Finally, there is clarity? Then and now with OnceAndFuture

For most of my life, I studied early modern history. The people whose lives I studied were long dead. All that they left behind was what they had written down. My job was to make sense of their lives great or small. Untangling their pasts became my life's work, and in many cases I wrote the final chapter of the story of someone I could never meet.

Since I decided to reapproach polyamory I've gotten to read a number of the blogs here and I've learned a lot. This blog will be a little different I think. I will be writing the final chapter of one story and hopefully the first chapter of the next. To be specific, the final chapter of five-years-ago me, and the first chapter of my life now.

Five years ago my wife (The Signal) and I had our first and to date last polyamorous relationship. It didn't go well. It was polyamory in the way a car crash is driving. The short story is that The Signal and I were dating K, who was married to E. The longer, truer story is that the six months we dated K were filled with lies, deceit, cheating, emotional manipulation, tears, and heartbreak--and yet, during the very brief breaks in those clouds, the most brilliant and pure love any of the three of us ever experienced. Our relationship was the only time during the eleven years The Signal and I have been together that we considered separating, but, in a real sense that relationship also kept us together.

The day we told K goodbye, we talked about what would happen next. After we agreed that if our marriage could survive that it could survive anything and that we were going to stay together, I asked The Signal what she wanted to do next. "Ask me in five years," she said. I thought she was kidding. We decided for our own sanity that we were going to forget K and forget extramarital activity. K's name came up sporadically over the years and once in a while we talked about swinging or friends with benefits, never taking it very seriously or even thinking about doing something about it.

Two years ago I was offered a job over a thousand miles away. The Signal and I felt our marriage was strong enough to survive being apart for what would probably be three years apart. It was but I wasn't. I fell into a severe depression and my latent bipolar disorder flared into life. I moved back six months ago to take a lower-paying job and essentially save my life. My therapist back there had told me moving back in my state would be the biggest shock our marriage had known. I was too scared to tell her it would only be the second-biggest. It has been hard but The Signal has been understanding. We realized early on that there were many things in my past which we would need to dig through, and about a month ago we were finally ready to tackle our poly past, which we hadn't seriously discussed in years.

She asked me if I still wanted to see other women. I said that honestly I wasn't sure. During my time away I had the opportunity to do that and I completely rejected it. She said that she had thought about things for a long time and she had concluded that she would be OK with it now. That surprised me a lot and I asked her to clarify. "Well, say you were on one of your business trips. If you met someone in the hotel bar, you could take her back to your room." I said, well that might be nice but you know that is not really my style. "Well then maybe you could go on a date with someone then take her back to your room." "Like a sort of relationship? A small relationship?" "Maybe yeah." I told her, well, that opportunity is open to you too. She said she would not be interested in someone in her main social group, but maybe a potential friend of a potential friend. Maybe a theoretical woman she meets at a yet-to-be-thrown party. That might be nice.

Then a couple weeks ago, she said somewhat against the run of conversation, "If you don't find anyone, maybe I could find someone for you. There's more than enough of you to go around." I asked if she had anyone in mind. She laughed. Not sure what she meant by that and I wasn't yet ready to pry. What I did ask her was, you're really OK with this again? Yes, she was.

The purpose of this blog is two-fold. Firstly, it is to help The Signal and me to be ready for whatever happens next. We had been totally unprepared for our relationship with K. We didn't even know what words like metamour and secondary and NRE were. We weren't ready for anything. We were an easy mark for an experienced person like K, who not only had been in several poly relationships but also held herself out as some kind of relationship counselor. It was easy for K to lie right to our faces. The Signal and I were trying to follow the rules of a game K wasn't even playing. K lied about even the most basic particulars of our relationship. I told K that my greatest fear was being cheated on and she repaid that by cheating on us. The Signal told K her greatest fear was someone claiming to love her when that person didn't, and K did exactly that. We cannot go blindly into a situation again.

Secondly, it is to help me figure out what I want, and maybe what The Signal wants. For my part I have been unlucky in love. There is a part of me that wants to experience what I have never been able to, and another part of me that wants to rediscover what K and I fleetingly had. To a large extent part of my love for K was that I was able to bring a joy into her life she had never experienced, and I want to do that for another. For The Signal's part, she would like to feel truly loved by someone else, to not be lied to again. To feel wanted and beautiful in a way that I alone cannot.

I hope this will all become clearer as this blog goes on, that this tiny life will make sense.
”What do you do when the music stops?” – The Pipettes, “Pull Shapes”

I don’t think The Signal and I had intended to step away from nonmonogamy for five years. Our relationship with K was just so draining that we certainly intended to take a break. It wasn’t really that we sort of woke up five years later and said to each other, “We’re kind of poly! We should do something about that.”

The first few weeks after we broke up with K were a bit of a blur. We were both scared K would try to force herself back into our lives. After all K knew where we lived and near the end had claimed to me that “even if The Signal tries to break us up, I’ll love you for the rest of my life.” I did get one rambling e-mail from her a couple weeks later titled “I TOTALLY fucked up!!!” and I couldn’t bring myself to read it. (I still have it and still haven’t read it.) She never tried to contact me again. She did send a few rambling texts to The Signal, alternately apologizing for the breakup and blaming her for “not letting go of OnceAndFuture enough to let me in.” She never did apologize for her cheating, lying, and emotional manipulation, though. About a month after the breakup The Signal got a text from K saying she was getting ready to go on a date with another woman and that she was “over things.” We never heard from her again. Guess she’d gotten well over me.

We did hear from her now ex-husband E though. About a year later The Signal was at work and E called her there, which freaked her out considerably. E was on a 12-step program or something for a painkiller addiction and was at the step where he wanted to apologize to those he’d hurt in the past. He apologized to The Signal for interfering in the relationship between K, her, and I. My wife accepted the apology but said he didn’t really need to do that, she understood why he did it and that K was perfectly capable of wrecking our relationship by herself. E said that K had been on a lot of dates with a lot of men and women, and then couple months before simply walked out on him, occasionally coming back to say hello and see his dog. He seemed even more depressed than he was at the worst times during the relationship. The Signal felt awkward and sad about things. E had had a crush on her and she’d slept with him a number of times although began to resent doing it because she didn’t share his feelings and felt like she had to “take one for the team” so that he would be OK with K sleeping with her and me. On the other hand E was a bit of a lost soul and it was obvious K had treated him as bad or worse as she’d treated us. E didn’t try to contact us again.

Meanwhile The Signal and I tried to piece back together our mono relationship. At first things were fine because we’d been through that all together and we relied on each other for support. We held each other a lot more, did everything together. The kids wondered why we were being so close and why we weren’t seeing our friends K and E on Sunday nights anymore. We’d kind of fallen into a routine, get the babysitter, drive down around 2 to see them, come back at 1 or 2 in the morning, spend Monday at work in a daze. The babysitter was growing rich off of us. A couple times we actually went out alone on a Sunday to get the kids back into their own routine.

Soon afterward we went on a planned trip to Las Vegas while the kids visited their grandparents. This trip had been a huge point of contention with K, who wanted to tag along and had convinced herself we were going out to go to a swinger’s club to cheat on her. We had no intention of doing so but our claims fell on deaf ears. I told K, E won’t even let you spend a few hours alone with us at this point, why do you think he would let you go on vacation with us? We offered to cancel the trip and that made her even more upset, saying that she was “ruining our fun.” I did take her aside and say, look, we are willing to make this sacrifice for the sake of our relationship, I hope you can take it in that spirit. That didn’t seem to help. In the end we had fun on our trip by eating and gambling and didn’t even look at another woman or couple.

Later on though things did not go so well for us. Our sex life cratered. I admitted to The Signal that it was hard to make love on the same bed where the three of us had had so much fun. We ended up getting a new mattress and bedclothes and rearranging our room. But we still struggled. For a while it seemed The Signal only got really aroused when we recounted what we had done with K, or if she and I fantasized about sex with another woman. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I was able to say that I thought revisiting our sex life with K was maybe not so good for our relationship, seeing as K hurt us so badly and tried to break us up. Yes, K was fun to be with in bed but a lot of the other times were not very good. The Signal agreed. We have fantasized about being with women since but not with K.

On the other hand our intense arguments over K abated almost immediately. It had seemed that everything to do with K had led to an argument, which always followed the same pattern:

The Signal: “Let’s not see K and E this weekend.”
Me: “OK. I think we need to break up with K, because it’s really hurting both of us.”
The Signal: “Then we need to get a divorce because I can’t live with myself if I break you two up and you’re just going to leave me for her anyway because you love her more.”

I don’t think I was able to convince The Signal I wasn’t going to leave her until we did break up with K and I stayed. It helped that I didn’t try at all to contact her again. I was sorely tempted. K’s birthday was a couple weeks after we’d broken up and the three of us had agreed at one point that her birthday present was going to be a weekend alone with me. I don’t think E would have been OK with that but K talked about it a lot and truthfully I was looking forward to it too. K’s last email to me was actually on her birthday. I was really, really tempted to reply. I didn’t and even showed The Signal all my email account to show I hadn’t. My faith in The Signal kept us together and our marriage grew stronger. It is still strong.

I have rambled but now I am at the main point. After five years The Signal and I are rather back where we started before we met K and E. We want to re-explore nonmonogamy but we are not sure what form that will take. At that time we decided to try swinging, but K and E were the only couple we ended up going with and even before we decided to form a triad-and-one K and I kissed and cuddled and treated each other more like boyfriend and girlfriend than swinging partners. We have talked a little about swinging again or maybe hooking up with random partners but I think in our hearts we realize we are not wired for that. We talk about hooking up with a random woman from time to time, and what probably launched the most recent serious discussion was a certain attractive woman I met at a college reunion and The Signal openly lusted after, but I think we are looking for something more. What I am not sure yet.

The Signal did ask me, what happens if she falls in love with you and tries to take you away? I think she is still nervous about that happening with K, which is why one of her only two rules was “don’t try to see K again.” We’ll need to work on that before it happens rather than during.

The Pipettes had an answer to what happens when the music stops—“Clap your hands if you want some more.” After five years perhaps we are ready to want some more.
You have said a couple times that you are unlucky in love. That resonates with me. I have been unlucky in love in general, and unlucky in poly love as well. But I will point out that maybe we both have been lucky enough in love because we are both loved by our spouses and still with them after all the ups and downs. :)
”This book will never get read,
'Cause I’m wanting more than just stuff in my head.
But I’ve never been so lazy in love.” -- The Heavy Blinkers, “Lazy In Love”

Aridan, I thought about what you wrote about being lucky and unlucky in love. It’s true that I have been fortunate to meet The Signal, and I hope that she would say the same to me. At some level I want to say, well, The Signal and I are fine and in love, perhaps it is best if we cut our losses and keep our love to ourselves, for the rest of our lives. And for the past five years that is what we have done and there has been a lot of happiness. Why should we put our love to another test like we faced in our relationship with K?

When we were in a plural relationship and The Signal posted on another board, she was asked “Why do you think you’re poly?” She didn’t have an answer. To tell the truth I’m still not sure she has one. But I do for myself, I think. As a historian I realize we are shaped by our pasts. (For crying out loud I just typed that and I haven’t worked as a historian in over 15 years…we are shaped by our past.) Until I met The Signal I had never felt anyone really loved me. My first sort-of-girlfriend was a passionless, distant person who quite obviously didn’t love me, or anyone or anything else for that matter. My ex-wife admitted to a friend of hers that she had made a mistake in falling for me and seemed to spend the rest of our relationship and marriage trying to rectify that.

This is probably rambling but it is a good story. The last sort-of-relationship before I met The Signal seemed to sum everything in my love life up to that point. Our first date was friendly but there was enough of a spark to lead her to suggest a second. That date started at her parents’ house, and they insisted I sit down to dinner with them, her, and her younger brother. Little awkward, huh? But her dad liked me so I passed that test and we had a nice evening out. Third date, well, things were moving along nicely, and I put my arm around her as we sat on the beach and she said she liked that. As we got back in the car she noted that my shoe was untied and she would put on the light for me. But when she turned on the light we were staring into each other’s eyes, and we then frantically, passionately kissed for what seemed like hours. Then we kissed goodbye, I got back in my car, and we never saw each other again.

But the next day her mom called me to tell me she wasn’t comfortable with seeing me again. Yes, she really did ask her mom to make the breakup (such as it was) call.

It was under that history that I met The Signal, who had had her own self-esteem-draining relationships after her divorce from a passionless, honestly hateful man. I think we were in love with each other after about the first five minutes of meeting each other in person. Our first date ended up lasting two days. I told her that I loved her on that first date. She wasn’t ready to say that yet—she waited until the second date. Since that day eleven years ago we have spoken to each other every single day, even when we were in an LDR, even when I moved away two years ago to work in another city.

Up until our relationship with K I would have said that our love is total and complete and I don’t need anyone else. And I still feel just as in love with The Signal as before—maybe more. Why do I need another love?

I think the lovelessness of my first 30 years left a bit of a void in my life which I didn’t know existed until I met K. The love between The Signal and I is warm, fulfilling, comforting, beautiful. I never knew that any other type of love existed. When The Signal and I decided to start swinging we were looking to expand our sexual horizons, and neither of us had any intentions of expanding what we knew about love. The love that developed between K and I was so different: burning, passionate, spiky, addictive. During the brief good times I felt there was something right about loving two women in such different ways, that their different kinds of love filled a before-unknown need.

And at the same time I wanted to be worthy of love to someone else, and it was clear that I brought something to K’s life that she desperately needed. At the beginning of our relationship it was obvious that K had many secrets, and so many times K would say to me, “I’ve never been able to say this but…” and another secret would come tumbling out. Her comfort in me grew to the point where I became the confessional she had never had. I fell in love with lifting her burdens, but more so in being part of the joy she felt when her weight was gone (and, hedonistically, enjoying the attention of her gratefulness afterwards). There is a part of me now that needs that again.

Perhaps my desire to explore polyamory again is tied to my desire to experience a different form of love. It’s possible that only after my relationship with K did I know the language well enough to speak. Sometimes my ex-wife would say “I know how to say this in French but I’m not sure what the words are in English.” Maybe K’s love, damaging and painful as it turned out to be, taught me those words.
Too often I look backwards. So for this entry I want to look ahead. No song lyrics this time because I want to use my own voice.

I think sometimes we wait for a perfect situation before doing anything in life. I’ve learned that I can’t do that and that I’m going to have to push ahead even when there are problems. Having said that, there are a few things holding me back which I need to handle now before I can make any important life decisions.

The first one is my recent run of awful, disabling migraines. For about the past two months I have suffered three or four migraines a week, other than (very fortunately) during the vacation The Signal and I recently took. This isn’t really new in my life because I’ve had migraines since I was eight or nine years old. What is new is the frequency and severity of the headaches. My neurologist asks me to rate my headaches on a scale of one to ten. Most of my headaches recently have been eight or nine with a couple of tens. And having three or four a week has only happened a couple times during the past thirty years. The only time I can remember having worse headaches was the nearly month-long migraine I was hospitalized for a few years ago. I don’t know if it’s the weather, my travel schedule, the realization that I could soon make changes in my life, or what else could be causing them. Fortunately I am going back to the neurologist tomorrow and I will be getting the heavy-duty stuff. I am grateful that I can get that.

My recent past has caused some trouble in the present. I find myself having nightmares about my time in exile away from this part of the country, and the job from hell I was able to get away from last year. I am returning to therapy next week, which I am also grateful to have. It will be a new therapist—new city, even. I’m disappointed to not be able to see my old therapist, who was wonderful and even agreed to see me and The Signal together, which she wasn’t really supposed to do. But now I have a change to work on and talk about new things.

One thing I do want to talk about with the new therapist is where I am in my journey back to nonmonogamy, or at least my intention to do so. This will be a hard subject for me to raise. When I tried to bring it up with a different therapist, she stated point-blank that she wasn’t comfortable handling that issue, and that’s when I started working with my wonderful therapist. But after my first session with the wonderful therapist went so well, I didn’t want to bring up the subject again for fear that I would lose her too. So I’ve never really talked about it with anybody other than The Signal and K, and while they were very loving sounding-boards for me they weren’t exactly disinterested observers. I admit that I am nervous in bringing it up with the new therapist as well. This isn’t exactly one of the most socially-progressive areas. I know counselors are supposed to be open to new ideas, but then I didn’t expect the first therapist to have the reaction she did. It was hard for me to be mad about it then, because otherwise I wouldn’t have gone to a better therapist, but it is an issue for me now.

Since I came back to this area I haven’t had much of a social life. I’ve made a few friends at work but with the extended time away from home and being in different cities at different times it’s been hard to rebuild a network of friends. At the same time I’ve recognized that I’d like to get into better shape. My favorite activity is hiking, and my goal this year is to complete a 50-mile (80 km…OK that makes it sound longer) hiking trail in less than three days. So I’ve decided to join a running group which starts up again in a couple of weeks. The Signal warned me that most of the other runners would be women. That’s OK for me as honestly in my life most of my friends have been straight women, and a few gay men, so I probably will end up making friends. Even if I don’t, at least I will get in better shape, which can’t be a bad thing, and I will appreciate that when hiking is possible again in the spring.

In the past I would have said that the above activities were designed to help make me a better future metamour to someone. That’s always a possibility, yes. But at present I am looking to improve myself and to be a better husband to The Signal. If another relationship happens, it happens, but I’ll always have myself and The Signal.
You may have noticed a change to my signature.

Something sparked that. Last night my wife and I were chatting about a few of the things I talked about in my last entry. (By the way, I didn’t get the heavy-duty migraine drugs I was promised. Insurance turned it down because it was too expensive and now my neurologist is appealing. Hooray for American healthcare.) We were discussing what sorts of social activities I could do around my travel schedule, once I started running again and that would be taking up a big chunk of my time. We discussed a board game group—I was in one when I was living in exile—and cooking classes while I waited for it to get warm enough to go hiking again. The Signal talked about her marathon training and how much time that was going to take out of her life. She looked away, then looked back. “So I was thinking, what you really need is a girlfriend.”

Wait a minute. I was going to be the one to bring up poly…well I suppose I thought I was going to be the one. I started to make a joke, but she tapped me on the chest. “No really. You should go find a girlfriend.” I asked her what brought all this up. She said that I had been dropping hints about being poly again and that she had come to the conclusion that she was OK with it. That surprised me because I can’t even think of what I’d said that had made her think that, and I asked her about that, but she couldn’t come up with anything specific. I asked her why she felt she was going to be OK with it when things went so badly the last time. For the first time in a while she talked about our relationship with K. She said that this time around I would be more aware of how things could go wrong and if I “started with someone who was not crazy” things would be better. She also said that this time around she didn’t want a triad. She had always felt that K was only pretending to love her so she could be with me (she had been right in that perception unfortunately) and she didn’t want the chance of that happening again. I understood that—I’ve been thinking that a situation like that was not suitable for us this time. I asked her what type of relationship would be OK with her—dating, FWB, being in love. She said “this would be your relationship, you can do what you want.”

I told her that I was fine with her being in her own relationship, but I wasn’t going to push her to be in one. She said she wasn’t yet ready to pursue her own relationship. But in her words she “will be ready, at some point between tomorrow and the end of my life.” She said she wasn’t sure what gender she would be interested in dating. I am pretty sure she will pursue a woman. It’s been ten years since she even mentioned finding a guy other than me attractive, whereas she talks about various women being hot fairly regularly. Plus as she complained last night “guys never hit on me.” (This is completely untrue as E hit on her and really was trying at various points to win her over but I suppose in all the emotions running in that relationship she didn’t notice.) I do think she will go very slowly.

I asked her what she’d meant about “finding someone for me,” which I mentioned here earlier. She said she didn’t have anyone in mind, but she also said “I don’t want you dating anyone in our social group,” including my running group (we will be in different groups, but they are run by the same organization). She ventured that it would be hard for an introvert like me to find someone else. I agree it might be an uphill battle. I do better around people I know. On the other hand, the chances of me even finding someone OK with poly in our social group weren’t going to be high anyway.

We talked about a lot of other things, including our relationship with K and how I could avoid a situation like that again. She admitted that she “saw about a million red flags with her” but ignored them because she thought things would get better and she hoped K would start loving her. I had known that since the end of our relationship and I noted I felt bad about that. She shrugged and said “well at least there were some fun times.” She talked about a friend of hers who she had been talking through some really bad times (her first husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness, committed suicide while she was in the house, she ended up going bankrupt) who then decided to enter her own triad. Said friend then played the cowgirl role in that relationship and moved away with her girlfriend’s husband. The Signal said that had really sealed her distaste for another triad. “Yeah, I can see that,” I mused.

At the end of the conversation we decided two things. The first is that we were going to finally completely bury our relationship with K and E. I might refer to it here in the future, but I’m not going to dwell on it. I have removed them from my signature in deference to that.

The other is that I am not more poly than mono. I am poly.
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At the end of my last entry it looked like things had settled down. The Signal and I spent the next night discussing how I would start to explore my poly nature. We decided the next step would probably be to find a poly group in another city. None of our friends are poly, and we thought it might be a good idea for me to talk to some other people who are to bounce ideas off of them and get a better sense of what it was like to live in the life. So far so good. The Signal offered to help me put together an OKCupid profile when I was ready, which was sweet of her. We talked about a few dealbreakers (“no drug users” seemed to be the big one) and all in all it seemed like she was accepting and OK with everything. She even discussed coming along to one of the meetings: “maybe you would seem less like a creeper that way.”

That night she made a comment that “I’m not sure I want to have another relationship, but I do want to have sex with another woman.” And I was fine with that. I told her I wasn’t going to push her into anything, and that she was fine with any pace she wanted to have. She seemed OK with it all too. We talked for a little while longer, made love, and went to sleep. At some point during the night we woke up and made love again. She seemed very happy and told me I seemed a lot more relaxed than I had been in a long time—perhaps some weight had been lifted off of my shoulders and I felt more free to express myself. We took this as a sign that I had made the right decision.

Yesterday I had a horrendous migraine. Early in the day we went out to an estate sale (lots of books for sale) and went out for lunch but by the afternoon I was bedridden and vomiting. The Signal kept coming into our room, worried and wringing her hands. Usually she leaves me alone during the bad migraines, but it seemed like there was something she wanted to say. By 8 my headache had subsided enough to be able to get out of bed. We watched some TV with our daughter until she went to her room. Then The Signal started frowning and making starts at conversation—“I’m worried about some things”, “I’m starting to doubt myself”, and when I tried to ask what was wrong she held back. She asked to come upstairs to talk.

As soon as we did she asked me “Am I enough for you?” I said that she had been enough for me throughout our marriage and that it wasn’t a question of her being enough, that I would always love her and support her and be everything that she needed me to be. At the same time, though, I asked her if that question meant she really wasn’t OK with me being actively poly. She started saying “no no no, that’s not what I meant by that question,” although she wasn’t able to clarify what she did mean by it. She said that she had come to realize that I was poly and that she wouldn’t be able to live with herself if she prevented me from acting out my orientation. I said that firstly I wasn’t sure poly was an orientation and secondly if it was I could choose whether or not to act on it. I explained that I knew she was bi but she had chosen not to act on her same-sex attraction at the present time, and that was OK for both of us—I didn’t feel like I was preventing her from doing that, and she didn’t feel like she was suppressing herself.

This didn’t seem to help, and I admitted to her that I was very troubled by her comment. When we were dating K I had repeatedly offered to end the relationship not just because The Signal was being hurt but because I was being hurt too. The Signal kept vetoing that idea because she felt like she would be breaking up K and I and “ruining my life”…never mind that K was doing a pretty good job of that herself. Even when I figured out that K was cheating on us and The Signal agreed that my convictions were correct, she wouldn’t agree to a breakup. We were getting in huge arguments about it all. Now, I admitted, I was afraid that she would start getting upset if I decided to not pursue becoming actively poly, even if I decided that it was not a healthy path for me or if I was getting hurt by it. The Signal said, no, that’s not what I mean by all this, but I’m still going to get really upset if I feel like I’m preventing you from doing what you want. The trouble has been that throughout our marriage The Signal has blamed herself for things that happen to me or for decisions I’ve made even if I made them from my own free will. Basically, I don’t have free will when it comes to decisions—but only if they go wrong. She never takes credit for any decisions that go well.

This is a self-esteem issue with her and I realize that. There are times, like last night, when The Signal’s self-esteem is below zero. She moved on to say “I am not poly, when I talked about not entering a poly relationship myself tomorrow I really meant ‘not for 20 years if ever’.” She said that she didn’t want to bother because “all men hated her” and thought she was ugly, and nobody ever really loved her, and women didn’t want anything to do with her, and she beat herself up more and more. I said to her I didn’t want her to say those things, I was a man and I have loved her and felt she was extremely attractive for 11 years now. She said, essentially, that doesn’t count. She said that “if something happened to you, I am going to live on my own for the rest of my life because I don’t want anyone lying to me about loving me.” She said she still wanted to have sex with another woman but that “it was never going to happen” because women found her ugly. It is very hard to hear her say those things about herself. My ex wife had suffered from anorexia and had terrible body issues, but The Signal’s issues go incredibly deeper. I try to comfort her best I can but I admit even after 11 years of hearing this I don’t think I do a very good job.

The Signal said that I had lots of female friends who would have slept with me if I’d just asked them to. Actually, it’s exactly the opposite. None of the long-term female friends I’ve ever had has ever made a pass at me, propositioned me, or suggested being FWB. In fact I ruined one ten-year friendship by making a suggestion one night while drinking (alone—in her bedroom—in the dark—at 1 in the morning) with her. She thinks there are tons of women who are lining up somewhere to be with me. If so this is news to me, but this is not her point: she is saying this because she is trying to say, “You need to be actively poly because there are all these women out there who want and could benefit from your love and affection, and I can’t be actively poly because nobody wants to be in love with me.”

What it means is that, essentially, she wants to deflate my decision, whatever it is. If I want to pursue other relationships, “that’s fine, go ahead and do that, but loveless old me is going to be sitting at home alone because I’m ugly and nobody wants me.” But if I decide not to pursue other relationships, then that’s wrong too because “I’m ruining your fun and I’m preventing your from expressing your orientation, so you’re better off without me.” I know that all of this is coming from her low self-esteem and her past relationships. It hurts me so much that she seems not to have been changed at all by 11 years of my love, but seems to dwell on the year or so before she met me and had a lot of one-night stands where the guy didn’t call back the next day. She went back to that last night. I said, well, not only did I call back but here I am still here 11 years later. She ignored that.

So then after we made up she started guilt-tripping me into having sex, essentially. I love having sex with her, yes, but at the time my migraine was so bad I couldn’t even move well. I compromised by saying I would stimulate her but I was in no shape to be touched. She had several orgasms in a short period of time. “Now you need to do that to other women,” she said after that. That felt hurtful because it seems that even our sex life is drawn into this vortex of blame, guilt, and lack of free will.

So as of now I am making another change to my signature. The major changes I made last time still stand. After all that I still think that I am fundamentally poly in orientation, and I am still pledging to not dwell on our past relationship with K and E. But after last night I don’t even think I can refer to The Signal as “more mono than poly.” I guess now, after having only a couple of days to come to terms with being poly, I’m now coming to terms with being poly in a poly-mono relationship.
And then today it was right back to "So when are you going to your group?" and "I've been reading More Than Two and he asks if you've thought about the structure about any relationship you might want to have...have you thought about that yet?" And now it's "well you're going to have a relationship so I'm just going to assume it's inevitable." Plus a big chunk of "what I said about maybe going to a group with you? Forget that, I'm not taking one for the team again. Not like I can even act like bait because I'm so ugly nobody wants me."

So far every day has brought something a little new and a little more awful. Yeah, this new openness is great. Huge weight off of my shoulders. :(
You have to hit the bottom sometimes before you can start moving back up. That's all I'm going to say about last night.
When we hit bottom, part 1

”There’s a hole in my neighbourhood down which of late I cannot help but fall.” – Elbow, “Grounds for Divorce”

A while back I was looking through an old journal I wrote which covered the time just before and during the time we dated K. I had remembered that there were very high highs and very low lows. What I hadn’t apparently remembered was exactly how high and low those periods were, and how any high was inevitably followed by a crashing low. Any good time I might have enjoyed with either K or The Signal during those days I paid for with days of fighting, arguments, promises to end (or continue, depending on who I was talking to and the day it was happening) the relationship, and countless attempts to rebuild rules and structures that were just going to be broken again. This was the reason that I strongly considered not coming back out as poly to my wife and others. After my time away, which was just one long unending low, I didn’t think I could take any more.

Sunday started badly again. Another day of migraines. The Signal and I had intended to take our daughter to her play practice—12 to 6, how long do these things take?—and go out on a date day. But The Signal wasn’t feeling great about it. We’d actually spent most of the previous day out together too and she wanted to go on an extra run while I lay down wishing I were comatose. Eventually we did go out to shop and for an early dinner. While we ate we talked about things we wanted to do. Among other things I said half-jokingly that I wanted to get my English accent back. “It’s because you want to impress women,” she said. I admitted that, well, I would kind of need all the help I could get. Besides it wouldn’t hurt my career. We discussed it a little more, and she suggested ideas on things I could listen to on my work trips to relearn my accent. Then we dropped it and I forgot about that. The evening seemed to go well. We both liveblog a certain TV show on Sundays, and we threw out cultural references and song lyrics (and, for some reason, a large quantity of dick jokes) until 11 and we went to bed quietly.

At some point during the night I woke up to what sounded like angry shouting. I thought I was waking up from some kind of nightmare. It actually took a while to realize that I was hearing The Signal shouting at me. I wasn’t even 100% aware of what she was shouting but I remember saying “OK I’ll stop, I’ll stop.” Then I started catching hold of her rant. She was shouting about being ugly and lonely and being hated again. She was accusing me of planning to go to polyamory meetups to “pick up and fuck girls.” She called me a selfish wannabe cheater. Her ranting got more and more angry and self-hating. Finally I told her to stop and said I had had enough. I said I was going to go back in the closet as it were—no meetups, no discussion of polyamory, no nothing. She said she didn’t want that, she now knew who I was and what my nature was and she wanted me to leave. She stormed out of the bedroom and I didn’t even know where she went.

I found her downstairs. She yelled at me to go away. I said I wasn’t going away and I wanted to know what had brought all this on. She said that she’d realized when I talked about getting my English accent back that I was going to be using it to seduce girls. She accused me again of wanting to cheat. I said that if I was planning to cheat I was doing a pretty bad job of it. That made her angrier and she talked about what she was going to do if I left her for someone else.

At that point I suggested again I go back in the closet. She got mad again and said she couldn’t put up with me being sad if I couldn’t do “what I wanted.” I said I didn’t know what I wanted at this point and if I didn’t go back we’d just both be sad so I might as well take the easier option and just pretend like I wasn’t poly, which I’d been doing for the last five years anyway. We argued back and forth for over two hours. She was arguing in circles. At one point she said she didn’t mind me “fucking some girl (I) met at a hotel,” because she expected me to cheat anyway so I might as well get that out of my system. But going to a polyamory meetup, even if I never talked to anyone, wasn’t going to happen. Things went in that vein for a long time.

We finally did go back to bed. I had an extremely important work project the next morning (basically I had to justify whether or not I am going to be firing somebody) and I had to sleep. Before I could fall asleep The Signal started up again, this time about a different forum she’d been on and a book she’d read about polyamory. She claimed that she’d started a thread about us and described our situation and asked what she should do. She also claimed she got so many hate messages from other people in the forum, who wanted her to just let me do whatever I wanted to do, that she had to ask the moderator to delete the thread. And she claimed that the book had flatly stated that “monos are just not as evolved as poly people.” She was mad and if she was being honest I was feeling a bit angry about that too.

Finally I had to say, “Alright, I promise to leave everything.” And I planned to do it in the morning. Before I went to bed I uninvited myself from the meetup. I planned to come to this forum, post a goodbye in this blog, say goodbye to the couple of friends I’ve made here, and log out. I tried to think of what else I could leave but my reentry into feeling that I was polyamorous happened so fast that I hadn’t even done anything else.

The morning came and I was so tired that I couldn’t get up in time for work so I slept an extra hour and then hurriedly threw on clothes and ran out the door before I had time to log in here. That is the only reason I am still here, by the way.
When we hit bottom, part 2

”Lie down
And lick the sorrow from your skin
Scratch the terror and begin
To believe you’re strong.” – The Weakerthans, “Plea from a Cat Named Virtute”

During work I had to get a project done on short notice. I was so involved in it that I hadn’t seen that there was a message for me from The Signal, which just read “OK I’ve been thinking.” I responded to it about two hours later. She replied “I think there are problems I need to work through.” I told her I’d give her as much time as she needed, and she replied, no, I think I’ve already made up my mind. At this point I was thinking, OK, maybe she wants a divorce, maybe she wants me to give up thinking about polyamory forever. She said she wanted to talk about it in the evening and that she didn’t want me to worry, but she did say she was going to talk to a counselor. That last really surprised me. She hadn’t been to see a counselor on her own since we got married, and she had always said she wasn’t going to—and then it surprised me more when she said she was going to see “an LGBT-friendly counselor who knows about polyamory.” (I genuinely thought—is she going to see K? That’s how she used to bill herself.)

So that night she started laying out what she’d been thinking all day. First off she realized that I did love her, and everything our relationship had thrown at us—the triad with K, living apart for 18 months, various temptations for both of us, and assorted other problems—had just made our love stronger. She also said that maybe she had to come to terms with her own feelings about nonmonogamy. She did still want to have sex with other women and she wanted to balance in her own mind why that was OK but me sharing emotions with another wasn’t OK. She couldn’t promise she was necessarily going to be OK but at least she was going to take another look at it. She said, “Stay on your forum. Go to your meeting and talk to people. Talk to your new therapist if you can.” I asked her what would happen if I went to the meeting and, well, met someone. She said she couldn’t promise anything but as long as she was kept in the loop at all times she would probably be OK. Maybe some jealousy might rear its head, but she understood now that I was capable of loving someone else in the addictive, overwhelming way I loved K and still end up loving her even more.

So then we hugged, watched the X-Files, and went to bed not angry with each other. Normal service had somewhat resumed.

When she said on Monday she was going to meet the counselor I didn’t realize she’d meant she was seeing the counselor the following day. Without breaching her privacy I can say she felt the session went very well. She said that the therapist’s eyebrows almost raised off of her head when she described our past poly experience, but the counselor was able to talk intelligently about it and The Signal’s orientation. The counselor gave her some homework, to think about what she feared most about what I’d been saying, and we talked a bit about that last night. She was able to discuss with me her sexuality and her own desires for the future in a bit more depth than she’d been able to in the past, and she said she was feeling a bit more calm about me “doing things” as she put it. I asked about a few scenarios and I was surprised that she was OK with most of them. As she said, really my only fear is losing you. I told her as long as I remained alive I didn’t want to lose her.

I guess after our conversation one of the things that still bothers her is that for the most part we have been almost two halves of the same person. We have the same favorite TV shows, music, activities, and interests. Even when she came out as “almost lesbian” it was like “oh you like girls too? Aren’t they great?” And when we entered our first poly relationship, we were in it together with the same other person. But now for the first time in 11 years there is a big difference between us. As much as we try to not be codependent sometimes we have felt like two halves of one whole. In the forum post (not here) that K made after the breakup where she admitted that she’d been trying to break us up the whole time, K wrote that she had never known any two people to be so devoted to each other, and it frustrated her and made her jealous at the same time. So for the first time there is a bit of an irritation in our otherwise perfect circle. Sometimes irritations lead to the creation of a beautiful pearl, though.

There are many things she still wants to work through. She did say tonight that she did not want me to compare me being away for 18 months with me being away on a potential date night. She said that she’d known that I was going to be faithful while I was away so that never worried her. It was interesting, though, that she admitted that the counselor had asked her why she was so sure that I’d be faithful to her during that time—and she also admitted that she didn’t have an answer to that. We talked about going slowly. I am afraid that she will take some steps forward and some steps back, and that I will do something while she has taken steps forward that are then not OK when she takes the steps back. It’s something we’ll have to be careful with.

So she is happy that I am still posting here, and I am happy too. Being here has helped me to talk out my feelings and to understand why I am wired the way I am. There is another reason why I wanted to stay though…I am not quite ready to say why that is. I’m so glad I did. I can say the future seems brighter now.
I said that firstly I wasn’t sure poly was an orientation and secondly if it was I could choose whether or not to act on it. I explained that I knew she was bi but she had chosen not to act on her same-sex attraction.

I know this wasn't the main point of your post, but THANK YOU for saying this. I'm so tired of people labeling everything an 'orientation' and jumping from there to an assumption they must, and are entitled to, act on any desire once they call it an 'orientation.'
Hi OnceAndFuture,

I've just caught myself up on your blog here, and my heart really has gone out to you and The Signal with all the growing pains you two are going through. I feel especially empathetic around the migraines, because bad headaches run in my family, and I had one just the other day. Not on the scale of what you are experiencing, but enough to know just how miserable that pain is. Also, your wife and her raw struggles with this journey. I understand what it's like to want your partner to be happy, but to struggle with feelings of unworthiness to be loved or wanted. The same feelings have made me ask myself, am I cut out for this lifestyle? Sure, I can love more than one person, but if I can't stand for my partner to love others, what am I doing. But before that question came the raw feelings of not being wanted by others, and not being enough for my husband.

Therapy is wonderful with the right person. I'm so glad that your wife has reached out and is getting the support she needs from a professional during this time.

I know this wasn't the main point of your post, but THANK YOU for saying this. I'm so tired of people labeling everything an 'orientation' and jumping from there to an assumption they must, and are entitled to, act on any desire once they call it an 'orientation.'

This is a struggle I have with The Signal. A few times she has said "this is how you are and so I have to accept that you are going to go out with women and fall in love with them." I don't accept that. Firstly I realize now I was poly before I vocalized it, and while I was hiding that I did turn down a potential relationship and a couple potential sexual encounters. There's no reason I couldn't do that now if I wanted. Secondly I realize like you say I don't have the right to just say "I am wired this way and I can't help myself." It's a cop-out. I still must take responsibility for my actions.

Not that I won't want to in the future. But I will always have ability to say no.
The last few days have been positive at home. Not so much at work, where I’ve had a little trouble concentrating. There’s been a lot to think about, plus the migraine medication I’m on has been waking me up at 3 or 4 in the morning, and there’s been something in the background that has been fun to daydream about. At least I haven’t had any migraines since Monday. It’s been a busy time for the family as well. Our daughter (I need a name for her…I will call her The Actress) has been performing in her latest play and just got her driver’s permit. The Actress is going to a party tonight, which is very unusual for her as she’s secretly very introverted and shy off the stage.

The Signal and I are slowly starting to establish boundaries. One of the things that we are learning is that her boundaries and hard limits are not straight lines but curve and bend in unexpected ways. For example, I plan to go to a poly group event soon. She started thinking about what she would be OK with me doing at the event…”I’m not ready for you to find someone to date there….but it’s OK for you to flirt because you need to build your confidence. And it’s OK for you to find a FWB or one night-stand there.” I told her I was going there to talk to like-minded people because I’d never been able to do so before, not to find a date or a hookup. But I understand she is trying to identify her boundaries. I asked her about a few things that I have been thinking of doing. It seems that everything I’ve thought of recently she is actually OK with.

The Signal is also trying to learn about herself. She has been exploring her own confidence and trying out things. On Thursday she decided to be “flirtatious” in her own words. She put on her big Fluevog heels to be (literally) six feet tall and a favorite dress, and went out to flirt with someone. She tried it on a female cashier at the coffee shop and excitedly reported that she’d charmed her out of a free donut. It was a bit amusing but at the same time I was so glad she was feeling more confident and beautiful. Later that day she ran into her new counselor at the grocery store and they had a brief chat. The Signal describes her as an “itty bitty little girly lesbian.” I can’t help but wonder whether there is a bit of a crush going on.

It hasn’t all been roses yes, and we’ve still had disagreements, but the last few days have certainly been happier. Now I’m hoping that my sleep patterns settle.
Our daughter (I need a name for her…I will call her The Actress) has been performing in her latest play and just got her driver’s permit. The Actress is going to a party tonight, which is very unusual for her as she’s secretly very introverted and shy off the stage.

Is The Actress involved in a youth/school based theatre group, or all ages? At that age I was in all age amateur theatre and working on, of all things, Marat/Sade haha. It certainly made an impression. I can still quote a particular passage. And it would be fascinating to know if Michel Foucault saw it (in its early days of performance) too as he uses a particular illustration (Damiens) in the introduction to Discipline and Punish that was rather poignant in Marat/Sade. I guess the question is, would Foucault have more likely to have seen Weiss, or read Casanova? :) Of course, Foucault's recount does rather more resemble Weiss' rendition than Casanova's. But that's just speculation. Either way, it certainly got 16 y/o me's attention. I still have no personal interest in the SM part of BDSM.

p.s. I had to Google Fluevog. Jeez, those are just... wow (and that's from someone with one pair of heels).
Is The Actress involved in a youth/school based theatre group, or all ages? At that age I was in all age amateur theatre and working on, of all things, Marat/Sade haha. It certainly made an impression. I can still quote a particular passage. And it would be fascinating to know if Michel Foucault saw it (in its early days of performance) too as he uses a particular illustration (Damiens) in the introduction to Discipline and Punish that was rather poignant in Marat/Sade. I guess the question is, would Foucault have more likely to have seen Weiss, or read Casanova? :) Of course, Foucault's recount does rather more resemble Weiss' rendition than Casanova's. But that's just speculation. Either way, it certainly got 16 y/o me's attention. I still have no personal interest in the SM part of BDSM.

Marat/Sade??? Goodness, The Actress would turn beet red even looking at that. Not to delve into her personal life but I don't think she's ready for that...she was too embarrassed to watch even mildly racy TV movies over break. I mean her next play is going to be "Fairy Tales Revisited." Not even Grimm's Tales.

Marat/Sade...hmmm...well there's nothing quite wrong with that is there?

p.s. I had to Google Fluevog. Jeez, those are just... wow (and that's from someone with one pair of heels).

Actual quote from The Signal: "We have to get passports because I want to go over to Canada to try on some new Fluevogs." I suppose I'm partly working to keep her in them. But if she's going to stomp around in her four-inch heels going full-on Amazon Queen I'm not complaining. :)
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So I wrote a whole post and then I ditched it because I thought I was oversimplifying things. Now I'll probably simplify even more.

I had a meeting with an intake counselor today. It went well but unfortunately she won't be my counselor full time, which is disappointing as she was tolerant of my situation, and even understood some of the issues and some of the lingo. I'll find out on Wednesday who my counselor is going to be.

Fell off a ladder on Saturday and hurt myself, which meant I didn't end up going to the meetup yesterday after all. The counselor strongly recommended that I go to another one as soon as I could. There is another one next week and I will go.

Things have been going all right with The Signal. She is moving in an interesting non-monogamous direction which I can't quite describe--she has expressed interest in activities somewhere between swinging and finding a FWB. Over the last few days she has seemed rather aroused by this possibility and I'm curious to see where this line of thought takes her. Her own counseling session is on Wednesday and I have gently pushed her to talk a little bit about it, to see if she can collect thoughts on it. It feels uncomfortably close to the situation we were in right before we met K and E. I feel her need to be desired by someone, anyone could lead to trouble. From a hedonistic standpoint it would be fun to follow her. I am a little troubled by that desire.
I had about five hours of sleep last night, which seemed like an eternity compared to the last two weeks. New (Open) Orientation Energy?

A lot of things happening at the same time this week. One thing that took me away from thinking about poly and relationships and everything else is a significant change to my job. I will now be supervising four people instead of two and be in charge of a staff of seven, plus I will have a lot of additional responsibilities. Overnight my job will change from "sedate" to "frenetic". Eventually it will settle down but it will be a wild ride. For the first time I will have a secretary--which is interesting, I suppose, that I have reached this stage in my career. It is all a bit like an episode of Mad Men in that I will have to suddenly be aggressively creative in my role as well. Also another reason to lay low about my orientation off line...I am going to have to sell a lot of ideas.

The Signal and I are still working on relationship issues and boundaries. It's hard when so much of the discussion is theoretical..." if you met someone at a meetup or if you had a profile up, this is what I might be comfortable with..." And so often what I think she will be not be comfortable with, she is. She does deserve a lot of credit for going through this with me, I have only been out to her for two weeks or so and already we are settling down. Of course we have been through this before but this time she is not actively involved and that has changed things.

We sat down and discussed questions like "what is cheating?" last night. Our answers were actually similar. She mainly wants to be in the loop on everything. My biggest struggle will be trying to consider what is important enough to mention. She is still nervous about what might happen at a meetup group, or if I talk about putting up a profile. But she has come a long way in the last week. I forget how short a time it has been.

We are still discussing other forms of non-monogamy. I'll leave that at that.

There are a few things coming up. I may be going to a meeting sometime next week. The Actress is going away with her grandmother all next week, so my wife and I will be alone in the house. It has been a very heated time--in a good way--of late and so we hope that will combust further. And early tomorrow morning I am doing something. I am quite nervous about it, for various reasons. I do look forward to it greatly.
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(The present caught up to me. I actually wrote 90% of this post two weeks ago, and decided this morning while The Signal was running to complete it. Forgive me for digging back into my past.)

”Stand still.
Let me scrub that brackish line
That you got when something rose and then receded.” – The Weakerthans, “Watermark”

I once saw a cartoon, probably in Private Eye, that showed a man who’d obviously been uncomfortably close to an explosion. His clothes and hat were tattered, his body covered in soot. The other man in the cartoon looked at him with an expression of pity and pathos. The caption read, “Did you learn anything from the experience?” The relationship between The Signal, K, and I was a series of increasingly uncomfortable explosions. (Well some of the explosions were rather welcome.) In the end The Signal and I picked up our tattered clothes, washed ourselves off, and scuttled home. That experience is firmly in the past. But did we learn anything?

It has taken me a long time to realize this but I did learn a great deal. There are things about myself that I didn’t understand, things about other people that I didn’t realize, things I didn’t know I could do—or that anyone could do really. This entry will probably be really embarrassing to me but I need to let these words go.

The first thing we learned was that The Signal and I were resilient. I remember shortly afterwards she was getting ready for the shower, and I looked over her and pronounced, “No scars.” It took her a little while to get at what I was saying, then she nodded silently. That wasn’t completely true but it was clear our relationship was largely unscathed and in general stronger. It grows stronger every day still. I understand how solid it must be for The Signal to be able to say after all this time that she was OK with nonmonogamy again. We were collapsing so much during our triad-and-one that we thought we must be weak. No, we were just caught in K’s web: breaking free showed us how far we’d come. And what did not kill our love made it stronger. Not that it should be continually put to the test. But the test was put to us, and we passed it.

A few months later I learned something else. I was meeting an old work colleague of mine from the UK who needed some employment advice. I’d also admitted to The Signal that I had once had a massive crush on “Annabel” but that was in the past, right? One must have willpower. Anyway we met and talked shop for over an hour…but as the meeting went on I started thinking that something was not right. I mean, Annabel was looking at me the way K used to look at me! Why was she doing that? So offputting! And she kept doing it. Then eventually we got talking about shopping. (Remember in a previous entry how I mentioned that most of my friends have been straight women?) Annabel said, well, I got a new pair of boots here and they were so much cheaper than they would have been in England, want to take a look? And she stood up, gave a little twirl, and then quite unnecessarily pulled her skirt up past her knee so I could take a look and wait a minute--

Annabel…was…flirting with me. She’s looking at me like K used to look at me because she’s flirting with me. The light dawns, oh 37-year-old clueless man! All those times when women looked at you that way? You missed a lot of fun experiences. Which sucked, yes. But at least you knew now.

A few minutes later Annabel let me know that…if I should ever just happen to be in the UK, because these things happen by total accident…and I don’t have anywhere to stay, well, maybe I should just stay with her at her place! The before-K me would have somewhat collapsed but I was able to keep calm and carry on. “Oh Annabel. You know I’m married! What would my wife think? (subtle smile)”

I cringe a little telling this story because I swear I am not a hopelessly clueless man. I was a hopelessly clueless man. I didn’t pick up on things. Words just mean what they are. Looks just happen by accident. Taking your hand means I am helping you across the road. K’s spiky, addictive love changed those gestures for me. Sometimes words and looks and physical touch mean something else. Somehow the difference between “I’m looking at you this way because I’m talking to you” and “I’m looking at you this way because, if we weren’t in public, in about five seconds I’d be tearing off your clothes and committing unspeakably pleasurable acts on your body” finally clicked inside me. Probably about 20 years too late, yes, but better late than never. And since then I’ve gotten a couple of the second kind of looks from other women and I actually recognized it. “Next time that happens, go for it,” said The Signal to me just recently. She knows I know now.

And with that knowledge came other forms of confidence that I had never had before. Before K I had always thought of myself as a gawky, clumsy, not particularly handsome man who nobody would ever find me attractive. My ex-wife said she did but then she doubled back on it once her former boyfriend came back into view. The Signal said it, but she didn’t really seem to find men attractive in general; plenty of women, yes, but not any men, so what did she know? But when K started saying things to me somehow I started believing them. And ironically I really started believing them after our relationship was over, after The Signal found an online journal entry from her that basically said, I may have lied about everything else, but I wasn’t lying about being head over heels in love with that beautiful man who I couldn’t pry away from his wife. K honestly could have been with just about any man or woman in her sight, but chose to be with this gawky, clumsy, not particularly handsome man. Maybe not gawky--tall. Maybe not clumsy—well often ungraceful, but able to rise to the occasion at the right time. And sometimes when I catch myself in the mirror in the right light, on a good day…quite possibly handsome. Maybe K was not wrong. Possibly, maybe, there was the potential that I could be attractive to someone else.

One of the reasons I believe that I am poly, or poly-capable if one believes that “polyamorous” defines behavior not orientation, is that I believe wholeheartedly in the transformative power of love. For many years of my young adulthood I believed that I could live without other people. I used to literally count the days it had been since I’d last spoken to anybody. I went to extraordinary lengths to avoid others—walking the campus and going to the library in the dead of night, sleeping during the day, seeking out the most remote spots imaginable and spending a weekend there. At the end of it all I decided I was no happier and simply older. I turned back to the love of friends and family, and I could feel the change their caring made in me. The one who had avoided the light, now avoided the darkness. The one who sought silence and gray and cold now craved sound and color and warmth. I felt again like a person. I thought nothing in life could ever be better. Then I met my now ex-wife and really fell in love and I realized that the changes made by the platonic love of friends and family were just a tiny push compared to where my life went with romantic love. And then The Signal carried my heart to such a better place. But when The Signal and K were both pulling at me, I found my heart stretched and did not break, that despite K’s later attempts to destroy it I somehow ended up in a better place. Maybe now I am capable of having my heart stretched again.

And K did teach me what polyamory was. I can’t bring myself to hate her because she taught me who I was.