Navigating Queer Non-Monogamy in Marriage

Navigating Queer Non-Monogamy in Marriage

The key to finding the relationship, or relationships, that work for you? It’s all about honesty, argues Deborah Kavis

“So, tell me: How does it feel to be married and have a girlfriend?” my husband asked me as we were driving home one night. I smiled at the question, and then the floodgates opened as I gushed to him about how wonderfully fulfilling and validating it feels. As a bisexual female with two amazing and loving partners, it’s nothing short of incredible, and I am extremely fortunate.

Jesse and I met a little more than seven years ago at a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We were both involved in the weekly shadow cast and, over time, a romance blossomed between us. Although I initially regarded him as a bit of a cocky show-off, I gave him a chance and came to find that the exterior shield was guarding a gentle and kind human being with a true heart of gold. It felt like love from our very first date. We had both experienced a lot of hurt and emotional upheaval in the past and agreed to take things slowly at the beginning. I am so pleased to say that, after many years together, through ups and downs, hardships and successes, we are now happily married. We had a Halloween/Rocky Horror/Disney/Star Wars/etc. wedding and it was an unforgettable night that felt like the perfect way to begin the rest of our lives together. In addition, one of the coolest parts about the evening was that my girlfriend, Brandi, was part of our wedding party.

Brandi and I met backstage at a burlesque show. She was performing in her drag king persona and I was stepping out of my comfort zone and trying a new style of burlesque that I’d never done before. I recall making a self-deprecating remark – something I used to do more often – and her correcting me and telling me not to talk about myself like that. I appreciated the charming and sweet gesture, and was pleasantly surprised when one night, at a mutual friend’s birthday party, she asked for my phone number. I was even more flabbergasted a few days later when she asked me out for the first time. We ended up meeting that same night and I have truly enjoyed growing closer to her over the last year that we’ve been dating. This experience is made all the more enriching knowing that my husband supports our relationship fully – as does her primary partner – and that everyone involved, either directly or peripherally, is copasetic and friendly with one another.

I recognise and respect that not everyone is wired for non-monogamy. I’m not one to preach polyamory as a ‘better’ or ‘more elevated’ option for a relationship dynamic – quite the opposite, in fact. It does, however, work for us, and I am an advocate for finding what works for you and your partner(s). Should you be interested in opening your relationship, two of the most important practices to keep in mind are transparent communication and enthusiastic consent. It is necessary to the survival of your relationships to be unequivocally clear about your intentions and desires, as well as to ensure that all parties involved are supportive of these intentions and desires. Far too often, I have been witness to toxic forms of non-monogamy. From couples who keep score of how many partners they each have, to emotional manipulation and violations of boundaries, there’s no shortage of unhealthy examples of non-monogamous dynamics. Indeed, while many people presume that non-monogamy eliminates the possibility of cheating, this could not be further from the truth. I have seen relationships in peril because individuals opt for dishonesty, choosing to hide their actions from their partner(s) and ending up cheating on them in the process. Additionally, I have seen individuals who feel forced to go along with a non-monogamous dynamic in an effort to please their partner while they themselves are being hurt in the process.

The best advice I can give to those who are in a long-term committed relationship and looking to delve into the world of non-monogamy is to talk with your partner, openly and often. If you cannot be direct and genuine about your needs and your boundaries, there may be a greater issue present. Non-monogamy will not save your relationship, and it will provide little to no fulfilment if practiced in a manner that is hurtful to any of the participants. The ultimate goals are love, honesty, and compersion, this final term defined as taking joy in another’s joy: the opposite of jealousy. To put it simply, compersion is the good feeling one gets when their partner is happy with another partner. Jealousy is an emotion that is inherently human and, as such, can be difficult to avoid and is something to be mindful of when entering into a non-monogamous dynamic. Expressing your feelings to one another – be they good or bad – is the only way to ensure your relationship can progress in whatever direction is best for it to go. Take things slowly and remember that informed, enthusiastic consent and clear communication are the foundation to any functional relationship, be it monogamous or not.

Practicing ethical non-monogamy is vital to me. In doing so, I have learned more about myself, particularly how to be more patient and understanding, how to be more straightforward and vocal about my needs, and I truly could not ask for better partners. They bring so much love and joy into my life – and surely that is the goal of any relationship, whatever shape it takes?

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