I have since learned to trust my partners and our ability to communicate. If somebody feels neglected or lonely, we all trust each other to say something.

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Do you get jealous? Has jealousy come up in your relationships? How do you deal with it?

I get envious more than jealous, actually. I'm my partner's non-domestic partner (meaning I don't live with him), and I'm really good friends with his domestic partner. Sometimes I just feel inggit that they get to be domestic together. But then I remind myself that that doesn't necessarily mean that my relationship with them is anything less.

How do you explain, and how do people react to, the fact that you are polyamorous?

I'm pretty selective when it comes to the people I tell. So far, the reactions have been non-judgmental.

Danger Gaerlan

Age + Occupation: 28, entrepreneur

How did you know you were polyamorous?

I suppose I always knew, but I just didn't have a name for it. I learned about the terms when I started hearing about non-monogamous couples. That's when the term "polyamory" came up, and I had an epiphany that that's what I've been this whole time.

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Have you been in monogamous relationships before? How did you know it was not for you?

I began practicing a polyamorous lifestyle around four years ago. Prior to that, my relationship was monogamous, and all my relationships were monogamous.

How is polyamory different from being in an open relationship?

Both open relationships and polyamory fall under the larger umbrella of non-monogamy, but polyamorous relationships are often committed relationships.

How many relationships are you in right now?

Three romantic relationships.

How do you make it work?

Communication. You have to learn to talk about things that would break a normal relationship. You have to learn not to be defensive of your flaws, and more accepting of others' flaws. You have to learn to fight together instead of against each other. And you have to manage your expectations against what people are capable of giving you.

Jealousy is inescapable in any relationship. Polyamorous relationships are not excluded from this.

Does it get complicated for you?

Well, imagine multiplying the problems of a normal relationship by the number of people you're dating. You are dealing with a more complex web of connections than you would find in a monogamous relationship. Other than that, there's the judgment from people with closed minds.

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Do you worry that you spread yourself too thinly? Why or why not?

That's a problem I consider all the time. Love might not be finite, but time and money certainly are. I can only be in one place at a time. It's why I've decided, for now, to not date outside my three relationships.

Do you get jealous? Has jealousy come up in your relationships? How do you deal with it?

Jealousy is inescapable in any relationship. Polyamorous relationships are not excluded from this. The best way to deal with it is to be communicative and to remember the core principles necessary for polyamory to work. As a polyamorous person, I am not looking for the role of girlfriend to be filled. I am making spaces for people to be with me, and because every person is unique, they are irreplaceable.

How do you explain, and how do people react to, the fact that you are polyamorous?

I just often say that I'm in a polyamorous/open-ish relationship. More often than not, those with negative opinions keep it to themselves. Those who are more vocal about their judgment, I refuse to associate with.

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Dante Gagelonia

Age + Occupation: 40, communications consultant

Courtesy of Dante Gagelonia


How did you know you were polyamorous?

It wasn't a sudden lifestyle change or an abrupt epiphany; more like a gradual coming to terms with my personality and my patterns.

I had always had trouble with the traditional rules of relationships as reinforced by Filipino culture. It was only relatively recently that I realized a polyamorous framework was a healthier and more constructive perspective than my opinion of myself before, which was that I was just terrible at commitment and fidelity because I kept getting involved with multiple people.

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Recognizing that I'm poly has allowed me to turn that judgment on its head. Loyalty is, in fact, the whole point: It’s recognizing that I can (and apparently need to) be openly committed to more than just one person.

Have you been in monogamous relationships before? How did you know monogamy was not for you?

Yes, a few times, including the initial years of my current relationship with my domestic/primary partner.

The realization that monogamy wasn't the right fit for how I process relationships was primarily thanks to the candid discussions I had (and continue to have) with her. Even before we got together as a monogamous couple, our interpersonal dynamic was always about examining and discussing every little thing, including how we would relate to each other and other people.

While she doesn't identify as poly herself, she helped me validate two very important things: One was that being monogamous doesn't work for me because it consistently led to unhealthy actions to compensate. The other was that my being monogamous isn't a requirement for the two of us to have a healthy, stable, and happy relationship.

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How is polyamory different from being in an open relationship?

From what I've seen, the open relationship label carries less of a responsibility towards other partners but still operates with some traditional romantic ground rules. It's essentially monogamy, but without the territoriality, and with varying degrees of involvement with people who aren't your primary partner.

My poly framework (keep in mind that every poly framework is different because people have different relationship needs) is about having responsibly committed relationships that coexist with one another. Poly relationships are functionally open, but open relationships aren't automatically about polyamory.

How many relationships are you in right now?

I'd rather not answer this out of respect for their privacy. My partners and I don't hide that we're involved with each other, but I prefer talking about that in person.

How do you make it work?

Communication and negotiation like you wouldn’t believe.

Conceptually, it takes a lot of love and trust, but really, it’s about talking to each other and reaching considerate compromises.

Come to think of it, it's communication and negotiation that you should believe, and that you absolutely should have with your loved ones regardless of whether you're mono or poly.

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For a polyamorous framework to work, all the people involved must be on the same team. I don't mean that we all should be intimate in the same way with one another (although that does happen for some people), but it's critical that we all agree to help each other the best way we can to live well.

Conceptually, it takes a lot of love and trust, but really, it’s about talking to each other and reaching considerate compromises.

So yeah, we talk. All the time. We bring things up and hash things out because subtext and silence are the enemies of relationships. They’re dangerous in monogamous relationships, and outright lethal in polyamorous contexts.

Does it get complicated for you?

Yes, although I prefer the term complex, because it carries less of a negative connotation. Being poly, at least for me, multiplies engagement and responsibility. I do my best to make sure that my time, energy, and attention are allocated responsibly among the people I’m involved with. That means extensive scheduling awareness, conscientious attention to each other’s details, and lots of compromise.

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Because we're all human, things don't always go according to plan, and occasionally there are disappointments, flare-ups, and mishandled situations. We dust ourselves off every time, though, and do what we can to mend things and move forward. We soothe ourselves and each other, figure out where things went awry, and work towards improving.

Do you worry that you spread yourself too thinly? Why or why not?

Always. There are only so many days in our lives, and only so much energy available in each day. But I do my best anyway, because I love the people I love.

Do you get jealous? Has jealousy come up in your relationships? How do you deal with it?

Absolutely. It doesn't come up often, but it does. It's a natural by-product of being emotionally invested, and we recognize it as a symptom of an underlying point of insecurity. Whenever it comes up, we talk about it and determine how to address the feelings that it may be growing from.

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Of course, it’s not always so easy. Working through jealousy can be fraught with stress and emotion. The important thing is that we always go back to those two things that everyone should practice in relationships: communication and negotiation.

We do our best to sort it out because it's the responsible thing to do with the people we love.

How do you explain, and how do people react to, the fact that you are polyamorous?

To people whom I think may not appreciate or understand, I simply say that I'm in an open relationship. If it seems like a constructive conversation is possible, I’m frank about the fact that I’m involved with more than one person. Not in a kiss-and-tell way, but in the same way I would politely discuss the public-facing aspects of any relationship.

I'm very particular about not wearing the poly label like a badge, though. While I feel no shame for it, it's not something I feel I should be prideful about.

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So far, the reactions I've gotten have been along the lines of curiosity, mostly about logistical concerns.

Talia Ruiz

Age + Occupation: 24, working in IT, geekery, and equality advocacy

Courtesy of Talia Ruiz

How did you know you were polyamorous?

I've always found the execution of monogamy weird even as a child. I found jealousy and territoriality illogical. I figured, if I really love someone, I'd want the world to know how wonderful this person is, which I think [is how] most people feel. [It's just that I’m also happy] when my partner meets other awesome people to date. When I was younger, I met someone who heard me out and suggested that I read up on polyamory. Eventually, I decided I'd try for non-monogamy in my own relationships. It didn't always pan out, of course, but I knew that it felt much more natural to me.

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Have you been in monogamous relationships before? How did you know it was not for you?

My first relationship was monogamous, and I tried it again a few years ago. I just felt very stifled by it. My partners are always very different, and the involvement we share with each other is always different. I just feel more at ease because polyamory gives me the freedom and means to make sure I stay happy. I know there is the responsibility of being attached to a lot of people, and yes, that gets difficult, but I think it's worth it. I feel that monogamy limits me and my partner, because I know I can't be their everything, in the same way they can’t be my everything.

How is polyamory different from being in an open relationship?

An open relationship [depends] on the relationship. Me, I'm polyamorous regardless of my relationship status. With my primary partner, we have a polyamorous relationship. But without him, I am still a polyamorous person, with an interest and eagerness to maintain multiple relationships, it's just that I don’t have a primary partner.

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In fact, before [I had my current primary] relationship, I called myself a solo-poly person, because I wasn't sure if I was interested in having a primary partner in my life. Besides, I was perfectly happy with my secondary partner and the various people I was involved with, in varying degrees.

We try to set time every week or so to bring up any questions or concerns in a safe space. We even have a Google Doc to track the things we agree on!

How many relationships are you in right now?

I have my primary partner, and a secondary relationship right now, but I'm still also flirting with and hanging out with a few other people.

How do you make it work?

With a lot of communication, care, patience, and reassurance. We try to set time every week or so to bring up any questions or concerns in a safe space. We even have a Google Doc to track the things we agree on!

Does it get complicated for you?

Oh definitely. At this point, I don't really see the strict categories of relationship types anymore. Sometimes it gets difficult to explain what people are in my life! I don't understand how people identify and label how much someone matters to them, when I think it’s so fluid. I don't even consider sexual contact as the [biggest factor], because I have dear relationships that are non-sexual, and that doesn't make them any less deep, relevant or committed.

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Do you worry that you spread yourself too thinly? Why or why not?

It's easier now because I don’t have so many relationships, but I do recall being frantic when I had several partners to care for. I'm trying to make myself more of a priority so I don't end up burning out for the people I love and care for. That's the worst kind of burnout!

Do you get jealous? Has jealousy come up in your relationships? How do you deal with it?

There are a lot of reasons for jealousy, and I find that they're generally easiest to solve if you work on them together. A big reason I see often is feeling neglected: If you think your partner isn't giving you enough care and they're spending all their time with other people, jealousy is perfectly natural and it could be a sign that you need to realign.

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With my current partner, jealousy hasn't been an issue. We're very diligent with reassuring each other and reinforcing our trust. I have had relationships where it became an issue, and it was more about a lack of clarity and reassurance. When it comes up, I find it easiest to just ask my partner and talk, so we can work out why the jealousy is there and what we can do to fix these feelings.

How do you explain, and how people react to, the fact that you are polyamorous?

I tell people, it's like having a book you really love, and wanting more people to know about it and appreciate it. It's that feeling of wanting to share and be understood that I think is really central to my polyamory. Beyond loving, understanding and caring for people, I really love being able to share how wonderful my partner is, with someone who can adore and appreciate him fully.

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Honestly, most people are dismissive. I'm young, and I have a non-traditional lifestyle and set of beliefs, so people tend to tell me it’s a phase. But it's an eight-year phase at this point! It's a little annoying sometimes, because most people don't even put that much thought into their own relationships and how they care for their partners, but they expect me to bare my whole ethos before they even listen to me.

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