Love, Poly, Five Years

It’s one of these. Haven’t done this in a while although, this entry has been building almost all year. If you want to skip it (and it’s going to be a long one) then just know that this year has been the happiest and the most painful year of my life.

It would have been my Grandma’s birthday today, that feels significant to me, I’m about to introduce my wonderful Jellicle Cat to my living Grandma and I would have liked him to meet the other one as well. I don’t know, I can’t help but feeling my attitude to love is split neatly between these two women, one of whom had ‘Love is my reason for Living’ as ‘our song’ with my Grandfather and one of whom settled for the little kid down the road because there was no one else left to marry and she wanted to get away from my Great Grandmother.
My wonderful Jellicle Cat and I celebrated our five year anniversary since My Ex-Warder said those beautiful words ‘Sort it out by the time I come down, I’m going to use your internet.’ and, yeah if you’re skipping then leave now.

Ok. If you’re still reading I think some of you are going to find this awkward reading, you may not want to know a lot of this.

Right then Archie, allow me to let some of it out.

This year I’ve learnt a lot about myself. For one thing I’ve learnt that I’m actually poly, honest to goodness, really, really poly. This may come as a surprise to the rest of you considering I’ve been using that term to describe the relationship The Jellicle and I have had for the past five years. ( ‘And before anyone starts panicking no we’re not intending on monogamy…’ 15th December 2003, ‘What is a polyamorous relationship? One which we don’t mind sharing. ‘ – 20th December 2003)

The thing is, last year someone, I think DC, described poly as being a sexuality and I thought to myself, ‘oh come on it’s not a sexuality it’s a state of being, a way to describe what you’re doing with a relationship’, and lately I’m not so sure.

I can’t help it, at heart I’m an art historian, a compulsive archivist, everything in the now seems to relate back to something in the past and given my hideous habit of compulsively navel-gazing – well I told you this’d be a long one. Love and I have had a very stormy relationship. The first time she hit I didn’t recognise her, didn’t know the signs that I was falling in love and was absolutely petrified and confused. I screwed that one up big time. Quite, quite deliberately in some ways. I couldn’t cope with the depths of my own emotions.

I find sex easier than love, sex is a body thing, I guess it’s kind of like love for the body. Sex, the first couple of times was something that took me by surprise, it was never something I started, not something I felt like I had any control over. I changed that by effort of will, never could seem to manage to do the same when it came to love. Love sneaks up on me, leaves me confused, and my response to this horrifying bitch-slapping?

Turn around, walk away.

The worst compliment anyone ever paid me was something Lady Byron said at some point in late 2006, she said that I had taught her to entirely separate sex from love, or words to that effect. Now I am not, or at least have not historically been a big fan of Love. Like I said, we didn’t have a very good introduction, but then nor did I and Sex and we get on ok.

Sex is good fun and it can be done lightly or not lightly at all and I enjoy both sorts, though of course, the deeper the emotion felt the more difficult I find the sex. Sex is a lot easier to walk away from than love but when the two are in combination, thats the best sex. Please note though, that I am not talking about being in love and having sex but simply loving and having sex. It’s being in love that I historically have a problem with, though this has occaisionally (at least verbally) extended to love in it’s deeper levels usually I just had an issue with being in love. [For clarity I’ll identify ‘in love’ with the emotion one might feel for a boy/girlfriend and ‘love’ with the emotion one might feel for a good friend.]

So I spent years walking away from being In Love. Yes, it hurt everytime but it was something I felt like I needed to do. I don’t like being in love, I still don’t like it to be honest, it’s out of control and crazy and it makes me feel so unbelievably good. I have distrusted it. Since last year I’ve been trying to trust it, to go with it and… I’m back where I started off in some ways, wondering if trusting love is really worth it. I think it is, whatever the pain, I think it’s worth it. Some days this year it’s felt like life would have been a lot easier if I’d stuck to my original game plan.


Poly has been a long time coming. In some ways it hasn’t as well, my stance of ‘no relationships’ – because that way I could avoid big serious emotional commitments without being dishonest to the other people involved – well that stance actually laid a lot of the groundwork for how comfortable I feel in poly situations now. It was whilst I was with the Naiad (2001-2002) that I learnt how easy it is to love someone because someone you love loves them. I had never met the Nymph but I knew her birthday, her favourite movies, songs, colours and how she made the Naiad prefer blondes. (Yes the Naiad was the reason I first went blonde). I loved the Nymph before I even met her, because she was my lover’s girlfriend and the love that the Naiad had for her I found, quite simply infectious.

I found myself in the position of Mistress in that case and I relished it. I’ve always been interested in Italian history, you can’t not be if you’re an Art Historian. Venice especially and it’s attitudes to sex and love have interested me as much as Japan’s historical interplays of the roles of men and women. I formed some interesting opinions whilst I was sleeping with the Naiad about the position of a Mistress. It should be the Mistress who tries to make sure the main relationship is running smoothly, remembering birthdays reminding people of what ‘the wife/husband’s’ favourite colours are etc. etc. I’ve always seen the idea of the Wife and Mistress as being quite a natural one, I don’t believe that one single person can be completed entirely by one other single person. Of course I also don’t believe that it should be the sole perogative of men to have a wife and mistress, I’m discussing an entirely lesbian situation in terms that are usually used in a gender-specific sense but without intending any particular gender assignation. Of course I also think that the wife and mistress should be friends (at the very least) – not because this should all be about two women working together for the satisfaction of some man (again with the non-specificity of genders) but because all three should enjoy their positions within this one single relationship. But though I theorised about this at the time it was getting dangerously close to actually falling in love rather than loving, and so I left.

By the time someone first called me poly FFG, Giggles and I were no longer in our cosy threesome. I’ve never yet been in a threesome that lasted, though at this point in my life I have to believe that someday one could. Sexually it was not the first threesome I had had, but it was the first that continued into some sort of mini-relationship. It was with FFG and Giggles that my game plan began to come unstuck. I felt so comfortable with the two of them, in bed, just hanging out, everything and not just because of who they were but also because there were three of us and it felt comfortable. It was with Giggles that I first discovered how deep a female friendship can get when you are both sleeping with the same guy (and y’know neither of you is causing him to cheat on the other), that sort of friendship I find happens often within the first few months and then some sort of monogamous instinct drops it’s curtains and you lose it. Which makes me sad.

I wasn’t poly when the American from San Francisco called me poly, if anything I thought of myself as an ‘Ethical Slut’ – not my own phrase. I would sleep with people, because I enjoyed the sex and to express my sense of the spiderlights, the love between everyone involved, however short-term, however one-sided – that love that exists in all it’s momentary glory.

This last three years I have become poly. I have always run away from comitment, well, lately I discover when I am persuaded into comitment I take it frighteningly seriously. It takes a great deal of persuasion for me to begin to consider an actual comitment. I need to know that I’m not going to let people down. I hate letting people down. I really hate letting people down. I don’t know if I do it more than other people but I do seem to always be the person letting others down rather than people letting me down, which makes me incredibly upset with myself. I think that’s another thing I’ve learnt, that in being poly, I need to be able to talk, I need to know where everyone else is coming from or I do just keep letting people down over and over again.

Someone once told me that poly people are bigger on honesty that monogamous people, I prize honesty so I hope that it’s not true but it seems like in poly everyone needs to be talking to everyone else. People say I’m easy to talk to, I really hope I am. It’s not just that you need to communicate in a poly relationship though, I find that it’s the communication itself that lifts me. The knowledge that parts of the whole are in synch with one another lifts the whole. I’m not sure how to properly express this, exactly. M-i-L talks about synergy when dancing, it’s kind of like that. I feel so happy, so in love when two people that I am in love with are also in love. It’s like the Mistress thing I talked about amped up to the nth. It floors me.

Somewhere between myself, Giggles and FFG and the Jellicle, Lexy, FJ, M-i-L and I, I found myself in a headspace where I realised that when I feel comfortable, happy, safe and in love I can commit. In a poly situation I find that I have a capacity for love that is far deeper than I could have suspected myself capable of feeling. I have felt not only comfortable within a relationship but comfortable, happy and confident for the first time ever. The irony that I was apparently alone in this feeling is not lost on me and ok so the relationship didn’t work out but I can feel, taste the shape of how it should work out. Laying on a sofa with Lexy and talking about the future did not feel awkward or alarming but began to feel natural, something I could do and not let people down over. The sense of home I felt in a pile on the sofa with Lexy and FJ is something that built into this love, this love that was so much more than all the loves I’ve had before.

I have to ask myself of course whether I simply have some sort of longing for community that I find filled in a way that is warped away from how everyone else finds it. Everyone else has ‘our circle’ whereas I, who was brought up in a tiny community pull away from that and demand ‘the blob’ or whatever people are calling it these days. The thing is though, I have a lot of friends, there are the LURPs group, the Carabas group, random people in town, there’s the Zospeth et al in London, Last NS in Glasgow, people in America, in Japan not to mention family members who actually talk to me… ok I mean my sister there. But my point is, I have a wider community and I haven’t even mentioned the occaisional fly-bys from people I was at school with, I know who I can turn to for what and who’s going to be there for me when the shit hits the fan. I have no need to attempt to create a community with quite such intimate ties for that.

Something hit me when I was looking over a table at M-i-L and FJ and feeling so completely at home. I realised that I had never previously felt quite so at home, quite so wanted, quite so in touch within the spiderlights. It did occur to me to wonder if something had been missing from my childhood and that I love the feeling poly gives me because I finally feel like I belong within a family. Having given the matter some thought I reached the conclusion that anything missing from my family-life was entirely down to me being a damned awkward kid to have. I used to put that down to my being bi, maybe I should put it down to being poly, or maybe I was just a kid who demanded a lot of effort on the part of my parents and that left them largely exhausted. So perhaps I should just settle down with The Jellicle and have kids and then I’ll feel that same sense of family as I do within a poly relationship? Obviously I have no idea what it feels like to have children but I cannot fathom that the level of intimacy that there is within a relationship where you are having physical relations with all parties is at all like that which you would have with your children, for one thing you’re all relating to each other as adults and parents find that difficult enough to do when their children are adults. There’s an equality that cannot be replicated, it’s like comparing a lover to a sibling, totally different connections.

I cannot come up with another situation that makes me feel so deeply and so happily. There has been none. Loving, opening myself to loving within a polyamorous relationship has had me experience such deep feeling as I could not have imagined before. So this leads me to question whether other people feel this way in monogamous relationships, that scares me a little, the notion that the intense loves I have had for Blue Eyes, for oh everyone else I’m not admiting to names up here, the eight people that there have been in anycase, that these are nothing compared to what everyone else feels. That everyone else feels this intense connection, happiness and comfort of home whenever they fall in love are enter a relationship. It feels as if I am letting the Jellicle Cat down. Yet it does fall into the beginning of my real fear and distrust of love, of comitted relationships. There have been moments, the perfect ones, when I have felt that I am riding towards the future and all these oh so intimate spider-lights are flowing with me, I am adding to them and they to me and we are somehow making more of each other. My fear comes from reading Namedropper by Emma Forrest, she talks about a relationship that occurs between the two best friends of the narrator, she says something along the lines of how they should have added to each others spark but instead they drained the spark from each other and they were so happy doing it.

That’s what I keep seeing people in love doing to each other, it may well be the basis for my original hatred of relationships. It’s what in it’s worst moments I could feel the poly blob doing to me. It’s what in it’s best moments it destroyed all trace of.

I can feel the shape of how things should go in a fully working poly situation. I can feel the shape of things and I know how terrifyingly strong the love that I can feel is. Perhaps if this is how people feel all the time for their boyfriends and girlfriends I can see how people don’t have the strength to leave them, not ever, and yet in opening my heart to such depth of feeling I’ve experienced a worse heartbreak than my first. Living for love leads to such soaring pleasure and also to pain unimaginable before. Yet, now I’ve suffered my second broken heart I think I can see a worse one possible, with that one though you get a few months warning that it’s coming.

I’m poly then. The completion other people seem to feel upon meeting their ‘soulmate’ or ‘Mr/Miss Right’ I feel only in combination with a group. This leaves me in something of a minority it seems. I do hope that the Jellicle Cat finds a boyfriend soon. I really hope I don’t have to go through the rest of my life never feeling that way again. And yet, I have felt it, if I’d stuck with my original game plan then I wouldn’t even have got close…well maybe a little close.

I wonder if poly is so right for me because it allows me to be in the middle of a relationship and yet not central to it? I get the amped up emotions but I have the luxury of also viewing them from a distance, a comfortable distance that allows me to plunge and soar and retreat when I need to. But I can’t believe that the love I feel for The Jellicle Cat is so much lesser than that I see expressed by all the other couples. I love him so very much. So what is this deeper thing then? Or is it just that love must be processed by me in some sort of filter when I’m not within my wonderfully comfortable home of poly?

I don’t know. I can’t process this well enough. All I know is that I love the Jellicle Cat very dearly, I can’t imagine life without him, he is my home. And for a time I loved the group of the five of us and believed we would be my future.

In learning I am poly though, in learning how much people bring into relationships I would change something from what I said before; ‘What is a polyamorous relationship? One which we don’t mind sharing. ‘ – 20th December 2003

No, a polyamorous relationship is one which we want to share because the sharing brings more love and the sparks are so much brighter.

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Stevie Smith – Not Waving But Drowning

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