I was at a restaurant somewhere in Katipunan to meet up with my Tinder match for the first time. She was an artist who asked deep, probing questions that could rattle the easily spooked. We were having a laugh over her strange habit of smelling anything she came across—trees, people, random things on the ground—when I realized an hour had passed.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Do you mind if I check in with my girlfriend for a bit? It’s part of our rules that I have to check in every once in a while.”
“Not at all,” she replied. “Tell her ‘Hi!’ from me.”
I forwarded my date’s greeting to my girl, adding that our date was going quite well.
“Oh, yay!” she replied. “Can I see?”
I called a waiter over and asked if he could take a picture of me and my date. I sent the picture to my girlfriend, then put my phone back in my pocket.
“Sorry about that,” I said to my date. “That’s also part of our rules. I have to send a selfie of me and the person I’m out with.”
“It’s fine, don’t worry. I think it's adorable, actually,” she replied.
We talked and laughed and drank for a few more hours before we called it a night.
On my way home, I called up my girlfriend and regaled her with tales of my hassle-free date, and I told her that I was feeling hopeful about this budding romance with someone else. I had fun, and my girlfriend was genuinely happy that I did.
We roll like that
This is usually how it goes when I go out with someone other than my girlfriend of five years.
Our relationship is what you'd call polyamorous, from the root words poly (many) and amore (love). We’ve been this way for about two years now. What that basically means is, we’re allowed to date other people even though we're in a relationship.
And, no, it’s not cheating, because it’s fully consensual. Cheating implies betrayal and deceit, and anything consensual is devoid of coercion.
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t stem from an inability to commit. We’ve been together for almost six years, and are building our lives together. It’s simply another thing we do as a couple.
People often assume I was the one who proposed this set-up, and with good reason. To other people, this arrangement is something only a man could have cooked up. But in our case, it wasn’t.
See, she had fallen in love with a girl. But I didn’t feel jealous. In fact, I wanted her to pursue it. She never did, at least, not with that girl.
For a while, we played with the idea of dating other people. I suppose I always had a predisposition to it, given that I am a guy, and she was only just discovering that she could perhaps have other men and women without it pushing me out of her heart. A few months later, she asked if she could try dating other people, and happily I obliged.
Of course, when we were first trying this out, our rules were so incredibly specific that it almost felt like we had drafted a constitution. For example, allow me to present Section V of the Dating Rules and Regulations, which covers the subject of Romantic Dating:
1) On the first date, holding hands and closed-mouth kissing on the lips and cheek are allowed.
2) On the second date, first base and touching of the chest and buttocks over clothing are allowed.
3) On the third date, second base and touching of the genitals under clothing are permitted.
4) On the fourth date, third base without full nudity is permitted.
5) The fifth date is permitted to be a room date. Full nudity is permitted as well.
6) On the sixth date, sex is permitted.
7) A secondary relationship may only be officially declared after the six months of official dating.
When we did start dating other people, though, we realized that enforcing these rules was quite restrictive to the relationships we wanted to develop with other people.
One of the things about polyamory is, almost every decision we make is unprecedented; to a certain extent, everything will always be new. Every relationship follows its own pace, and grows in its own way, so one day we just scrapped the rules and decided to approach situations on a case-to-case basis. But we did leave two non-negotiable rules:
1) We can’t date people who don’t know about the set-up;
2) We have to meet the others eventually, if we think it’ll be serious.
There are complications
Fast forward to a few months later. I was hanging out with a different girl this time, just watching YouTube videos, and it had come time to check in with my girlfriend again.
“Have you made out with her yet?” she asked.
“Oh, babe. *laugh emoji*” I replied. “I haven’t yet!”
“Wow, your girlfriend is really supportive!” my date exclaimed.
“Let’s not disappoint her then,” I replied, and my mouth was on hers before I could even finish that sentence.
There is something to be said about having your best wingman be the girl you love, which I think really captures what polyamory is about: love.
It’s about wanting your partner to have happiness, even if it doesn’t involve you. It’s understanding that falling in love with someone new doesn’t mean you love the person you're already with less.
It’s not without its problems, however. Transitioning into polyamory is a painful process. There are ingrained mechanisms and prejudices that keep the process from flowing smoothly, starting with jealousy. We still deal with it every time we're with a new person, we kiss someone new, or sleep with someone for the first time because humans tend to be naturally competitive, and anything new is perceived by our instincts as threat to the status quo.
Another issue is the stigma. Should we take another person into the relationship (becoming a trio instead of a couple), how would we explain it to other people? Our friends are easy enough to talk to about it, but what would our parents say about our lifestyle?
It took countless fights, sleepless nights, and so much hurt before we found our equilibrium. But there was a lot of healing as well.
We walked into this knowing it wasn’t going to be easy, but we didn’t realize it would be this hard. Still, we couldn’t imagine ourselves living any other way. More importantly, we couldn’t imagine ourselves living without each other.
Dating and sleeping around is certainly fun, but polyamory is no sex-a-thonic picnic. It takes a certain kind of relationship, an incredible degree of trust, an insane level of selflessness, and a specific mindset to pull it off unscathed. It takes a willingness to give up so much of your old self and the things you used to believe. We leave no truth uncovered no matter how painful, and no issue unresolved.
I’ve dated and been with enough people to know that it just isn’t for everybody. Polyamory isn’t something you go into to “spice up your relationship.” It isn’t something to go into when you’re bored with your significant other. It’s more of an orientation than a choice; you’re either polyamorous or not.
The first thing I am usually asked when I tell people I’m polyamorous is, “Is she not enough?” My answer has always been the same.
“More than you’ll ever know.”