Melissa has so kindly agreed to an expanded column to help all of you curious minds, learn a bit more about the ins and outs of life in a healthy polyamorous relationship. Some people have submitted questions and she will do her best to answer from what her life experience has taught her. You may find Melissa on Facebook and send her your questions, or message her on the contact section.
Denizen hopes to bring to light conversations that aren't approached by the official media of small towns. We believe that eradicating ignorance is one of the steps to eradicating fear. Fear often separates us as it feeds the sense of "otherness." We hope to shine the light on the different ways that people do life outside the pre-approved box of societal expectations, and contribute to a more harmonious, tolerant, and loving community.
Welcome Melissa and feel free to ask her any of your questions because she will meet your curiosity with an open mind, a tolerant heart, and sincerity.
By Melissa Rainwater
I divorced my first husband on Groundhog Day back in 2007.
He was very jealous and paranoid that because I am bisexual, I was secretly plotting to sleep with everyone in the world. I couldn’t spend time with male or female friends without being accused of cheating. I felt very isolated and lonely. When I met Mark that May, I told him that I wasn’t going to be in an intentionally monogamous relationship ever again. I said if we end up not being with other people, fine, but if I agree to monogamy, it will be expected and then there is room for worry and wondering and possibly accusing me of cheating— which, to be clear, I never did. He agreed that from his perspective, the concept of monogamy was odd and unnecessary. Since that day nearly eleven years ago, we have both enjoyed physical and emotional connections with other people, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ellen of Bellingham, Washington wants to know:
“I'm curious how your relationship with your hubby evolved. Where it was to where it is today and the evolution and growing pains that came with it.”
Well, it was a long, hard road; let me tell you!
We started off in an open relationship. Some people refer to this as swinging. We could have sexual encounters with anyone not on our “no list”, which consisted of a few exes I still had feelings for, and anyone who was a bad mother. That was the only rule. The possibility of being in a relationship or falling in love with someone else never even occurred to either of us.
I met Richard in a Facebook group for sex-positive Nerdfighters in early 2016. I had posted that I was having the worst panic attack I’d ever experienced, and he messaged me “You are safe. I will hang out with you until you feel better if you want!” or something very similar— I refuse to scroll back that far.
By March, we were doing text-based D/S roleplaying through Facebook messenger, which I had never done. Mark was really uncomfortable in the beginning. He was just sure that as a dominant-minded man, Richard must be violent and mean, and our relationship must be abusive and unsafe. I spent a lot of time comforting Mark. We did a lot of reading together about BDSM and how, if it’s done correctly, it can even be therapeutic.
Mark finally agreed to see a therapist. We started going to Candid Counseling in Seattle and seeing Kate Sherman once a week to discuss our unique poly and BDSM-related issues. She was amazing and so helpful! I was diagnosed with Complex-PTSD, and Mark had a chance to work through a lot of his anxiety around my relationship with Richard. Around that time Mark quit drinking and got on medication for anxiety and depression. We took a good hard look at the way we treated each other. I don’t know if it was because Mark is on the autism spectrum, or because neither of us had a lot of good examples growing up, but we really didn’t know what a healthy relationship even looked like. Richard showed me what it means to be truly loved, unconditionally. He taught me about communication and caring and listening and making your partner feel special. It was wonderful, but at the same time it hurt, you know? To find out I had been in several relationships over 20 years and had never known what being loved felt like. I’m just so grateful that with therapy, Mark was eventually able to understand what Richard was doing and become the husband he is now.
But it still took him over a year before he wasn’t grumpy about my relationship with Richard, and it was another six months or so after that before they became friends.
Richard and I have had a mostly perfect long-distance relationship these past couple years. I did try to break up with him twice when I was going through a major depressive episode last December. He said when I’m feeling better and I still don’t want to be with him, he can accept that, but not while I’m not in my right mind. Thank goodness, because no, of course I don’t want to break up with him! Gods depression sucks. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, and General Anxiety Disorder. Now I get to be on medication too, yay!
In late January of this year, I met Shauna* in a Facebook group for women who want to learn how to communicate better with one another. I had started the group after a conversation with my therapist about how women always tell me they don’t understand other women or can’t connect with them. I really didn’t intend to find anyone in there, but I’m sure glad I did! Shauna and I have gone on several dates and talked for hours. She is super great and beautiful and smart and I adore her. And a couple days after I met her, a woman from that same group said she lived really close and her husband Randy could come over and take a look at my broken washing machine. When he walked into my house, I’m pretty sure my eyes turned into heart shapes and popped right out of my head like a cartoon. I immediately messaged his wife (who was standing right there in my kitchen) and let her know that her husband was super cute and I couldn’t stop blushing. She told me that they are poly and to totally go for it. I let Mark know how I felt and then asked Richard for permission, and he said yes. So the next day, Randy and I spent three hours in bed together and have been pretty much inseparable ever since.
Last Tuesday, Mark and I had a game night at our house because Richard was in town. I invited all four of my peeps, as I call them, and Erin, who has been a good friend since high school. We ate stuffed bell peppers (per Richard’s request) and played Cards Against Humanity. It was the first time we had all been together in the same room. It was lovely. I sat between Richard and Randy for a while, and later between Randy and Shauna. We all just laughed and hung out like any group of friends would, but occasionally I would get a kiss on the cheek or hold hands with someone for a minute. It may not be common, but it feels natural, and it works for us.
Polyamory, by definition, is the philosophy or state of being romantically involved with more than one person at a time. This looks different for different people. Like monogamous relationships, poly relationships vary as much as people do. A polycule is a group of people who are connected to each other through their relationships with one or more members. Mine looks like this:
This is pretty flexible though. For example, Shauna’s boyfriend has had a thing with a woman who is also interested in Mark, and Mark is also interested in her. So there could be an addition to our web. And Randy’s wife dates casually but isn’t in a serious relationship at this time, and we’re all hoping that changes soon. Just as in monogamous relationships, there are no guarantees. What I like about polyamory is that when we do meet someone we connect with, it doesn’t have to mean the end of an existing relationship. No one is being replaced. When Mark goes on dates or falls for women, I know he isn’t out looking for something better. He just wants something different, and I’m ok with that.
Thank you so much for reading. Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, and share pictures of your pets. I love connecting with all of you on a personal level and I’m always here if you need me.