Control Tower

Milestones of Secondary Relationships

by Mistress Matisse

One of the challenging things about nontraditional relationships is that you can’t plug yourself into an existing framework of coupledom. The societal recognition and support—which is an ingredient in the glue that keeps a relationship together—just isn’t there. Gay people know all about that; it’s one of the reasons why they want the right to legally marry. But it’s true of some polyamorous relationships, too, so you have to be aware of celebrating your own emotional milestones.

Take the way I do poly. Marriage and/or cohabitation are the traditional marks of an ongoing commitment to a lover. But I’m already living with Max, and I’m not interested in a multi-partner household, so nobody else is moving in with us. (At least, not unless we all move into a house the size of, say, Bill Gates’s place. As long as I have my own bedroom and bathroom, I’m fine. And kitchen. And living room. And a private entrance. And well-insulated walls. I’m perfectly willing to share a house with other people under those circumstances.)

Since Roman and I don’t live together and don’t imagine we ever will, monogamous people often assume that our relationship is not serious. That’s not true. We just mark a different set of milestones.

Saying, “I love you” was the first big one. Roman and I had been dating about six months, and I think both of us were caught off-guard by how really sprung we got on each other. We tap-danced around the word love for weeks, saying things to each other such as, “I’m really deeply in like with you.” And then right about the same time, we both—independently—went to our primary partners and said, “How do you feel about me saying I love you to this person?” Fortunately for us, both his wife and Max thought that was okay. I vividly remember how sweet it was the first time we said it to each other.

Next big relationship marker: traveling together. It’s easy to be on your best behavior for an evening. But, as dozens of Hollywood road movies have shown us, spending hours in a car with someone can reveal sides of their character you never dreamed existed, so we were both a little nervous about it. But Roman and I spent two and half sweet days in an isolated mountain cabin without discovering any terrible new flaws in each other. I sent his wife of 16 years a thank-you note.

Then came the day—just recently—when I officially introduced Roman to my family. “Officially” meaning I said, “Mom, this is my other boyfriend.” This one I wasn’t apprehensive about. My family doesn’t quite understand the whole concept of people having more than one romantic partner, but they’ve had to roll with a lot of unusual punches from me over the years. They’ve learned to just shrug and say, “If it makes you happy, honey, that’s fine.” My mother remarked later, “He’s nothing like Max, is he?” When I told her I considered that to be one of the good points of having two partners, she replied, “Yes, I guess I can see that.”

Obviously these are all events that would be noteworthy in a regular monogamous relationship, too. But these things feel like an even bigger deal to me because Roman is my secondary partner. This is the first time in my life I’ve gotten to have these milestones of a loving relationship with a secondary partner, and hey, I think it’s pretty damn cool. I’m also endlessly impressed with both Roman’s wife and with Max that they’re as cool and supportive of us as they are. Some poly people may think this is just business as usual, but frankly, I hope I never stop being amazed and thrilled that I get to have not one but two great relationships.

Now Roman and I are coming up on another big event. The bed we sleep on when we have overnight dates—not the same bed Max and I share—is getting old, and I need a new one. Guess who’s going shopping for it with me? Yep. You know you’re really committed when you go furniture shopping together.


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